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Like most social relationships, my companionship with Miranda Priestly began with an initial focus of food.   Meeting for dinner was now our standard, and almost always it was Miranda that initiated the invitations. Conversation solidly focused on our careers and occasionally veered towards subjects I deemed safe, like Caroline and Cassidy. We shared our opinions on the things people were supposed to have opinions on, like art and music. The awkwardness began to fade, though some of my uncertainty remained.

When I found myself sitting before Miranda for Sunday brunch for the first time, I assumed I was doing something right. After all, it had to be a good sign if she didn’t mind being seen with me in broad daylight.

“How was last night?”

“Acceptable. One can only attend so many charity dinners before spending the evening calculating the monetary value of a four-course meal and questioning why that amount is not donated in the first place,” Miranda calmly explained with a sly look in her eye.

I answered with a nod, “I always wondered about that.”

“My socialite peers wish to aid the less fortunate but only if they can publically attach their name to the money in question.”

I snickered. After all, I had been the one that handled which charities she anonymously donated to. I knew she was a little proud, and she had a right to be. She was apart of the celebrity game but didn’t always play.

My smile only grew as the waitress arrived to present us with coffee, and Miranda’s mood immediately changed. She grinned as she leaned forward to wrap her hands around the mug.

Girl loved her caffeine.

“How is your weekend fairing?”

I shrugged as I grabbed my own hot beverage. “I wish it was something more exciting. I cleaned the entire apartment yesterday.”

Miranda lifted the small ceramic cup and poured a small helping of cream into her coffee.

“Did the chef not help you?”

“What chef?” I asked before it stupidly dawned on me. “Oh, Nate. We broke up before Paris.” Didn’t she think it was funny I hadn’t mentioned him in the past three weeks?

I didn’t even know Miranda knew that he existed. She paused the spinning of her spoon. Her gaze lifted from her mug to my eyes, and a questioning eyebrow twitched upwards. I couldn’t fight the sheepish, almost embarrassed grin that answered her.

“He didn’t like how busy I was. As if his work hours were any better,” I muttered, “Though I guess I could have tried harder or something.”

Miranda delicately placed her spoon on the saucer. “Not everyone understands my expectations.”

“He said whoever’s phone calls I answered was the person I was dating.”

I fiddled with my napkin, almost afraid to see her reaction.

Runway was a stepping stone to your dream career. He was an idiot to leave you.”

I looked up to see her daintily sipping her coffee, as if us talking about past relationships was the most typical activity in the world. Was she technically complimenting me?

“Are you doing alright? With the Stephen thing?” I asked hesitantly, but too curious and worried not to hold my tongue.

“Andrea, you can say the word divorce, I won’t burst into flames,” she drawled, setting her coffee down, “It was a marriage of convenience. It ended conveniently. My only concern all along was—“ her voice grew soft and seemed to trail off. I remembered the hotel room in Paris.

“The girls. How are they this week?”

“Growing much faster than I care to admit,” Miranda sighed with a small grin, turning to look out the window.

The early springtime sunshine was bright, eagerly filtering through the glass that stood beside us. Her profile displayed her long nose and full lips. She squinted slightly against the light, and the corners of her eyes showed traces of wrinkles. Her white hair was lit up like a halo, or perhaps, I thought more fittingly for the sake of the media, a crown of ice.

I was falling in love with Miranda Priestly all over again.

We developed a routine of sorts. Dinner. Brunch on the weekends. A drink at some really fancy bar. Once in awhile I received a text asking about lunch and happily accepted. I let her pencil me in when she could. Spending time with Miranda started to feel normal but still differed greatly from my other friends. After I returned from Paris, Lily and I had figured things out, and we now happily went shopping or saw movies. I grabbed drinks with Nigel and Emily and attended my co-worker’s house parties. I was happy.

But sometimes I would be running errands and find myself within walking distance of Elias-Clark and anxiously question what my friendship with Miranda meant.

Friends pop in to say hi. Lily and I did that all the time. Especially during lunch breaks. Except neither one of us were the bosses making million-dollar decisions. Miranda’s time was precious.

Yet again, I turned away from the direction of the publishing company and walked down the sidewalk to return to my apartment.

How was I supposed to do something nice when she paid for everything? Even if I could manage to think of a nice gesture, what if it revealed too much? I didn’t dare wish for anything more than friendship. It was clearly a sign from the universe considering how things had played out.

That line of thinking lasted all of two minutes.

I had walked only one block when I saw a street vendor selling something that immediately made me think of Miranda. Screw it. I was the Priestly pro, wasn’t I? I knew she’d like it. She had been opening up. I was going to be myself. Friends could be themselves with each other, right?

I shoved my hand in purse to dig out my phone. As I dialed and put the device up to my ear, I stepped forward to admire the vendor’s wares.

After a few rings a voice answered, “Miranda Priestly’s office.”

“Hey, it’s Andy.”

“I’ll try to contain my excitement,” Emily grumbled sarcastically, her chipper, professional tone melting away.

“Is Miranda in or out right now?”

“I’m not allowed to divulge company information.”

“You seemed just fine doing it a few weeks ago. And Friday night at the bar,” I countered, scanning the boxes for the right one.

She sighed, “She’s in a meeting with Ralph Lauren’s people until two. Don’t you ever go to your real job?”

“Reporters work Saturdays, so sometimes I get weekdays off.”

“Riveting. Ta-ta.” Then all I heard was the dial tone.

Tucking my phone away with a smile, I turned to the older man sitting on a folding chair beside the cart.

“How much for these?”

Money was exchanged and I carried my bounty back up the block, smiling as I turned the corner saw the magnificently tall building that once made me feel small.

