DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To emeraldorchids[at]outlook.com

Always at My Side
By emeraldorchids



It's Monday morning and Roy cannot manage to get me near Runway in time for my meeting. Huffing, I throw open the door and forge my own way, weaving between the parked cars along Fifth Avenue. Walking along the sidewalk in front of me is an unfortunately frumpy woman—I say 'unfortunate' because once I stormed past her, I saw her youth. She couldn't have been a day over twenty-five, though her ill-fitting and mismatched clothing might have said otherwise. For a moment, I almost stopped walking. Her pure beauty—full lips, deep brown eyes, thick, long (no doubt natural) brown hair—the most marvelous canvas in the world. Oh, the things I could do with her, I think, quickly shaking myself from the notion as security opens the non-revolving door for me at Elias Clarke.

As I wait for an elevator to take me up to my domain, I hear an unfamiliar voice asking security for a Miss Emily Charlton. Turning my head, I meet her eyes. She's no doubt here for the second assistant position, as there would be no other reason for Emily to associate with such an unfashionable woman. "Robert, she's with me," I call, gesturing for her to step forward. After getting her horrific briefcase stuck in the turnstile, she meets me, reaching out her hand.

"Hi, I'm Andy," she said. "And you are??"

"One should always know the name of one's potential employer prior to the interview," I stated. "Take the next elevator to eighteen," I added, stepping in and pressing the button before the girl could follow me. I'm not sure why I feel so drawn to her—she's really quite hideous at first glance—but there is something about her that's almost attractive, that makes me want to go all soft, and over what? A frumpy woman I encountered on the street? Damn, I need to get laid, I thought. Pulling out my phone, I quickly texted my husband, "Sex tonight?" He responds immediately, "Sure. Does 10:15 work?" I write back one word: "Yes."

It's really no secret that my marriage is less than perfect, but Stephen dresses up well, is always willing to attend dinners and benefits if there's liquor involved, and someone once commented that we looked good together because our hair matched. What an odd thing to say, but at least they couldn't call me a cougar.

The elevator doors opened and Emily was there to greet me. Sometimes, I don't quite understand how she knows exactly when I'm going to arrive. Part of me wants to be devious and exit on the seventeenth floor and take the north stairwell up to my office just to see the look on her face. I think I might do that soon. She is clearly getting too comfortable with our routine.

"Emily, I expect the position of second assistant to be filled by the end of the day today. I expect to evaluate all potential candidates myself, seeing as the last three you selected were highly incompetent." Emily tried to say something, but all I could think about was the frumpy girl. "That's all," I said, waving Emily away as I entered my sanctuary.

Looking through some of the notes on my desk, I begin making my list for the day when Emily approaches my door. "Miranda, the first candidate has arrived and, well, you don't even need to—" I looked up over the rim of my reading glasses, glaring at the young woman who dared tell me what I need or don't need.

"Send her in. That's all," I say, returning my gaze to my paperwork.

"Umm, hi, Mrs. Priestly, I'm Andy. Remember? We met downstairs? I'm here for the position of second assistant." Remember? I thought, How could I forget? Her hand, suspended in midair, hovered over my desk. Staring at her fingers, her long elegant fingers—god, what those fingers could do to me, I thought. Quickly reacting, I reached up and placed my hand in hers. She shook vigorously, the harsh movement resonating all the way up to my shoulder. It was a brusque and manly handshake, but somehow it brought a smile to my face, as I expected no less from the frumpy woman.

"Your given name is?" I asked, tapping my pencil against the desk.

"Uhh, Andrea Elizabeth?" she replied, as if she was unsure of her own name.

"Andrea, call me Miranda," I instructed, drawing my hand back. "Why do you want this position?" I asked her. "You don't know a thing about fashion—have you ever even read Runway?"

"No, but—" she whined, as if there existed an excuse for my argument while she dangled a resume over my desk. But something about her, the way she didn't cower when I criticized her, how she was almost proud that she was so supremely unqualified. "Have Emily settle the paperwork with HR. She will show you your desk and train you. That's all."

Even after dismissing her, she still stood in my office, dangerously close to my desk and the chairs no one dared touch. I looked up from the paper I was reading. Did she not hear me properly? Meeting my eyes, she began taking a few steps backwards, still in shock, apparently. Well, so was I, because all I could think of were those long fingers stroking my folds, full lips pressed to my nipple.

She turned on her heels, almost curtsying as she headed over to Emily's desk. I turned again to my phone. "We need to make it earlier," I texted. "12:15 at the Four Seasons?" he replied. "OK," I wrote back, tossing my phone back to the table with an audible thud. I didn't know if I could wait even five hours as her presence alone left a mysterious air in the office. Who are you Andrea Elizabeth and why am I so allured? I wondered, thumbing through photographs.

The morning dragged. No matter what I tried to focus on, my thoughts drifted to the young woman who hovered so clumsily outside my office.

"Miranda, it's noon. Roy is downstairs for you," Emily called. I quickly stood from my desk and headed for the outer office, taking my coat and bag from the ever-efficient Emily.

"Bye, Miranda! Have a good lunch!" Andrea called, waving animatedly. I groaned aloud as I turned on my heel and stormed out of the office, anxious, hoping that the elevator would move more quickly by the mere centripetal force of my marching in circles.

"Roy, circle the block. I'll be no more than thirty minutes," I instructed as I stepped out of the car and into the Four Seasons. Sonia, the assistant manager, recognized me and inconspicuously greeted me, handing me a key to the room. Sighing, I pressed the elevator, riding to the twenty-third floor and tightly clenching my thighs.

As I entered the room, I realized Stephen has not yet arrived. Quickly, I walk over to the desk and set down my bag. I step out of my heels and unbutton my blouse, draping it over the back of the chair. Unzipping my skirt, I slide it down my legs and neatly fold it on the desk. I cannot understand why the young woman is infiltrating my thoughts, but all I can think about is her hair, her lips, her eyes, those fingers… Forcing my thoughts aside, I sat on the chair, pulling out my Blackberry and scrolling through emails.

I heard the keycard in the door, and took a deep breath. Finally, some release, I thought. I dropped my phone into my bag and stood, smoothing my hands over my body. Today, I was wearing black lace lingerie with thigh-high stockings. Perfect, I thought, grinning slyly as I approached the door.

Stephen had just shut the door behind him when I pushed him against the door, knocking the keycard out of his hand and to the floor. I unclasped his belt and slid his pants down, stroking and licking his already hard cock. He quickly slipped out of his suit coat and tossed it on the nearby chair. I climbed on top of the bed and kneeled, knowing he would follow me.

Twelve minutes later, I'm peeling myself up off the bed, my muscles aching from the shattering orgasm I so willingly endured. I buttoned my blouse and spritzed some j'adore perfume. My husband stepped out, looking completely put together—something I knew I could never manage today. "Have a good afternoon," I whispered, softly pecking his lips as I passed by him and slipped into the bathroom.

"I have to rush back to the office. I'll see you later tonight? After 10?" he called.

"Mmm, I'll wait up," I replied. The door opened and shut, signaling his departure. Those were the only words we had spoken to each other all day, save the few text messages arranging this tryst. Perhaps that was what attracted me to Stephen more than anything: his economical approach to words.