My gut is what made me a good journalist. It had made me a good assistant. It would make me a good friend. I was done overthinking every aspect of my life, and that included Miranda.

Of course, my personal sense of pride and confidence had one more speed bump to overcome. When I took the familiar journey to the dragon’s lair, her faithful servant was quick to chastise me.

“You annoy me.”

I countered Emily’s insult with a smile. “Everyone annoys you.”

“You annoy me the most. I mean really, flowers?”

I looked down at the small bouquet of yellow carnations. Alright, she had me there; flowers could sent a very particular message. But I knew my stuff.

“She was stressed this week with the gala coming up. I’m trying to be a good friend.”

Emily huffed, “Blimey, you don’t bring me and Nigel flowers,” but after seeing my narrowed eyes she simply sighed, “I’ll get the vase.”

After the bouquet was placed on her desk, and I said my goodbyes to Emily, I left the building feeling relieved.

Well, I felt relieved for the first hour.

After I got home and I tried to distract myself with chores, the doubts started to settle in. Maybe Emily was right. I was so silly. Hopefully they just got tossed in the trash and never mentioned. Or worse. Miranda wouldn’t want to associate with me anymore. I’d be the creepy girl. My luck could have run dry; my first burst of confidence got me her friendship. My second could leave me flat on my ass.

I nearly had a stroke when my phone began to ring while I washed my dishes.

I quickly dried my hands and tried to answer casually, “Hey.”

“The flowers are lovely.”

Oh, thank goodness.

“Glad you liked them. How’s work?” Totally casual and normal. That was me.

“Irritating. Spending time in Caroline and Cassidy’s classroom would merit more mature and thoughtful company than this lot.”

“You’ll get to see them tonight,” I tried optimistically, leaning against the counter.

“If only tonight was enough.” There was a slight pause. “The girls are spending the summer with their father.”

That had bad news written all over it.

“Why?”

“He’s travelling abroad, it’ll be a good experience for them. There’s a new girlfriend or wife or whatever,” she muttered distractedly, “I will get them during their winter break this year.”

“I’m sorry, Miranda, I know you hate when they leave.”

“This gala tomorrow is another night I can’t be with them. And now the nanny has decided to inform me this afternoon she can’t watch them.”

“Did she say why?”

Miranda scoffed, “Visiting her sickly grandmother or something else equally obnoxious.”

“I get her reasons why, but she could have given you more notice,” I reasoned, whipping a crumb off the counter.

“Not attending is out of the question.”

“This is that fancy banquet where you get people to give you money right?”

“Funding is critical,” was her firm response.

There was a momentary pause. Then I had an idea.

“I’ll watch them, Miranda.”

She immediately responded, “No, Emily is searching for a replacement.”

“Yeah, and you’re going to hate them or not trust them in your house with your kids, and Emily is going to be pissed when she has to do it. I mean, maybe you don’t trust me, which I’ll understand, but I’ve supervised once or twice when I worked for you.”

“I absolutely trust you with them. I do not trust them with you.”

I laughed, “I’m a tough cookie. I think I can handle two fifth graders.”

There was a pause again. I could see her staring out the window of her office, puzzling it all out.

“Are you quite sure?”

“Quite. What are friends for?”

“I am fortunate for your friendship.” Another pause. “Andrea, the flowers are beautiful.”

“They made me think of you,” I responded with a smile I knew she couldn’t see, “I’ll let you go.”

“Until tomorrow night.”

“See you then.”

I’d like to think I found my backbone at some point during my stay at Runway. I had been a bumbling idiot in the home of my boss when I first met the Priestly twins. They were spoiled and they were clever. A deadly combination. But just as I had mastered how to work for their mother, I had also managed to figure out how to stay out of their warpath the handful of times I interacted with them.

This advanced training prepared me for when I knocked on the front door of the townhouse the next night and found myself face to face with one half of the infamous pair.

“Hey, Cassidy.”

“Mom’s upstairs,” she said flatly, turning to walk away from the door now that she had completed her task of letting me in.

Warning shots. I could roll with that. She disappeared to where I imagine her sister was.

It felt a little weird being back in the Priestly house. A good weird, I guess. I had once thought Miranda was rarely here, but the more I talked to her as a friend, the more I realized that she really did love lounging on the weekends as much as the next person. Upon closer inspection, the house itself really did seem to fit her. As I took a few steps deeper into the foyer, Patricia appeared, carrying what appeared to be a stuffed cat, and I laughed at how scary this place had once seemed to me.

“Something funny?”

I immediately turned to face the voice that drifted down the stairs, admiring the owner, as she too seemed to drift down the stairs. Miranda was made for stairs and dramatic entrances. After that night I had first seen her enter a party, the woman descending towards me was how she appeared in my dreams.

But now was definitely not the time to be thinking about my midnight fantasies.

“Your dog,” I explained, tilting my head towards the beast wandering down the hallway.

She rolled her eyes with an amused air, and, upon reaching the foyer, turned for the mirror to attach her earrings.

“Excited?”

Her eyes found me in the reflection. They shone overwhelmingly with a sarcastic gleam, topped off with the melodramatic flick of her eyebrow.

“Absolutely.”

Finishing her task and giving herself a final inspection, she summoned her daughters to her. The two came bursting into the foyer; no one kept Miranda waiting.

“Be good for Andrea, girls. Kisses.”

I couldn’t resist smiling as they said their goodbyes, even after I promised myself I’d try to play it cool for the girls. Watching Miranda with her daughters always made my chest sweetly ache; she loved them so much.

As I walked Miranda towards the door, she informed, “The house is yours. You are welcome to indulge in your almost religious viewing of Jeopardy.”

“You’re too kind,” I murmured jokingly.

She tried to hide a smile. “Everyone says so.”

We reached the door, causing her to check her purse one final time before she reached to open the door. Her hand paused on the handle, and she glanced towards me.

Suddenly, she looked serious.

“Thank you.”

I smiled. “Anytime. You look wonderful.”

She held my gaze for another moment, but her eyes softened. Then, with one firm nod of her head, she was out the door.

I turned towards the devious duo of professional troublemakers.

I thought they were going to just retreat upstairs and hide from me, but instead I was greeting with an offense maneuver from Cassidy.

“We’re too old for a babysitter.”

Miranda’s little smiles and trust had left me confident; I totally had this. I naturally took an evasive, defensive stance.

“I’m not here to babysit. I’m dog sitting. Got to make sure Patricia eats her dinner.”

“Don’t you work for our mom?”

“Nope. Not anymore.”

Caroline steadily continued the verbal battle. “Then why are you here?”

I parried their blows. “I thought we were gonna play video games.”

“You don’t play video games,” Caroline countered.

“Wanna bet? Pick the game, and I’ll beat you.”

“You’re on!”

My challenge was accepted, and they both bolted upstairs to their playroom where our battlefield was to be. I smiled. They were just like my young cousins I was in charge of entertaining every Christmas.

They choose a racing game to start with, and I figured that was because Cassidy seemed to be really good at it. I expected as much though. Luckily, drunken college parties had prepared me for this; video games settle all sorts of disagreements.

I remember winning the first time around, and once earning their respect, Cassidy made a comeback, and this made us equals. Switching the games later gave Caroline the advantage with a fighting game I hadn’t played before, but by then, I think they were actually having fun. They laughed at the screen anyway when I accidently died. I laughed with them.

After that, they sort of followed me around. We watched TV. We ordered dinner. I let them pick a movie. They fell asleep about halfway through, and I sent them upstairs once it was over. In fact, I was almost a little bored once they went to bed. I wandered around the house and looked at the family pictures that hung in frames. They were almost entirely of the girls. One or two faded images of an older woman I didn’t know. When I walked into the living room, I noticed the picture of a young woman tucked away on a side table. She was holding two babies.

Miranda. I smiled at the dark hair framing her face.

I plopped on the couch and soaked in the clean, quiet of the townhouse. When you weren’t fearing for your life with Book, it was actually kind of peaceful. The color pallet was calming.

A small stack of magazines were on the coffee table, and I selected one at random from the middle. The Marie Claire sitting on a top was probably an indicator of what the rest would be.

I drew last month’s issue of Time. Interesting.

And so my evening turned to contentedly flipping through pages and reading types of articles I hoped to one day be able to write. Patricia waddled into the room and deposited herself on the couch, directly on top of my outstretched legs. When we heard the front door open and close, we barely moved. My eyes flickered from the magazine, and the dog lifted her head. Heels clicked. A pause. She was checking the sitting room adjacent to the foyer. The clicking continued and grew.

Miranda’s figure appeared at the doorway to the living room, an amused grin spreading across her face.

“You look comfortable.”

“She sort of just sat on top of me,” I explained with a laugh, ruffling the massive dog’s fur. She thought she was a lap dog.

“She is a good judge of character,” the other woman stated, placing her purse on the nearby armchair, “How did your evening fare?”

“Once they deemed me cool enough, we had a good time. How was yours?”

“Dreadful. Did you eat dinner?”

“We ordered pizza. There’s leftovers in the fridge.”

Miranda’s eyes slowly narrowed, and she lifted her chin to give me a proper, defiant stare down. She crossed her arms.

“We both know you secretly love it,” I declared, happily ignoring her wrath, “And you probably only nibbled all night on the tiny shrimps or whatever they serve with cocktails so you’re starving right now.”

She held her glare firmly in place.

“Pepperoni?” she tentatively muttered.

I totally called it.

“Sausage,” I replied with a smile, knowing full well that was the preferred topping, “Go get changed. I’ll heat you up a slice.”

I found out that little secret from Nigel who once recounted an evening Miranda and the Runway crew were stranded during a storm on a trip for a photo-shoot.

She felt the need to give me another healthy glare, but inevitably resigned, grabbing her purse and turning for the stairs. I saw the corners of her mouth turn slightly upwards before she disappeared out of view.

By the time she returned downstairs donning her silky, grey robe, the hot plate was waiting for her. I assumed she would walk over and bring the dish to the kitchen table. Instead, she brushed past me, almost challengingly, placed her elbows on the counter, and, after an impish glance my way, began to devour the meal.

I sat on one of the barstools that resided beside the counter and admired the sight before me. Boy, was it a sight to behold.

Sauce smeared against the corner of her mouth. I tried not to stare at her lips; it was already a common struggle I faced every single time we were together.

“Did you always want to be a famous editor?”

The tip of her tongue glided across her lips, removing the excess pizza remains.

“I wanted to be a famous designer,” she replied, clearly more invested in her slice than past, dim dreams.

“But mainly famous?” I asked with a chuckle, leaning on the counter that rested between us.

Her eyebrow twitched, and she slyly looked at me. “If you are the best, you are also typically the most well-known.”

“Fair enough.”

The look she was giving her dinner was practically erotic before she turned to me with a playful glare.

“I cannot adequately express how much I detest you right now.”

“I’m touched.”

***

When the girls left for their father’s, Miranda seemed a little blue, or at least to me. She had a big personality, but that townhouse was still too grand for just her. Now it was much more common to meet at her place than to venture out for dinner. Attempting to remedy Miranda’s somber mood was my full time occupation.