As expected, I was right on schedule, walking out of the building at 12:38pm. Everything in my world was precise, even when unexpected. But now, now I had to return to the office, where the new girl, Andrea Elizabeth, would no doubt be.

Preparing myself to reenter the office, I tried to quell my irrational thoughts. Andrea is an assistant, and will likely fail me sooner rather than later, I tell myself, No, she will not be interested in going home with you, so don't even bother thinking about it. Why did it seem so much more acceptable for men to have mistresses at work?

"Where is what's-her-name?" I ask Emily. "I don't recall dismissing her, did I?"

"No, no, Miranda. She's with Nigel and Serena. They, um, decided she needed a crash course in fashion," Emily stammered.

I nodded, not needing to know the details. "You will continue to deliver the Book until she is fully trained," I told Emily as I walked into my own office. Hours went by. Hundred of emails read and replied to. Promptly at six o'clock, I strode past Emily's desk to the closet to retrieve my own coat. It was funny, watching the redhead's stunned face as I picked up my own items, as if hell had frozen over or something.

Riding in the car to my home, I couldn't help but feel like I should have said goodbye to Andrea, stopped by the Art Department or given her some small sign that I was pleased with her—why, I don't know, she hadn't even done anything for me yet.

When Stephen came home, the girls were already asleep, and I, too, had crawled into bed with a book. I always tried to read the NYT top bestsellers, but for some reason, this one was not capable of capturing my interest. I heard the beep of the alarm when he entered, heard him toss his keys on the desk in the kitchen and grab a bottle of water before heading upstairs. He was so incredibly predictable.

He quietly opened the door, apparently not wanting to wake me. "I'm sorry I'm late," he said, "Vince was there, so I couldn't slip out, but—"

"Shh," I said, glancing at the clock and since it was just past 11pm, "just come to bed." I placed my bookmark between the pages and set it on the nightstand, along with my reading glasses. I couldn't have looked very desirable—my damp hair drying in waves framing my makeup-less face. I wore a sleeveless cotton-blend nightgown because it was comfortable, and I was in my own bed: the one place I could let the layers slip away. Once Stephen crawled into the other side, I reached over and turned out the bedside lamp. "How was your meeting?" I asked, not really listening to his reply, just nodding and feigning interest.

"What was going on with you today?" he asked me. "It's been months since I've gotten a horny text from you."

"Oh," I said, grateful the darkness hid my blush, "just, you know, stressed with the Board." I lied. I didn't want to tell him about my new assistant, how I was fantasizing about her and needed release. I knew the lie wouldn't last long. I was lucky to be shrouded in darkness and exhaustion tonight. Tomorrow, I might not be so lucky.

"Well, it was a welcome surprise," he said reaching over and wrapping his arm around me, "We should do it more often."

"Mmm, can you imagine the headlines: 'Miranda Priestly seen exiting the Four Seasons for an afternoon quickie with husband!'" I said, smiling as I leaned back into his strong chest. I wonder what she feels like, I thought, my mind drifting to the young woman's slim, lanky arms.

"Honey?" Stephen questioned, softly squeezing me. "I asked if you wanted to pick up where we left off this afternoon," he said, nuzzling my neck. The heat of his lips was sending jolts through my body.

"Noo," I said, softly pulling away. "I would just love to get a good night's rest," I said. I couldn't honestly let him make love to me while my mind was focused on someone completely different. One lie was enough for tonight. He asked if I had a meeting with Irv tomorrow, knowing I had a tendency to be more stressed then. "No, there's a new second assistant Emily will be training. She's…frumpy," I said, trying to be honest.

"So in other words, she won't last long and will make your lives hell for the two weeks she's there," he said, chuckling."Goodnight, Miranda," he kissed the top of my head and rolled to the other side.

Several weeks later, I was honestly surprised that Andrea Elizabeth Sachs was still employed as my second assistant. Moreover, she was doing quite well at her job, catching on much more quickly than any of the other girls I've seen through the years. Of course, her personality had led much of my staff to befriend the young woman. Nigel was constantly gushing over her, giving her clothes from the closet and sending her to Serena for hair and makeup tips. I must admit, haute couture did look good on the girl. Emily was quick to teach her the 'rules' of working for me, and because of the dedication of my staff, I didn't even hear, much less see Andrea some days.

We were returning from a viewing at James Holt, when I realized I needed to give Andrea more responsibility. I needed to test her, and she needed to fail, because once she fails, it will be nearly impossible for me to desire her any longer. "Andrea, you will deliver the Book tonight. Get the key from Emily," I said, sliding into the backseat of the towncar before she could protest.

That evening, I left Runway relatively early. The girls were in their rooms all night working on a project for school, and I took advantage of the opportunity to review our quarterly projections and budget. It was a data-heavy task, manipulating numbers in Excel. I settled in the sitting room on the second floor with my laptop, and after a little while, I heard the front door open and slam shut. It was a little early for the Book, but surely even Andrea would know better than to slam the door. "Stephen?" I called.

"You're home?" he asked. I quickly saved my work and closed my computer. Smoothing out my black skirt, I pulled my champagne embroidered jacket tighter to my chest and stepped into the heels I had discarded nearly an hour ago. Something about wearing heels when talking to Stephen made me feel more confident, more feminine.

"Darling, what's wrong?" I asked, standing there in front of the sofa while he approached from the stairs.

"You didn't show. I waited for an hour, Miranda. An hour!" He ran his hands through his hair, and I suddenly remembered we had made dinner plans to celebrate our anniversary since I had a gala to attend on Friday and he had a business dinner Saturday. "Jesus, why didn't you respond to my texts?"

"Stephen, please," I said, lowering my voice. "The girls are upstairs studying. I'm sorry. I must have left my phone downstairs or in my coat pocket." I reached out to him, hoping I could calm him with my feminine charm, but he pushed my hand away. "Stephen, I'm sorry. Look, let's just go to the bedroom—"

"No, Miranda, you don't get it," he said to me. "You don't know what it felt like to be sitting there in that restaurant, sipping on my wine while the glass across from me stood untouched, everyone looking at me and thinking, 'there he is again, waiting for her.'" Again, I thought. It was only two days ago that I was forty minutes late for lunch with him at Pastis.

"Honey, my schedule isn't like yours," I whispered, terrified that the girls would wake up to our argument. "I cannot control everything. Tuesday there was that meeting, and today I was so engrossed in the projections I lost all sense of time," I pleaded.

"Or were you engrossed in that assistant of yours you can't seem to stop talking about?" he asked. "We used to be able to have a real conversation, Miranda, but now, it's like if I'm not Runway, Irv, or Andrea, I don't exist," he said, walking towards the bedroom.

I quickly followed him and grabbed his wrist. "Look, I'm sorry, Stephen. Please, forgive me," I said.

"Miranda, this is—" Stephen said, his words trailing off as he looked to the staircase. I followed his eyes to the staircase and saw her—Andrea. How long had she been there? What all had she heard? I was frozen. I couldn't move. Stephen had already slipped into the bedroom. She was gone almost as quickly as she appeared, having left the Book at the top of the staircase.

I was still standing there, frozen, for some time after she left. "Was that her?" Stephen asked, leaning against the doorframe in his boxers and undershirt.