We tried to cook once or twice, but after an incident involving Miranda’s housekeeper using the emergency fire extinguisher while Miranda cackled in the corner of the kitchen, we decided against culinary exploration. The next week, I tried to discover Miranda’s favorite TV shows and movies. I showed her a documentary or two that I loved on Netflix. She indulged my love for Jeopardy. Turns out she knew a lot more trivia than I gave her credit for. I came to love our casual evenings even more than the fancy restaurants and luncheons.

As a side note, I highly recommend the sight of Miranda Priestly in jeans for those in the world that have yet to experience it. Especially when it comes topped off with an awesome V-neck.

Her house started to feel like home.

“Want more wine?”

Miranda looked up from her task of rubbing Patricia’s belly as the dog sprawled between us on the couch.

“Tempting offer.”

“I’ve never known you to back down from more.”

“Is that a dare?”

I rolled my eyes. “Maybe. Want me to bet you my lunch money and my two best baseball cards? Double dog dare you?”

“Fine, fine, pour away. So demanding.”

“Really? You’re going to call me demanding?” I teased, pouring more in the Queen of Demanding’s glass.

“Bossy.”

I mock gasped. I knew she hated the word so often used to describe women in positions of power.

She shook her head me. “Not even the tip of the iceberg, my dear.”

My chest fluttered at the pet name; that was new. We had each probably had a few more drinks than we usually did.

I placed the bottle down on the table and looked over at my friend. She was staring at her glass, zoning out, probably reliving every nickname that came with “bossy” and “bitchy.” Or was it the girls? She looked sad, and I wasn’t going to tolerate her looking so melancholy.

“You need to move. Your yoga instructor cancelled this week. You get antsy when that happens.”

I stood up and walked towards the cabinet fully stocked with all of the entertainment devices; it was difficult to determine what was what. Miranda needed some upbeat music. Even if it was just to play in the background. Feeling somewhat invincible from the wine, I selected a button at random.

Nothing happened.

I could feel the mistress of the house thoughtfully observing me. I narrowed my eyes and looked for anything that suggested its identity as a stereo. Spotting a large volume knob and buttons with numbers, I took another shot, pressing firmly on the power button.

The speakers sprung to life, and the room filled with the grand melody of a piano.

It wasn’t really what I had in mind.

“People used to dance to this kind of music, right?” I muttered, turning to face Miranda almost shyly. I really had no clue what we were listening to.

The woman on the couch smirked in her typically polished manner, placed her glass on the table, and stood.

“It’s a waltz,” she almost hummed, her smile unwavering as she stepped towards me. Her hand found mine. Its partner found my hip. I hesitantly placed my free hand on her shoulder.

I held my breath. This was a surprise.

Miranda whisked us across the carpet of her large living room, much to my bumbling and mumbling when my poor skills inhibited her smooth, flowing rhythm. With each passing step, however, it became easier to let go, to be led. I finally stopped staring at my feet long enough to admire my partner.

“Where did you learn to dance?”

Miranda’s little grin was still in place. “College.”

“Was there a ballroom club or something?” I certainly didn’t learn any of this at college, and Miranda wasn’t that old.

“Schools that predominately specialize in the arts tend to attract a variety of characters,” she explained, pausing to spin me, “Many were talented in performance arts.”

My hand eagerly returned to her shoulder. “So a friend taught you? Or someone else?”

“Someone else.”

There was something in her voice that made me suddenly feel very warm with her hand on my hip. She must have sensed my slight embarrassment; she tilted her head questioningly. I chuckled, embarrassed at my own thoughts.

I timidly glanced away and explained, “I’m picturing a lover in a dorm room.”

“Empty rehearsal room.”

The admission sent my imagination into overdrive, and the devilish woman looked so pleased.

I didn’t feel jealous, not exactly. I was just so damn curious to know about her past, especially about past loves. What they were like? What was she like when she young and in love? What did she look for in a partner?

Have you ever loved a woman, Miranda?

Her calm voice interrupted my thoughts. “That was a very long time ago.”

I laughed, “Oh whatever.”

“I am old,” she declared dramatically, inciting more giggling from me. Just last week she had snorted with laughter over her placement in the Top Ten of People magazine’s sexiest celebrities. I was in tears when she showed me, I laughed so hard. Of course I agreed, but I made sure to tease her all day.

Needless to say, Miranda Priestly was not short on confidence regarding her looks or her age.

“You’re old-fashioned. In a way, it keeps you young—Oh!” My dance partner quickly dipped me before swinging me up for a twirl, and I was laughing again.

Miranda’s coy little smirk remained glued to her face. “I do have a few surprises left.”

“My life has been full of them, since I met you,” I mused, feeling delightfully dizzy from the wine and the spinning, “Do you believe in fate?”

“I believe in opportunities,” Miranda answered, regally and thoughtfully tilting her head, “There is, however, always a choice. What a profound question,” she mused, her eyes not leaving mine.

The song faded out, and a slower one took its place. My body went stiff, awkwardly unsure about what type of dance accompanied this melody.

Miranda took the hand currently laced with hers and brought it to her shoulder. My hands instinctively laced behind her neck. Was that right? It felt right.

It felt almost as right and perfect as the way Miranda’s hands slid against my lower back. We both took a step closer.

She swayed us with the music. Miranda’s signature perfume fully enveloped me, and I moved my head so we were resting cheek to cheek. I was too scared to face her directly. Her piercing eyes and pink lips were too much to bare this close. Wisps of her hair tickled my face, and her skin felt incredibly soft.

Her mouth brushed against my ear, and my body stupidly shuddered. She must have felt it.

“Andrea.”

I felt her speak. My name hummed in her throat, and it was perfect.

“Yes?” I refused to leave the safety of her shoulder. One look, and she’d know. I felt the heat on my cheeks. My face clearly said I loved her.

“It’s very late. You must be tired.”

“I did knock out a lot of that bottle of wine, huh?” I chuckled, hoping she’d assume my flushed face was the result of the libations.

She pulled away, taking a step back, and, as my hands dropped from her shoulders, she caught them.

So there we were. Standing in her living room, staring into each other’s eyes, flushed with wine and dancing, holding hands. If this was some glamorous movie, this was the part when she kissed me. When she told me I wasn’t alone with my feelings.

But I was not glamorous.

“The guest room is ready for you.”

She gave my hands a friendly squeeze and dropped them, turning towards the table to begin clearing our glasses.

“Thanks.”

I helped clean the table. Once we were finished, I followed her up the stairs. She vaguely pointed towards the guest room, but I already knew which one it was. We said goodnight. That was all.

And so I went I entered the room quite and utterly alone.

The guest bed was ridiculously huge, way too big for just me. Attached was an equally absurdly sized bathroom. I headed there first, desperate for a splash of cold water. I patted my face dry with the hanging towel, and opened my eyes to find myself face to face with my reflection.

Was it worth it? I was no longer texting Emily with my toothbrush dangling from my mouth, wishing for even the smallest opportunity to be in Miranda’s life. Here I was, in her very home. Wasn’t I grateful?

I turned off the light and climbed into the large bed. I couldn’t sleep. I was staring at the ceiling, terrified at my pounding heart pushing me, begging me to run across the hall to Miranda’s arms.

The keys of a piano played in my mind, counting the passing minutes.

The lump in my throat got harder to swallow whenever we were together, but it didn’t stop me from devouring more and more time with her. That wasn’t the last time I spent the night in the guest room, and sooner or later I had a change of clothes tucked away in a drawer. A bag of my favorite coffee roast appeared in the kitchen cabinet, not of my own doing.

Our friendship did not remain isolated in her home, and, on my birthday that year, my distinct social circles finally overlapped.

After you turn twenty-one, birthdays don’t really seem like that big of a deal. Being an adult sucked that way. Everyone around my age was busy or broke or both, so I decided no gifts, and the party itself would be a plain and simple night at my favorite bar. If they wanted, everyone could buy me drink.

By the time Miranda came strolling in after work, I had already enjoyed quite a number of drinks at the behest of my friends’ generosity. Everyone paused in their separate conversations and looked up at the sovereign that had graced us with her company. Seeing her in the dimly lit space that smelled like vodka and bad decisions actually made me smile.

I happily called out, “Hi, Miranda.”

“Good evening,” she answered, nodding to me.

“Let me introduce you. You know those losers,” I drunkenly drawled, waving at Nigel and Emily. “These are my coworkers, Jackson and Debbie. Jackson’s girlfriend, Stacy. This is Lily and Doug. I’ve told you all about them. Doug’s roommate, Josh,” I pointed each at each person, making my way around the table, “Everyone, say hello to Miranda.”

There was a general, awkward noise of welcome. Sure, Nigel seemed unphased. Emily sat a little straighter. Everyone else just seemed stunned. I didn’t really know how it was going to play out. This was uncharted territory even for me.

Well, if there was a time to just say ‘screw it’ and enjoy the moment, it was on your birthday. Being drunk helped.

And so the evening continued. I turned to Debbie, politely allowing her to continue her story. I heard Lily’s roaring laughter. Out of the corner of my eye, Miranda was saying something to Doug with a playful smirk, and I practically swooned across the table. Nigel was waving his hand and refuting whatever comment Miranda had made, and Lily’s booming voice overtook them all. I returned to the conversation at my end of the table; Jackson was recounting a story that had Doug’s roommate snorting and the rest of us rolling our eyes. We had heard it before.

Sometimes my best friend’s loud storytelling would pull the entire table together or I was ordered to take another shot for the sake of celebration. Our individual conversations continued. Every so often I would look over to check up on things, and Miranda’s eyes would meet mine.

They pulled me out of my seat, and I excused myself from the small conversation occurring on one side of the table in order to join the other.

I walked over and kneeled between Nigel and Miranda’s chairs as best as I could considering the skirt I was wearing. I still had a few key items left in my closet from Runway. My hands rested against Miranda’s arm by the table. She had a drink in front of her. When did she order that?

My polished greeting was “Hiya.”

“Hello.”

“Six, you’re a bit tipsy.”

Emily snorted, “She’s pissed is what you mean.”

“It’s my birthday,” I pouted, “I’m allowed.”

“You certainly are. How was your day?”

“Wonderful. I talked to my parents this morning. I purposely did nothing all day. I took a bubble bath and read my book and took calls from people telling me how awesome I am. It was great.” I didn’t mention the part where I had been a nervous wreck for two hours after Miranda texted me she was actually coming to the sleazy bar to have drinks with everyone.

“Reading, how exciting,” Nigel deadpanned, which earned a hearty laugh from Emily and a grunt from me.

Miranda narrowed her eyes at the man before turning her gaze to me.

“A bath sounds exquisite.”

I could feel my face flush at her comment. Me, Miranda, and baths all lumped together in one conversation was too much – time to change the subject.

I stood up and proudly declared it was time for my final drink of the evening and started my way towards the bar.

Lily however pointed an accusing finger at me and immediately stood up.

“Hey, birthday girl doesn’t pay.”

I sighed dramatically to tease her but smiled as we linked arms and walked to the bar.

After we ordered and waiting for our drinks, she was unusually quiet, looking at the proud display of bottles behind the bar.