I kicked the Book down the stairs and stormed past him into the bedroom. "Of course," I hissed. "Who else would be stupid enough to come upstairs?" I opened the top dresser drawer to select a nightdress and slammed it shut, storming off into the bathroom.

"Hey," he said, following me and wrapping his arms around me from behind. He was strong, and I knew it was useless to fight. It was, indeed, useless to fight anymore, I thought as I slumped against him, tears rolling down my cheeks. "What's wrong?" he asked, turning me around in his arms. I kept my head down, unwilling to make eye contact since he made his disappointment so clear minutes before. I don't know why it mattered so much, really. I knew Stephen was certainly not the love of my life, but I guess I just wanted that relationship—the feeling of stability, of having someone to turn to, of making someone proud. It felt like I had just lost all of that in the past ten minutes.

As hot tears flowed down my face, Stephen walked me over to the bed. I'm sure it scared the hell out of him—he'd never see me cry before. "I just…want to go…to bed," I cried, pulling away from him and curling into a ball on the mattress.

"Okay," he said, softly brushing my hair out of my eye. It killed me that he was being so kind when I felt so…guilty. If he only knew some of my thoughts of Andrea. "I'll check on the girls and be back…err, or did you want me to sleep in the guest room?" he asked.

"I don't care," I muttered.

When he came back, I was in the bathroom, brushing my teeth. I listened closely and determined he was, in fact, staying in our bedroom—or was it my bedroom? Praying he wouldn't ask any more questions, I quietly shut the light and slipped into bed.

"Miranda?" he whispered, "I'm sorry I overreacted about dinner tonight. And that I embarrassed you in front of your assistant." He softly traced his hand down my back, soothingly almost. I couldn't take it. I didn't deserve to be treated so kindly when all I could think about was the young brunette.

But, I knew what he wanted. "Make it quick," I finally said as I turned onto my back. At least after sex I would be able to sleep, I reasoned.

The next morning, Stephen was up and out the door much earlier than normal. When I woke, I saw that he had moved my computer onto the desk and plugged it in.

My stomach churned at the thought of him touching my computer—did he access my files? Read any of my daydreaming files I typed just to make myself look busy at work? Check my web history to see I search Andrea's name at least twice a day? As I felt fear creeping up my veins, I relaxed, realizing that I had a simple choice to make.

On the way to Runway, I decided she needed even more responsibility, one final test. Not only would I give her time constraints, but I would make sure she was busy with other Runway-related errands so she would have even less time to accomplish the task. And to top it off, it would be a task that even I myself might not be able to accomplish.

"Andrea?" I called just as I got settled in the morning.

"Yes, Miranda?" she came running in, notebook in hand. "About last night, I'm—"

"Andrea, I need the new Harry Potter book for the twins," I said, ignoring her apologies about last night's incident (though not completely disregarding that she was smart enough to take the blame). "Oh, okay," Andrea said, smiling smugly. "I'll—I'll go down to Barnes & Noble and get them right now."

"Did you fall down and smack your little head on the pavement?" I hissed, rolling my eyes. "We have all of the published Harry Potter books. The twins want to know what happens next."

Her big brown eyes grew wide as her jaw dropped. I pretended to be reading a newspaper, though I couldn't help but watch her expression over the rim of my glasses. "You—you want the unpublished manuscript."

I smiled, knowing I was baiting the young woman. "Well, we know everyone in publishing, so it shouldn't be a problem, should it? And you can do anything. Right?" Andrea began stammering, but I added one last constraint. "They are going to their grandmother's this weekend, their train leaves at 3. And Andrea," I added as she was rushing out the door, "if you don't get those books by 2pm, you can just forget about coming back."

I sank back into my chair, smiling at the chaos that had become my outer office. Andrea, who was wearing a stunning olive green dress, no doubt with a corset underneath, was haunting my dreams and distracting me at work. This would be her undoing, I just knew it. And then, I could rightfully let her go and never deal with her again.

Over the next few hours, I made sure to have Emily send Andrea on other mundane errands—fetching scarves, lunch, coffee, none of which I actually needed. It was remarkable how much I was able to accomplish that afternoon, knowing I no longer needed to concern myself with the formerly-frumpy brunette. No, she was no longer frumpy. In the past few weeks, I had to admit that Nigel found a way to clear away the clutter and reveal her true beauty.

"Miranda?" she called, jarring me from my thoughts. "Here is the Harry Potter manuscript," she said, grinning as she set it on my desk. "And your latte," she added.

"Only one copy, Andrea?" I hissed, snatching my latte from her hand. "What are my daughters supposed to do with that—share?"

"No, Miranda. This is just an extra copy…for our records. I had two copies printed and bound," she said proudly, standing there, her shoulders back and head held high.

"Well, where are these mysterious copies?" I asked.

"Oh, they're with the twins, on the train to grandma's," she said proudly. "Will there be anything else?"

"Uh-uh," I said, shaking my head, truly baffled at how she was able to accomplish this impossible task. "That's all," I said as I plucked my latte from the desk and pressed it to my lips, quickly spinning around to face the window. No, this could not be happening. My lips trembled as I squeezed my eyes shut and tightly crossed my legs. Andrea Elizabeth had exceeded my expectations, and for the first time in my life, I didn't know what to do next.

As I sat in silence in my office, I considered texting my husband, but decided I needed to stop using him. The truth was that I wanted to be closer to the curious young woman. I wanted to know her, to know more about her life, her passions. I still couldn't figure out why I cared, but at this point it was useless to waste time trying to figure it out. I needed to keep her close.

Friday was the night of the Runway gala, and honestly, I wasn't paying much attention to my assistants as I was bombarded with last-minute changes and a near editorial disaster. Returning to my office after a meeting with Nigel, I stopped and paused in the outer office while Emily coughed and blew her nose into a tissue. "Andrea," I said, "You will attend the gala tonight. Emily, bring her up to speed."

I'm not sure which one of them gasped, but Andrea's voice rang clear: "I thought only the first assistant went to the gala, Miranda?"

"Yes, well, only when the first assistant hasn't decided to become and incubus of viral plague. That's all," I said. Sighing, I sank into my chair, completely confident that Andrea would rise to the occasion.

Later that evening, I sat on a stool in front of my mirror. My gown was on, my hair was fixed, and makeup perfectly applied by Serena. Roy had been waiting downstairs for at least ten minutes. I stared at my phone, waiting for a message to appear. Checking the clock, I sighed and sent my husband a note: "I cannot be late tonight. Meet me at the Met?" Slipping my phone into my evening bag, I gathered my dress and descended the stairs. Wishing for once that my girls or someone were home to reassure me.

Roy helped me and my dress into the towncar, and once he returned to the front seat, he turned to ask if we needed to stop somewhere and pick Stephen up. I wouldn't even know where to find him, I thought. "No, just get me to the gala," I said, closing my eyes and trying to relax.

Once I was at the Met, I was surprised at the calming effect the surroundings had on me. But then again, I controlled every detail of the gala, the placement of every flower, every chair. As I strolled around the floor, Andrea and Emily flanking my sides, I was reassured as they took turns whispering names into my ears. I must admit, hearing Andrea's voice whispered so quietly in my ear sent a chill through my body, one I could only shake off by turning my head side to side.