“I think I get it,” she said softly, looking at me out of the corner of her eye, “What you see in her. What people see in her. She sucks you in, doesn’t she?”

I wasn’t sure where this was going, but it didn’t seem good.

“Lily.”

She waved me off with her hand and grinned.

“Just be careful.”

It was funny, how my best friend instantly knew. I mean, I had certainly been dropping hints, trying to explain my feelings, trying desperately not to disrupt the balance we had managed to regain. But she got it. And she supported me. It was as simple as that.

Miranda continued to be a huge success amongst my friends, and it really did make me feel proud to show them the true woman, not the crazy boss she needed to be in order to make her magazine successful. The woman that told funny stories of the time Snoop Dog showed up high to a party, the woman that rolled her eyes when someone called me Andy. The woman that wasn’t afraid to offer Doug and his very drunk roommate a ride home even if it meant us all squeezing in the backseat of the town car.

The car was quiet now that Jeff wasn’t drunkenly babbling and giggling.

“Thank you for driving them home.”

Miranda glanced from the window to me. “Safety is always my main priority.”

“Yeah, right,” I scoffed, slouching into the comfy, leather seat, “I’ve seen some of the heels you wear. That’s a safety hazard if I ever saw one.”

“Not for masters of the fashion world, such as myself.”

I rolled my eyes but couldn’t fight the smile that appeared. I nudged her with my shoulder; we were still sitting as if the car was still packed with other people.

“I remember almost breaking my ankles those first few weeks. But after you gave me the stare down, I was terrified not to wear them.”

Miranda innocently batted her eyelashes. “I have no idea what you could be alluding to.”

“The Stare of Death,” I hissed demonically, mustering my best attempt to glare daggers into the woman beside me. A beat passed, and Miranda’s face went unchanged.

“How ferocious,” she murmured, her evil smile not proving my point.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s better when you do it. Plus, I’m a little fuzzy right now.”

“Are you tired?”

“A bit. I had so much fun though.”

After a pause, Miranda asked, “Too tired for your present?”

Oh, no.

“I told you no gifts.”

Ignoring my complaint, she tapped twice on the partition. The barrier slowly lowered, allowing for Roy to produce a rather large, long box. It was black and tied with a thin, gold string. Miranda gently accepted it, and the screen moved back into place. Miranda kept her face expressionless as she then presented it to me. I frowned at her, but she nodded for me to open it.

So maybe I couldn’t exactly be mad at her for getting me a present. My curiosity got the better of me, and I turned to face the object now sitting on my lap. After pulling the string, I was able to lift the top, revealing an abundance of tissue paper that concealed the true prize.

I had once opened many shipments like this in the majestic Closet

“Did you get me clothes?” I jokingly asked the woman beside me. Surely she could see the irony in that. Or maybe it was a decoy?

Miranda rolled her eyes but again nodded her head towards the box. And so, I parted the tissue paper to discover my gift.

I was right, it had been clothes. But the word “clothes” didn’t come close to the garment I held before me. My hands almost trembled as they held it; the fabric begged to be touched, no, caressed softly. It was like water. The bodice appeared glitter ever so slightly under the passing streetlights from my window. As I pulled it even further out of the box, I could see that the cut was youthful but classic. But the fabric! I could only imagine how it would move and shine and glimmer. I didn’t know if I should smile or cry.

It was a cerulean gown.

“Oh, Miranda.”

“Valentino was thrilled to make it for you,” Miranda stated, glancing toward the box, “He remembered you from Fashion Week.”

“No way. Are you serious?”

A small smile appeared on her face, and she reached out to tenderly stroke the gown.

“The color was a rather difficult decision. You’ve looked very elegant in black before. You’d be capable of successfully donning a daring red. An earth tone would have drastically highlighted your eyes and hair, but this particular blue does compliment your complexion,” Miranda paused before finally looking at me, “After all, it is a special color.

It was our color.

I looked between her and the gift on my lap. “I can’t thank you enough.”

She tossed her head back and said nonchalantly, “Nonsense. You needed something to wear to the premiere.”

“Wait, what?”

“That documentary you’ve mentioned,” Miranda explained with a wave of her hand, “The premiere for the director and producers is next month.”

My mouth dropped open.

“You didn’t.”

“I most certainly did,” she crooned, a smile emerging across her beautiful face, “Happy Birthday, Andrea.”

Torn between crying and laughing, I acted on pure instinct.

I hugged Miranda Priestly.

I didn’t realize the full extent of my gift until a month later.

As far as Miranda was concerned, the event was very low key. It was technically a movie premiere, and there were cameras, but a documentary about the evil of animals in captivity was hardly a Hollywood blockbuster. A few other celebrity guests were there, but Miranda Priestly was one of the bigger names, and I was a personal guest of Miranda Priestly. She introduced me with ease to the director and producers even though she herself had never met them. They seemed happy to answer my questions (though Miranda eventually had to pull me away after the tenth question). It was like getting to go back stage at your favorite band’s concert before the music even started. Miranda beamed proudly when someone complimented my dress, and I was happy to show it off. By the time we all sat down in the theater, my mouth was hurting from smiling so much out of genuine joy for being there.

The director stood up and proudly introduced the movie. As the lights dimmed, I placed my hand over Miranda’s and leaned in so she could hear my whisper.

“This is the best birthday gift I’ve ever gotten.”

We shared a smile before turning to the screen and letting the narrator’s voice lull us in. We both forgot to move our hands away.

I was a lucky girl.

There was an after party, and we made a Priestly-style appearance, leaving shortly after one drink. The director was kind enough to humor me and ask for my opinion of the film. We decided to leave those that had worked on the movie to themselves to celebrate its official birth. Plus, it was already late, and, as beautiful as my dress was, I needed sweats and bed.

Admiring the woman next to me on the ride back was just as exciting as watching the movie. Unfortunately, she must have sensed my eyes upon her, and she turned to face me, sending me a questioning look.

“Why don’t you wear your hair like this more often?”

Her hair was combed back and sleek. I noticed she really only wore it that was to formal events.

“I find it doesn’t send the proper message in the office.”

“What do you mean?”

“This is more suitable when I’m attempting to be charming,” she purred, tilting her head regally.

“You’re always charming,” I responded with extreme sweetness, perhaps a little sarcastically.

Miranda rolled her eyes at my joke before clarifying, “It is not as intimidating.”

“I don’t think so,” I disagreed, running my eyes over her again, “It’s even more intimidating when you’re so suave.”

“Odd. You don’t seem to be quaking with fear.”

“Don’t you know? I’m Priestly proof.”

She stared at me a moment, her eyes wrinkling at the corners when she was trying not to laugh.

“Troublesome.”

I laughed enough for the both of us.

Neither one of seemed phased when we pulled up to the townhouse. Maybe we had forgotten to tell Roy to drop me home. Maybe he just assumed I was staying. I was practically living there most of the time.

When we entered, Patricia slowly trotted into the foyer, and I eagerly reached down to pet her head. Her master grunted, clearly displeased I was rewarded with a greeting first. The dog innocently followed Miranda up the stairs, and I, not-so-innocently, followed them both. The entire evening had been perfect, and yet, as we walked up the stairs, I felt a slow, numbing sadness begin to stir in my chest.

We might as well have been a married couple coming home to our pet dog, and, each step that brought us closer to our separate rooms, reminded me that was not, and never would be, the case. Reaching the top of the stairs, I watched as Patricia continued to follow the beautiful woman down the hallway while I stood before the first door I came to.

“Miranda?”

She turned to face me. Her hair was still elegantly brushed back, and her make up showed no signs of smudging. Her own dress had complimented mine, a royal blue. But her eyes! That was the real sight. There they were, a little tired, but alert, asking me what I wanted. The eyes that once judged me, challenged me, and now welcomed me with those damn wrinkles in the corner that made me warm.

When I stood in her office, I had nothing to lose.

Now I could lose absolutely everything.

“Thanks again.”

A beat passed before Miranda responded with a firm nod. I gave her a small smile and turned to enter my room. The guest room.

***

“It’s dreadful outside.”

I looked over at the woman standing by the window from my spot on the couch.

“It’s just drizzling,” I imitated in a high-pitched voice. My reward was a glare; I guess she remembered that phone call too.

I smiled, relenting my teasing. “I kind of like it. Listening to the rain is relaxing.”

“Like humming,” she murmured, looking again out the window.

“You’re a good hummer.”

Her head snapped back to glare at me once more. “I do not hum.”

“What was it you were humming the other day? At the park?” I attempted my rendition of it. It was something slow, long, and drawn out. Our picnic had been incredibly relaxing, and I could still remember Miranda’s light, musical tones while I napped on the blanket in the shade.

“It was an effort to drown out your snoring.”

“I don’t snore.”

She tilted her head and countered, “And I do not hum.”

“Maybe you were still grumbling about that woman with the baby and her poor shoe choice,” I chuckled, my laughter growing as Miranda rolled her eyes and attempted to hide her own smile.

“Everyone should listen to Miranda’s fashion advice, isn’t that right, Patricia?” I cooed, reaching over to pet the furry dog that lay by my feet.

But Patricia didn’t answer. She didn’t even move.

Miranda sensed my confusion and walked towards the couch.

“Patricia?” Still she did not move.

Turns out she never moved again.

The day Patricia Priestly died was the day I learned a side of Miranda that broke my heart more than the night I had stumbled into her Paris hotel room. Losing Stephen hurt Miranda’s pride. Losing her dog tugged at Miranda’s fiercely guarded soul.

I lapsed into the role of assistant. After grieving with Miranda, I immediately launched into phone calls, making arrangements and preparations over the next few days. I texted Emily that not a single soul in the office was to mention dogs or pets. I commissioned a special frame with a picture of the family with Patricia. I had her collar and one or two other key items properly packed and stored before cleaning the house of the too many reminders that still lingered. I even sat Miranda down and handed her the phone, holding her hand as she told the girls what had happened. For a few nights, I made sure I was waiting for her at the townhouse when she got home. We had dinner, sat in relative silence, and went to bed. Her silence was profound in its completeness; her face seemed empty.

Thankfully, it didn’t last too long. It took about a week of this simple routine before Miranda seemed to get her pep back. As another week passed, things finally seemed to go back to normal. Her appetite returned along with her sense of humor.

As we sat on the couch one night after dinner, she was actually able to talk about Patricia with a contented smile.

“Perhaps I should surprise the girls by acquiring another dog when they return.”

The queen of the fashion world was actually slouching into the couch. I once read somewhere that horses only lie totally on the ground when they’re supremely comfortable. It was nice to know after all this time together my own majestic animal didn’t feel threatened by my presence.

I looked over at the woman next to me. “You could always ask them how they feel about it.”

She nodded, agreeing with my point. “I brought Patricia home shortly after I divorced the girls’ father.”

“Did she help them?”

“Caroline and Cassidy were still very young. It was more or less for me,” she mused before huffing, “I can’t endure another divorce without her.”

I smirked. “Are you planning on getting married and divorced again already?”

“Considering the past two, it is more than likely.” Her tone was more playful than self-berating.

“Oh, stop.”