Then, just before I was about to ask Emily to call Roy, a deep booming voice stopped me in my tracks. "Hey!" he shouted. I turned, watching Irv and several other board members follow the voice as well. I slowly made my way through the crowd, attempting to diffuse the situation. "When do we eat?" he bellowed.

I slipped my arm around him, trying to guide him away from the center of the room. "Darling, there you are," I said with a smile.

"It's been a rotten evening," he shouted, his voice echoing throughout the hall as others' conversations began to diminish. I could smell the Jack Daniels on his breath as he wildly gestured with his arms. "People out front didn't even recognize me!" he said. I was able to grab both of his wrists, holding his hands down as I silently begged him to stop making a scene. "You know, one of them called me 'Mr. Priestly,' and now the damn bartender won't even serve me!"

"Darling, please," I whispered as I turned my face away from my colleagues.

Now, Stephen turned to Irv, whom he has met on countless occasions. "Why don't you get me another drink?" Stephen shouted, "They'd have to listen to you wouldn't they, little guy?" Stephen chuckled as I did my best to hide my horrified expression.

"Stephen, please," I whispered, hoping against hope that Irv somehow hadn't heard his comment. Glancing over, I quickly realized how wrong I was, seeing Irv's face grow bright red as if he were about to explode.

Then, I saw Andrea step forward, gently taking Irv by the elbow. "Excuse me, Mr. Ravitz?" she said, turning him away from the scene Stephen was creating. "I have just been dying to ask if it's true that John Cheever used to ghost-write…"

I sighed as Irv turned around and the conversation in the room quickly picked up. My heart was still beating wildly, but all I could think about was getting Stephen away from my colleagues. He stumbled and bent down to kiss my neck as I tried to step away. Over his shoulder, I saw Andrea listening intently to Irv, but keeping an eye on me as well. "Thank you," I silently mouthed to her before turning back to my husband.

"M'randa—" he slurred.

I quickly wrapped my arm around him and gestured for one of the waiters to help me. "Okay, darling, we're going to get you home and find you a nice, big drink, okay?" Without much protest, and mostly due to the young men who helped me keep him upright, I was able to walk him to the car, where Emily had already delivered my evening wrap and bag.

In the backseat, Stephen couldn't keep to himself. "Don't touch me!" I finally snapped, sliding over as close to the door as possible. His hands continued roaming, pawing at my chest while I struggled to push him away. I pulled out my blackberry and began scrolling through emails, trying to distract myself from the unwanted attention. A new message from Andrea appeared at the top of my inbox, and out of concern that something may have gone wrong at the gala after I left, I quickly opened it.

From: Sachs, AndreaTo: Priestly, MirandaSubject: tonight

Hi Miranda, Just wanted to let you know there was no mention of Stephen or anything after you left, though I did have a frightfully boring 20-minute conversation with Irv. (If you were anyone else, I'd say you owe me for that.) I don't mean to be presumptuous, but I hope everything is okay at home. Call if you need me to take the girls away or anything.

See you Monday,Andrea

I bit my lower lip, fighting back tears as I read through the email from my second assistant, wondering where she got her boldness. No one else would dare say such things to me, but the thing is, I really didn't mind it from her. I had to chuckle at her "frightfully boring" conversation with Irv. Yes, I do owe her for that, I thought.

Roy pulled up to the townhouse and parked the car, knowing he would need to get out and help drag Stephen upstairs and into the guest bedroom. "Miranda, if there's anything else you need tonight, I wait around," Roy said.

"Don't be ridiculous, Roy. I'm sure your wife despises me enough as is. As for Stephen, I'm sure he will be asleep by the time I get upstairs. Goodnight, and thank you," I said, kissing him softly on the cheek as he headed out the door.

Locking the door, I engaged the security alarm and turned out the hall light, grabbing two bottles of water from the fridge before heading upstairs. In my room, I carefully stepped out of the black Valentino gown and hung it back up in the garment bag in my closet. I washed my face and slipped on a plum silk neglige. Something about galas and events always made me feel sexy, and tonight was no different. Cotton simply would not do. I pulled a post-it from my bedside table and one of the bottles of water I brought upstairs, slipping into the guest room and setting the water on the nightstand for Stephen. He had apparently stayed awake enough to remove his tuxedo, as it was piled on the floor next to the bed and he was laying on top of the covers with his socks, boxers, undershirt, and one arm of his dress shirt on. I leaned over and carefully undid the cuff link, sliding the sleeve off and adding the shirt to the pile on the floor.

Post-it and pen still in my hand, I took a deep breath. Initially, I planned on writing something sweet, like Sleep well, darling xo, but watching him lying there, passed out in his own drunken stupor, I simply couldn't bring myself to speak in niceties. I quickly scribbled something on the pale yellow paper and stuck it to the nightstand where he'd be sure to see it.

Once in my bedroom, I made sure to lock the door just in case he woke up in a wandering mood. I was usually the one who didn't want to lock the door, but that was mostly because I wanted to be accessible if the girls needed something in the middle of the night. But tonight, they were with their father, so here I was, locking myself inside my bedroom, or maybe, I was just locking Stephen out.

Laying down and turning out the light, I tossed and turned. My eyes were exhausted, but I was still too wound up from the evening's events to rest. There was no way I would be sleeping anytime soon. I pulled out my phone and suddenly recalled that I hadn't responded to Andrea's email. Too tired to type out a message, I dialed her number, intending to leave her a brief message.

"Hello, Miranda?" she answered. "Shhh, I'm on the phone," I heard her whisper.

"Andrea, I—is this a bad time?" I asked, realizing she was with other people.

"No, not at all. Sorry, I'm just sharing a cab with some other people. What do you need?" she asked.

"I was just…" I began before I realized that I really didn't know what I wanted. Sighing, I thought, I just wanted to hear her voice.

"Wait, stop!" she shouted. "Miranda? We're actually turning down your block now. Would you like me to come up?"

"I, uh…what are you…yes, fine," I said, quickly ending the call. Andrea was downstairs, and would be here, in my house, in minutes. I didn't have time to do my makeup or to put anything on. Sighing, I grabbed my robe and slipped on my Prada slippers before heading downstairs to meet her.

I turned on the hall light and disarmed the alarm system before unlocking the door and letting her inside. She was still wearing the Valentino gown, and for a moment, I forgot just how chic she looked this evening.

"I'm sorry to drag you away from your friends, Andrea," I said as she followed me into the kitchen. "Tea?"

Andrea nodded and took a seat at one of the counter stools. "It's no problem, I didn't know those people," she said.

"The ones you were in the taxi with?" I asked as I started the electric kettle.

"Yeah, they were coming out of a bar across the street from the Met when I left. And, you know how scarce cabs are in Manhattan on Friday nights, so we all just jumped in together," she said.

"Oh," I said, not quite understanding why someone would willingly share a ride with a stranger. "Thank you for what you did tonight," I said as I pulled two mugs from the cabinet and placed a teabag in each.

"Oh Miranda," she said, "you don't have to thank me. I was just doing my job, and…and… it was nothing."

"And what? What were you going to say?" I asked.

"I didn't ever want to see that expression on your face again, Miranda," she said quietly.

"Oh. That," I said, pouring the boiling water into the mugs and turning to face Andrea. "I don't think that will really be a problem anymore," I said. "When you get married, Andrea, don't ever settle for someone whom you're embarrassed to be seen with."

Andrea blushed and played with the teabag in her mug, not quite knowing how to respond. "I, uh, did you need anything with the girls tonight?" she asked, changing the subject.

"No, but thank you. They are with their father. I try to arrange that any time I have evening functions to attend, since I never know how long I will be gone."

"Oh, that's nice," she said. "Was Stephen okay and everything?" she asked, fidgeting with her mug.

"Yes. He was rather intoxicated. Roy helped me get him upstairs," I said.

"He didn't try to hurt you or anything, did he?" Andrea asked. She quickly blushed, "I'm sorry. You don't have to answer that."

I waved it off. I was standing there in my robe with no makeup, but this was part of getting closer to her, wasn't it? "No, he did not hurt me. Luckily, he passed out the minute he hit the bed."

"Oh, good," she said, sipping at the hot tea. "My, uh, my boyfriend is sometimes demanding when he's drunk," she said.

My ears perked up. She has a boyfriend? He's demanding? "Andrea, has he hurt you?" I asked, suddenly very concerned.

"No, no. It's just, if he has a lot to drink he expects certain things. It was only difficult when I tried resisting, but now I just make sure I'm not home or, well, or I drink enough so I don't care. I was just concerned that Stephen might be like Nate."

"My relationship with my husband is far from perfect, as you may have guessed, but he has never forced me to do anything. Just this evening he was trying to fool around in the backseat of the towncar, but I did not permit anything to happen. I like to think he at least respects me that much," I said.

"I used to think that Nate respected me, but since we moved in together, he's been kind of a different person."

"How long have you been seeing him?" I asked, though I really wanted to shout Why are you still with him?

"Honestly? I can't afford rent without a roommate," she said.

And here, I thought I was the only woman foolish enough to hold onto a loveless relationship. I pursed my lips. She was so young. It pained me to think of her being tied to her boyfriend over something so foolish as money. "Will you call me if he ever tries…or anything? I will have the police at your door in minutes."

Andrea smiled, truly smiled for the first time that evening. "Thank you," she said, gently resting her hand on mine, "but I think I'll be okay."

I stared down at my hand, covered by the young woman's elegant fingers.

"Oh, sorry," she said, quickly pulling her hand away.

I shrugged. I was so used to people reacting that way to me, I often wondered if there would ever be a way to tell them that a little human touch now and then was actually quite welcome. "Well, even if you ever need someone to talk to," I offered, "I'm certainly no relationship expert, but I do have considerable experience with assholes."

"Thanks," she said. "Same goes for you—I'm always here to listen if you need, or if, well, anything."

We sat in silence for a few minutes, sipping herbal tea over the kitchen island. "I think I'm going into the office early tomorrow morning," I said. "Stephen is not going to be happy when he wakes up, and I really don't want to be here."

"Oh," she said, "uh, do you want me to wait here with you?"

Now it was my turn to smile. "No, but that's very sweet of you," I said. "I left him a post-it note on his nightstand, and he's going to flip." And it would definitely be much better if you were far away from here, I thought.

"What did it say?"

"I want a divorce."

"Really?" she asked. "Wow, that's…" she started giggling and lifted her hand to cover her face.

"That's what?" I asked. I did not appreciate being laughed at.

"Miranda, that's so bitchy," she said. "Sorry, but it is."

I could see that the effects of the champagne were settling in, so I decided not to hold it against the young woman. "Well, I kind of am a bitch, so he'll get over it," I said.

"You do realize the press will have a field day if they find out about that," she said.

"Andrea, you are not to repeat a word of our conversations to anyone, do you understand? You signed an NDA on your first day, and if you read it, you'll know it covers not just Runway, but all aspects of my life."

"Relax, I know. I would never ever say anything, but I mean, if he's going to be as angry as you said he will be, what's to keep him from telling someone?"

I sighed. She was right, but I would never admit it. "Well, it's getting late," I said, changing the subject.

"Yes, I'm sorry to have kept you up, you must be exhausted," Andrea said, digging in her purse for her phone.

"You know," I said, "you can—"

"No, I don't want to bother Roy," she said, interrupting me. I was going to say, You can stay here tonight if you wish. Mentally chastising myself, I knew it would only make matters worse if Stephen woke up and Andrea was sleeping in the study. "A cab is on its way," she said, heading towards the front door. "Thank you for the tea," she added.

"My pleasure, Andrea. And thank you again for what you did at the gala. I do owe you one," I said with a smirk. "Goodnight," I added, leaning in for air kisses. I was actually quite surprised when I felt her arms around my shoulders.

"Oh! Sorry," she said, blushing. She pulled back and leaned in to do an air kiss but as I was turning my head, her lips brushed against my cheek. "Sorry!" she gasped.

"It's alright," I reassured her. "Andrea? Will you send me a note just to let you know you've arrived home safely?"

"Yes, mom," Andrea said, rolling her eyes. "See you Monday."

"See you Monday," I repeated as she stepped out the front door into the waiting cab. Was I really mothering her? I wondered. The things I imagined doing to her were far from appropriate if that was the case.

Turning out the lights and setting the alarm for the second time that night, I settled into bed and instantly began to fell asleep. Buzzzzz. My blackberry vibrated on the nightstand, waking me from my sleep. "Just got home. BF is asleep. Goodnight!" Smiling, I turned over and curled back into my pillow. "Goodnight, Andrea."

The next few weeks at work were rough to say the least. Stephen had insisted we try to work things out, apologizing over and over for humiliating me in front of my colleagues. What could I say? That I simply didn't love him and preferred to be alone? It sounded so simple in my head, but when it came to uttering the actual words, I simply nodded and agreed to "work on it" with him, knowing that it would never, in fact, work out. I would never understand how I could fire orders and make decisions in a split second at Runway, but when I came home, I was often frozen.

Over the following weeks, my team prepared for Paris Fashion Week. Seven employees and myself would be representing Runway. This year, I asked Andrea to go in Emily's place. I meant no disrespect to Emily, but Andrea was better at reading and responding to me. She and I could often communicate without speaking, and she wasn't afraid to ask questions for clarification when necessary, which, I will admit, saves a lot of time. Plus, between all of the parties and brunches and quiet afternoons, it would be nice to have a friendly companion there who might dispel any loneliness on my part.

When I asked Andrea, she did not accept right away, claiming that it was the First Assistant's duty, and citing how much it meant to Emily. I've been wondering if there was more to it, as even today, two days before our trip, Andrea was on edge.

"Andrea?" I called. When she stepped into my office, I instructed her to close the door. "Is everything okay? You seem off. Nervous or something."

"Everything is fine, Miranda," she replied, "just some pre-flight jitters, I guess. Was there something you needed?"

I stared at her, watching her movements. She was skittish, and it seemed she had dropped a size in the weeks since the Met Gala. "No. That's all," I said, shaking my head. Something was going on, but with the pace everyone was working at, I wouldn't have the chance to talk to her until Paris, and even then it was doubtful.