She grinned slightly, changing train of thought. “If I marry again, it will be for the right reasons. Not for propriety and image and expectations.”

What the hell could I possible say to that? I wanted her to be happy.

“You deserve every bit of happiness you can find, Miranda.”

Perhaps my tone was a touch too serious because she turned to look at me fully now, eyes wider. I meant it, it was genuine. But still. I didn’t mean to be so histrionic about it.

Miranda continued to stare at me as she stated, “You have been integral to restoring it these past few days.”

I smiled and shrugged, not really sure how to respond. I assumed that was her way of saying thank you, and, having it said it, the subject would change, like usual.

But this time, it didn’t.

“Our friendship is one of the most precious treasures in my life.”

My eyes widened in surprise. I knew us being friends was mutually beneficial and that she cared for me, but to hear her declare it so wholeheartedly made my heart beat faster.

She looked across the room and continued, “Your intelligence challenges me. Your compassion warms me. Your courage inspires me. That is, after all, what convinced me to hire you. To befriend you,” she turned to me again, sitting up straighter, “Now it is my turn to take the risk.”

“I don’t understand. There’s nothing to risk. I’ll always be here for you.”

“The safety you provide is perhaps the most terrifying of all,” she countered, actually appearing flustered, “I have all of you and yet cannot have all of you.”

She leaned forward, locking my gaze completely. “You are simultaneously my greatest happiness and my greatest disappointment, Andrea.”

She kissed me.

It wasn’t desperate or hungry. At first, her lips barely brushed mine, and I was still in shock, unmoving. My stiffness must have alarmed her because she tried to pull back.

I didn’t dare let her.

I cupped her cheek and pulled her back to me, deepening our kiss and answering her confession with my own. Her kiss had been polite, a chivalrous declaration leaving room for me to decline. My kiss was complete acceptance with additional assurance.

I think we both sighed with relief. She cupped my cheek, and I grabbed onto her shoulder, needing to feel her and know how very real it all was. We started slow, soft, somewhat unsure. Cautious. Our lips glided gently, kissing the newness away until something else grew in its place. Something that had been there all along but was finally allowed to breath and grow and consume.

Heat.

The kisses deepened. Our bodies melted closer together. One of her hands found my leg, and I gripped her arm. Teeth and tongue brushed against my bottom lip. More sighs. New gasps. We kept inching our bodies closer but quickly ran out of room. So much friction. We needed more. I needed so much more. The kisses continued to grow more frequent, wetter and rougher.

Now it was desperate and hungry and passionate – I pulled away.

“Can we go upstairs?” I blurted breathlessly.

The seductive haze in her eyes made me want her even more. She paused, blinking it away momentarily, looking at me steadily.

“You’re certain?” she asked, grabbing my hand.

A true gentlewoman until the very last.

“There’s only one room in this house I haven’t been in yet. And I want it. Now.”

The lusty fog seized her eyes again, and we both stood, moving towards the foyer.

One of her hands went my back, properly escorting me. She kissed the knuckles of my hand as we climbed the stairs. Her eyes never left mine, and all I could do was smile. All I could think was Finally.

I didn’t really have any expectations when she opened the door to her bedroom, and I sort of just assumed it would look vaguely similar to the size of the guest room with maybe a different color pallet. Miranda liked blue. The whole townhouse was blue.

I stepped inside and found it almost exactly as I had pictured it. Cream colors, some white, hints of light blue. But I didn’t really care. The bedroom was just a symbol, a metaphor that had preoccupied my dreams.

I turned to the true prize.

Miranda sarcastically quipped, “Everything you hoped it would be?”

I took a step closer, grabbing both of her hands.

“Let’s see.”

I knew about a lot of Miranda’s favorite things, but tonight I was going to learn something new about her.

So, I kissed her. I pulled her to me. I knew she was picky about her hair, but I learned that she would sigh happily every time I ran my hands through it. I already knew what her hands felt like on my hips from dancing, but I learned that she loved to glide her hands past them to grab my thighs. Kisses behind her ear made her gasp and touching her stomach made her groan. She wanted to leave the lamp light on. When we accidently bumped or our moving lips made an awkward noise, she hummed while I giggled. I learned so much.

Her hands were so gentle. I had seen the way she touched couture and clothes and textiles, and it was as if her touching them was what made them luxurious and expensive. This is what her touch did to me. I wrapped myself around her like silk, eager to touch every contour and remember her shape. At her hands, my sighs were soft like velvet.

‘Making love’ was an old-fashioned term that used to make me cringe. But there really was no better word to describe the manner in which Miranda whispered in my ear while she touched me, an utter softness that manifested like brushstrokes against a canvas. She was an artist illustrating my body with strokes of her tongue and fingers. She took her time; we had so much time. Spiritually and intellectually we had grown so close, and our bodies were simply catching up to a familiar rhythm they had only heard at a distance or in a dream. It was like waking up but as easy as falling asleep.

When I touched her, she smiled. Not her charismatic grin or her devilish snicker but a true smile that wrinkled her eyes. I kissed her there. I kissed her lips. With every kiss she continued smiling, sighing with pleasure, and so I continued to kiss every part of her I loved until she could not contain her own joy.

I learned that this powerful, headstrong woman found peace and warmth in the simple act of resting her head on my chest.

If you think about it, it wasn’t glamorous, how we came together. There wasn’t a big party or a dramatic confession in the middle of Paris. But I wasn’t glamorous. After all, my idea of a confession had been asking for friendship. It turns out that had been exactly what we needed. I fell in love with my boss, and then I fell in love with her again as my best friend.

In the end, I was just really glad I didn’t pick Auto Verse.