Paris fashion week really went by in a blur—more so this year than previously. Andrea had been keeping her professional distance, ensuring everything went smoothly and successfully as planned. In short, she was exactly like my other employees. I couldn't suddenly expect her to read my mind and think that I might want her company because we had one real conversation one night after we had both been drinking. Actually, I thought it was rather sweet that she never mentioned the night of the gala again.

It was late afternoon on Friday, our last night. Tomorrow morning was the Runway luncheon in honor of James Holt, and after that we would be headed home. We had a break this afternoon after the 2pm show, with dinner not scheduled until 7pm. Some of my staff were planning on attending a cocktail party in the hotel lobby at 5pm, but I thought I could take the opportunity to relax and take my time getting ready for the dinner, when I would be wearing a fantastic Lanvin gown that weighed over 40 pounds. I showered and prepped my face, deciding not to apply makeup until just before I would leave.

Knock, knock, knock. "Madame? J'ai une lettre pour vous." Sighing, I stood from the small stool in the dressing room and headed for the door. "Un moment!" I called, wondering why this letter was not left at the front desk with my other mail. When I opened the door, I was shocked to see a plainly dressed young man and not one of the hotel staff. "Miranda Priestly?" he asked. "Oui," I nodded. He handed me a large envelope and indicated where I needed to sign on his clipboard. "Merci," he said, running off down the hallway.

I closed the door and sat on the sofa, opening the envelope that had been sent via international overnight express mail. I gasped as the contents spilled out onto my lap. Cold, stark Times New Roman across the paper with which I was all too familiar: "Dissolution of Marriage: Tomlinson v. Priestly." As I read through the first few pages, I saw that Stephen had filed for a no-fault divorce, or, in other words, claiming irreconcilable differences. But still, what was so urgent that he felt the need to send these to me in Paris rather than waiting until I returned home? Or was he just trying to hurt me like I'd undoubtedly hurt him?

I picked up the phone and tried to call him, only to be directed to his voicemail. I didn't even know what time it was back home. Stuffing the papers back into the envelope, I threw it at the window, sinking back into the couch. He couldn't do this to me, not here, not now, not with the benefit tomorrow. I was the one who wanted the divorce a month ago, when his behavior had pushed me over the edge. He was the one who begged my forgiveness and wanted to work on our marriage. What a joke, I thought, we had dinner three, maybe four times since then.

But this, this was deliberate. I wanted the divorce on my own time so my lawyers would be able to handle it efficiently and keep it out of the press. But now, surely now those gossip rags had gotten hold of this news and were spinning stories every which way. I felt tears falling down my face, tears I didn't even know I had.

Why was I so upset? I wondered. I knew I didn't love Stephen, and it was clear that he could no longer accompany me to public events. On top of that, we weren't even having sex anymore, as I was locking my bedroom door most nights before he even got home. There was only one word that came into my mind as I sat on the couch, staring off into space: failure. Those papers were evidence of yet another one of Miranda Priestly's public failures.

I don't know how long I was sitting there, or even what I was thinking about for all that time, but I was jolted from my thoughts when Andrea stepped into the room and gasped. I hadn't even heard her enter the suite.

"We need to go over the seating…um, chart," I said, holding my hand out and looking down at my lap.

Andrea fumbled in her bag, finally producing the folder. I opened it, slipped my glasses on, and perused the sheet. "We need to move Snoop Dogg to my table," I said matter-of-factly.

"But your table's full," she said.

I tilted my head up, trying to keep my eyes down. "Stephen isn't coming," I said.

"Oh? So I don't need to fetch him from the airport?" she asked as she fumbled once again with a small notebook from her bag.

"Not unless he decides to rethink the divorce," I said, pulling my glasses off. I could feel the tears forming in my eyes, but did not want to cry in front of Andrea. She knew how I felt about my husband, and revealing anything more would make me seem too weak in front of her.

"Miranda, I'm so sorry," she said, slowly closing her notebook, sitting still for once. "I can cancel your evening if you'd like."

"No, don't do that," I choked out, my voice cracking as tears began to fall. I don't know how she got there, but two seconds later, Andrea was sitting next to me on the sofa, softly stroking the back of my hand. "Andrea," I choked out, "This is ridiculous. I'm a grown woman and I can't handle my own emotions."

"It's okay," Andrea said reassuringly. "You know, everyone deals with things differently. It's okay," she repeated, softly stroking my back with her other hand. In that moment, I wanted nothing more than to curl up against her chest, her long arms wrapping tightly around me. Sighing, I stood and walked over to the window. "Is there anything else I can do?" Andrea asked quietly from the sofa.

"Yes, your job," I said, nodding. Andrea understood, and quietly packed up her things and returned to her own room. As I finished preparing myself for the evening, I sighed, relaxing knowing Andrea would not be there to follow me around with that pitiful look in her eye. That look did not bode well for my ego.

The next morning, I met with Irv to discuss the new president of James Holt International. I know he was expecting me to nominate Nigel—and I did mention his name when this position was first tossed about. But I saw that Irv was pushing Jacqueline Follet in my face, that she was at his side all week. I introduced Jacqueline to James, and it became very clear that in order for me to keep my position at Runway, Jacqueline would need to accept the position at JHI, not Nigel..

The luncheon turned out to be a success, toasting to Runway and our partnership with James Holt. Everyone fawned over Jacqueline's new role, except perhaps Irv and Nigel, the latter of which was nowhere to be found.

I found Andrea and gestured for her to meet me in the car. We had one last show to make an appearance at before we would be able to catch our flight back to New York. In the backseat of the towncar, I could see that Andrea was again unnerved. I wanted to reach out and take her hand, but decided against it, given the state of agitation she was experiencing. "You've really impressed me," I said quietly to her, opting for words instead. "I see a great deal of myself in you, Andrea." I smiled, looking out the window. Everyone knew how rarely I gave compliments, and I presumed Andrea's silence was due to the shock of hearing the words coming from me.

"No, I don't think so," she said, her voice shaky. "I couldn't do what you did to Nigel, Miranda."

I focused my gaze out the window, knowing I would melt if I watched her plump red lips quivering. "Don't be silly," I said, "You already have. To Emily."

Realization sank in, and Andrea tried in vain to claim that what she did to Emily was different, but I didn't respond. I didn't intend to start this argument, I merely wanted Andrea to know that she had impressed me, and that I saw a lot of potential in her.

As the car pulled to a stop, I smiled, then stepped out. I learned long ago that putting on your camera face before you open the door and exit the vehicle yielded fewer awkward, twisted photos. I began heading up the stairs swarming with photographers, and felt a hand guiding me through the crowd. After climbing several steps, I realized it was not Andrea's hand, but a gentleman's hand, a security guard it seemed. Turning around, I looked for Andrea in the sea of reporters, but could not find her. The guard urged me forward, and once I stepped inside, Andrea was no where to be found. I tried calling, but her phone went instantly to voicemail.

I was ushered to my seat in the front row, but could not focus on the runway at all, my eyes scanning the crowd for a glimpse of my chocolate-haired assistant. I kept trying her phone with no luck. Halfway through the show, I caught Christian's attention in the wings and blew him a kiss, making a mental note to send him a note explaining my departure. I had to get out, had to find the one who deserted me.

Climbing over my colleagues to reach the exit, I didn't care if I was making a scene. My heart was beating rapidly as horrid images floated through my mind—Andrea kidnapped, hit by a car, shot by a sniper. I was desperate to find her, regardless the reason she wasn't at my side. The two-mile ride in the towncar to the hotel took ages. The front desk informed me that the young American girl with red lips had just left the hotel. I hurried up to my room, piling my remaining belongings into the Runway trunk and directing the hotel staff to carry it out to the car.

The minute I shut the car door, I dialed Nigel's number and pleaded with my driver to drive as quickly as possible. Where is Roy when you need him? I thought.

"Well, hello, Miranda. I seriously debated answering your call," Nigel said.

"Listen, are you at the airport yet?" I urgently asked.

"We just pulled up. Why? What's wrong?" he said.

"Andrea. Is she with you? Have you seen her?"

"No, I thought she was with you," he said.

"Well, I can't find her. She didn't come to Christian's show, and the hotel said she was on her way to the airport," I said, trying to catch my breath. "Please keep an eye out for her, and tell the girls, too!" I said.

"Okay. If it's any consolation, I happen to know that our flight is the only one scheduled from Paris to New York in the next twenty-four hours, and the last flight out was early this morning," he said.

I took off my glasses and pinched the bridge of my nose. Of course Nigel would know that, because he was trying to run from me, too. I sighed. "Nigel, I'm sorry, I tried to find you after the benefit," I said.

"Miranda—" he began.

"Take Andrea's seat," I said, cutting him off, "Sit in coach where you won't have to look at me for eight hours then!" I snapped the phone shut, throwing it onto the seat next to me.

I rode the remaining twenty minutes to the airport in silence, suddenly missing the young woman's fidgeting. Once the car arrived, I rushed through Charles de Gaulle, quickly making my way to the gate. I joined Nigel, Jocelyn, and Serena, sitting one seat away from Nigel and placing my bag on the chair between.

Lucia came walking over. "Nigel, you were looking for Andy? She's in the bathroom," she said, pointing to the women's restroom in the terminal.

"Was she okay?" I asked, jumping from my seat and interrupting their conversation.

"Yes, I think so. I don't think she noticed me," Lucia said.

"I'll go get her," I said, hurrying off.

When I entered the bathroom, I saw her seated on a bench in a small sitting room off the main bathroom. She gasped as I sat next to her. "I'm sorry, Andrea," I said. I reached for her hand, which she reluctantly let me take in my own. "Whatever it was that I said, please don't look into it. I was merely trying to give you a compliment. I think you've been doing a remarkable job for us here at Runway, and I was trying to say that I see so much potential in you, that's all," I said, tears threatening to fall down my eyes.

"Bu—but, Nigel?" she asked, her big brown eyes looking up at me.

"Nigel is okay. I think he understands. Just between us, there is going to be an even better opportunity for him in New York with Runway."

"And you knew that? That's why you didn't give him the JHI position?"

"Andrea," I said, "The Holt position was not mine to ultimately decide. But even then, I would only wish a partnership with James on my worst enemy."

"I'm sorry I walked away this afternoon," Andrea said, squeezing my hand tightly.

"Water under the bridge, darling," I said as I stood up, dabbing my eyes with a tissue.

"Were—were you looking for me all this time?" she asked as I helped her with her handbag.

"Yes. I was," I said, leading her back to the gate. "Oh, and by the way," I said, leaning over and whispering into her ear, "you're switching seats with Nigel for the flight."

"Oh…um, okay I guess," she said.

"You don't mind, do you?" I asked, stopping shortly before we reached our group. "I just thought…well, no one else…I mean…Nigel has always been the only one to volunteer, and after this morning, even I couldn't do that to him." I had no idea why I was stumbling on my words, or worse, why I felt the need for the explanation in the first place. The brunette just had that effect on me.

"It's not a problem," she said.

"Flight 2394 for New York, LaGuardia will now be boarding at Gate A18" suddenly came the voice over the speakers. I turned to join the others, but Andrea stopped me, softly placing her hand on my forearm.

"Would you—do you—Miranda, I need to make a personal call before we get on the plane. I'm so sorry, but I will be there in five minutes," she said. I examined her. Yes, something was amiss. I initially thought it may have been due to the way she left me earlier, but it appears something else was going on in her life, maybe the demanding boyfriend Nate.

"Fine, just don't miss the flight," I said, running off with the others.

As was my routine, I settled into my seat along the window in First Class and ordered a drink: Cointreau, neat. I never allowed my self any alcohol in-air, save the occasional celebratory champagne toast, and even then, it was just a sip. Despite all the flying my job demands of me, my body never has gotten used to it. Swollen feet, ear pressure, and a stiff neck were just some of the less-embarrassing maladies that plagued my trips. Nigel is the only one who knows, I thought. He knows I wear compression stockings during every flight, even under pants if necessary. He knows how my ears pop and how I often struggle to get comfortable. Nigel has been a very good friend, I thought, and I need to make it up to him before I lose him. I handed my empty glass to the attendant, relaxing into the seat as I sent off a quick email to my daughters and their father before turning off my phone.

Andrea took her seat next to me silently, as I was still staring out the window. She fidgeted with her carry-on tote and her handbag, but somehow it was calming to me. If she didn't fidget, then I would be worried. "Was everything in order with your boyfriend?" I asked once she was settled.

"Oh," she said, "no—Nate?—no. I had to call my mother to check on something," she said. "Did you want to go over the notes from the shoots? I've already rewritten everything, and it's all organized and color coded by designer. I'll type it as soon as we get back to New York."

"Andrea, we are not working on anything during this flight," I said, finally turning to face her. Her eyes were puffy, her lower eye makeup dabbed away. Did she look like that when I found her in the bathroom? I wondered. No. Surely, I would have noticed if she'd been sobbing. "Is everything alright?" I asked quietly, leaning forward while I tried to meet her gaze.

She nodded, turning her head to face the aisle. "I'm fine, thank you."

"If you need to talk about anything," I heard myself offering, "We do have eight hours," I said. Andrea turned to look at me as if I had two heads, confirming my suspicion. "Listen, I know I'm not known for my friendliness and warmth, but you have been kind towards me more than once. It's the least I can do."

"Thank you," she said, "I do appreciate that, but I really don't want to talk about it right now."

"Of course," I said, pulling away and leaning towards the window once again. "Can you at least assure me that your boyfriend—Nate, was it?—has not hurt you?"

Andrea's eyes widened. "No, no, I'm fine. Nate moved out two days before we left New York."

I listened, deciding what to say next. For some reason, I didn't want our conversation to end. I was growing comfortable with the young woman—so much so it was beginning to scare me.

"He got a new job and moved to Boston. And, I think his new girlfriend followed him," she said, filling in the silence.

"Ah, I see," I said.

"Would you mind if I tried to sleep a little bit?" Andrea asked.

"Of course not, Andrea. I told you, you are not working. Why don't you have a drink, too? It might help you relax," I suggested.

"I don't really drink, Miranda, but thank you," she said.

I nodded. "Perhaps some tea," I said, trying to stall the conversation. For some reason, the thought of leaving the young woman to her own devices left me uneasy, even if she was rather confined to the seat next to me. Something was bothering her—something she wasn't telling me. I took a deep breath. I was not about to spend the next eight hours playing this guessing game. I reached over and picked up Andrea's hand, squeezing tightly. "Andrea, tell me why you were crying," I said.

She heard the change in tone of my voice and froze. "No, Miranda, it's fine, really. You have enough to think about," she said.

"For your information, Emily has already seen to it that Stephen's things were moved from the town house and into a storage facility, and the guest room is being redecorated as we speak. Leslie has given a full statement to any of the tabloids who might be trying to benefit from this, and the girls, well, James is with them, along with several private security guards. So," I said, taking another deep breath, "as you can see, I really don't have that much to think about."

Andrea cracked a smile. "You're not going to let me sleep until I tell you, are you?" she said. I raised my eyebrows, feigning innocence. "Now I just made it into a bigger deal than it really is," she said, "but my grandma has cancer and she's not going to last much longer."

"Andrea, I'm so sorry," I said, suddenly softening. I was not expecting anything so serious. "I had no idea," I said.

"You couldn't have. I didn't tell anyone," she said, fidgeting with my hand in her lap as if it were a toy.

"Why keep it in?" I asked.

"Really? You of all people are asking why I was keeping something private?"

"Point taken," I said. "But Andrea, that's not like you. And sometimes it really does help just to talk."

"I'm sick of everyone responding with their own stories of their grandparents, or saying 'it's going to be okay,' or asking how old she is, then saying, 'she lived a good life!'" she said. "I'm sorry, but it just sucks and nothing anyone is going to say will make me feel better."

I sat there, holding her hand, or rather, letting her hold mine. I wanted to hug her, but suddenly found myself extremely self-conscious, more worried about upsetting her with false comfort. "What can I do, darling?" I asked, gently brushing my thumb across the back of her hand.

She jerked her hand away. "Nothing. I'm sorry, I'm just really tired," she said, curling up in her seat. I nodded silently and turned my attention back to the endless clouds out the window.

Nearly an hour later, the flight attendant came by once again. I broke my own rule and ordered a cognac and asked the attendant to bring a pillow and blanket for Andrea. When she returned, I carefully draped the blanket over her and tucked the pillow next to her, not wanting to disturb her slumber.

Sighing, I realized Andrea was right. My grandmother had died when I was a child, but about five years ago when my own mother died, I didn't want to hear what anyone had to say about anything, I didn't want to talk to anyone, I couldn't even focus on work. The single thing I wanted most was for my mother to be healthy and vibrant again, though I knew deep down that was impossible.

So, I do know a little about what Andrea is going through, and, I know how frustrating it can be to hear others' stories when all you want to focus on is your own grief. Instead of attempting to offer her comfort or support, I let her sleep in peace.

Several hours later, I was rereading Grace Coddington's memoir on my Kindle when Andrea woke with a start. "Did you sleep okay?" I asked.

She didn't answer me, but unbuckled her seatbelt and practically ran to the lavatory. When she returned, I pretended I was immersed in my book, which I had stopped reading the moment Andrea awoke. I didn't want her to have the added stress of composing herself in front of me, so I watched out of the corner of my eye as she asked the attendant to bring her something. When she returned with a ginger ale and some wafers, I sighed, perhaps too audibly, as Andrea quickly turned to look.

"Miranda," she spoke, breaking the silence. "Thank you for being so kind to me, but you can go back to ignoring me now."

"Honestly, do you think me heartless and cruel, Andrea? I am a human being." I said. Why was it so necessary for her to go above and beyond thanking me for basic, human emotion, then to imply that I made a habit of ignoring her? "Did you sleep well?" I asked again, trying not to dwell on myself.

"Yes, it helped," she said.

We sat in silence for several minutes, Andrea quietly nibbling on the wafers while I again feigned interest in my book. The truth was: I was far more interested in the young woman next to me, the stunning brunette who had stolen my attention months ago. "What are you thinking about, Andrea?" I asked.

"My grandma," she said, staring down at the can of ginger ale.

"Anything in particular?"

"I have to make it home to see her before she dies," she cried, awkwardly lifting her hands with the ginger ale and wafers up to cover her face.

"Here," I said, taking the can and small bag out of her hands. I set them on the small ledge in front of my seat and lifted up the console-style armrest between our seats. Unbuckling my seat belt, I scooted closer and wrapped my right arm around her shoulders.

Not surprisingly, she curled against me. My left hand was softly stroking her left forearm, my right clutching her right shoulder while she sobbed. "If I could get this plane home any faster, I would, Andrea." Just then I stopped. "Where does your grandma live?"

"She's…in New Jersey," she said between sniffles.

"Roy will be waiting at the airport when we arrive in New York," I said, thinking aloud, "so why don't you just run out to the car and have him drive you where you need to go. We can take care of your bags, and I can even have Emily messenger some fresh clothes over if you give me the address," I said.

Andrea pulled away and looked up, her deep brown eyes shimmering in tears. "Why would you do that for me?" she asked.

I paused, not knowing what to say. Why was I so nice to Andrea? What was it about her? I thought. Did I ever figure that out? "Don't ask those questions," I said, "just be glad I am able to help in any little way."

For the rest of the flight, we sat with the armrest up, though I had moved back to my seat. Andrea composed herself, and was even able to tell me some stories about her grandma by the time we were approaching New York. Being so concerned for Andrea during the flight, I hardly noticed any of my usual complaints.

"Miranda? Will you do me a favor?" Andrea asked.

"I'll try, what do you need?"

"Can you make the flight attendant let me off first, and I don't know, clear a path for me or something?" she asked. "I don't think I can handle fighting my way through crowds."

I couldn't resist those big brown eyes. "Of course," I said. "Will there be anything else your highness?" I asked, as I pretended to lean forward and genuflect in front of her. "Would you like me to walk out to the car with you?"

Andrea smiled, "No, that's not necessary," she said. "But thank you. And don't worry, I won't tell anyone that you have a sense of humor. They would never believe it even if I tried."

I chuckled as I squeezed past Andrea to go speak with the attendant at the front of the airplane. Minutes later, we returned. "Andrea," I said, "this is Jill. She can escort you off the flight personally, and she has arranged for one of those motorized vehicles to quickly transport you from the gate to Roy's car."

Andrea smiled and shook Jill's hand. "If you don't mind, it will be much easier for us to get out if we're sitting next to the door during landing. There is storage space for your bags, too," she said, gesturing for Andrea to follow her.

"Uh, okay," she said, fumbling to toss her items into her bag and quickly retrieve her tote from the overhead bin. "Umm," she said, looking at me.

"Go!" I said, chuckling. "Call or text me when you can, okay?"

Andrea nodded and headed off with Jill as the plane began to descend into New York City.

I didn't see Andrea again that day. She was, indeed, whisked off the plane so quickly even I couldn't follow where she went. The moment I turned my phone back on, I texted Roy to take Andrea and send another car for me. As everyone was standing, waiting to disembark, I caught sight of Nigel who seemed to be wondering where Andrea was. That was one thing—I wasn't sure whether she wanted anyone else to know. I quickly texted Nigel "personal crisis" and he seemed to buy that. Now, I had to put on my face for the cameras, knowing there would surely be paparazzi waiting for me, hoping to ride on the news of my impending divorce.

Part 2

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