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



Spending the morning in bed would soon become one of the small pleasures in my life, I was sure of it. The simple act of having my coffee poured for me in the morning was the kind of thing that made my heart swell.

"Andrea, you know you're welcome to stay here all day," I said.

"I know," she said, smiling. "Thank you, but I need to go deal with those papers back at my place."

"Of course," I said, sipping my piping hot coffee as I leaned against the breakfast bar. "If you'd like, I can come by this evening to help. I do believe we have a date scheduled already," I said.

"Oh, that's right, today's Thursday," Andrea said. "I'll order something for us for dinner—but fair warning, I might not really be the best company."

"Why is that?" I asked.

"It's just exhausting going through all that," she said.

"Sweetheart," I said, setting my coffee mug down and sitting in the stool next to her. "I know it's hard, and I'm not going to tell you that it gets better, because honestly, I don't know if that emptiness ever really goes away. It's up to you to change how you think about it, how you react to it."

She looked up at me, tears brimming in her eyes. "Is that supposed to make me feel better?" she asked.

"Yes," I said, chuckling, though I realized that maybe I needed more of an explanation. "I still have a shoebox of letters and cards from my mother—on the top shelf of my closet," I said. "Every time I walk into my closet, I see it. I know it's there, and it is a nice way of ensuring that I think of her everyday. Whenever I switch out my seasonal wardrobe or have to pull down one of the vintage items up there, I pull out the box and sit on the floor. Her handwriting alone brings tears to my eyes, but I have almost every note memorized," I said.

"Wow," Andrea said.

"You know, I have some cards in there that she gave the girls when they were younger. I don't think Caroline and Cassidy have ever seen them," I said. "She wrote the most loving words in those cards. Sometimes, I wish that I would have been on the receiving end of that selfless, unconditional love. But, I guess a mother's love is always different because you love your children while you train them to exist independently of you, to find a love of their own," Miranda said, looking up and blinking furiously to keep the tears from falling.

We sat in silence. I'm sure Andrea was well aware that I just dipped further into my past, into the part of me I've never shared with anyone. After a few minutes, I noticed tears streaming down Andrea's cheeks. I stepped off my chair and stood next to hers, awkwardly wrapping my arms around her as she was perched on the counter-height stool.

I wiped the tears from her cheeks and softly kissed her on the cheek before returning to my coffee. "Is your grandma buried somewhere or did your family keep the ashes?" I asked cautiously.

Andrea sniffled. "Neither," she said. "My grandpa was in the army during WWII, and he will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. They have a shared plot. Right now, she's in the columbarium there as a sort of holding place until they can bury her on top of my grandpa's casket," she explained.

I nodded and took a sip from my coffee. "Have you been there?" I asked.

"No. We just had the memorial service in Jersey. Mom and Dad took her urn there a few days after the service."

I was surprised she hadn't revealed this earlier. Did I somehow keep her from going with them? "Sweetheart, do you think you might like to go visit sometime?" I asked.

She looked up at me in disbelief. "Yo—you would do that?"

"Of course," I said. "It's only about a four-hour drive from here." I gently slid my finger under her chin, tilting her head upwards. "I want to be there with you."

"Okay," she said, nodding. "Yes, I'd like that."

I smiled. "I'll take care of the arrangements. Would you like to go this weekend or is it too soon?"

"This weekend would be good," she said. "Between moving and the new job, I think the next month or so will be too busy."

"I agree," I said. "Would you prefer Roy take us—or would you like me to drive?"

She thought for a moment, then quickly responded, "Roy. Please." I nodded again before finishing my coffee. Glancing at the clock, I saw it was already past noon and I needed to leave.

"Miranda? Have I told you how amazing you are?" Andrea said.

I smiled and stepped against the chair as she spread her legs to make room. She wrapped her arms around my waist as I placed my hands on her shoulders. "Hmm, yes, I do believe you have," I said, "but maybe you should tell me again just in case."

Andrea smiled and softly pressed her lips against mine, careful not to smudge the sheer pink lip stain.

"Mm, darling, I have to go," I said, pulling away. "Ride with me to work?—then Roy can drop you off at your place," I suggested.

"Okay," she said, nodding and gathering her bag.

Once in the car, she turned to me. "Thank you, Miranda."

"What for?"

"For last night, for rushing to my apartment, for…for loving me," she said.

"Darling, it is I who should be thanking you. I never thought my life could be so fulfilling—especially after I hit fifty," I said. "Thank you, Andrea Elizabeth, for loving me." As we pulled up to the curb outside Elias-Clarke, I reached over and pressed my index finger to her lips. "Hold that thought," I said. "I will be over tonight around 7 or 8PM. Call me if you need anything today," I reiterated. I needed her to know that if she was feeling upset or anything, I would be there.

She nodded and gave a little wave as I stepped out. Licking my lips, I marched into the building like I was preparing for battle. Lord knows I would need my most intimidating look with the meetings I had scheduled for today.

As I entered my office, I saw the team already assembled for the run-through at 12:30. For once, I was hoping they would be running late. "Can no one here tell time?" I asked Emily.

"No, Miranda, I'm sorry," Emily said as we walked.

I stopped and turned to look at her. "No? No one here is capable of telling time?"

"Yes. No! That's not what I meant," she said, clearly flustered.

"Relax, Emily," I whispered. "Send everyone back here in ten minutes—precisely at 12:30. I need a few minutes," I explained.

"Of course," she said, marching off and ushering everyone from my office while I set my things at my desk. Emily turned and gave me a strange look before stepping out and shutting the office door.

Before my computer was even turned on, Nigel showed up, knocking and letting himself in, apparently confusing a closed door with a welcome mat. "And where have you been?" he asked, sitting in the chair across from my desk.

"Really, Nigel," I said, putting on my glasses and sifting through the papers that had been left on my desk that morning. "I don't have time to chit-chat today—I'm incredibly busy."

"You were in bed this morning, weren't you?" he asked, tilting his head and raising one eyebrow. "Ha! I knew it!" he said, taking my shocked expression as confirmation.

"Well, so what if I was," I said, coolly shrugging my shoulder. "Everyone is entitled to sleep now and again."

"Your place or hers?" he asked.

"Nigel Raymond Kipling, we are not having this conversation here!" I snapped. There is a magazine to be published, and well, by the looks of things yesterday, we'll be lucky if we sell one copy next month."

Nigel rolled his eyes at me—a luxury afforded to very few people in my life. "Was it at least good enough to be worth the time?" he asked.

I tried to purse my lips, but my smile seeped through. "Ohh-ho-ho goddd," I groaned, sitting back in my chair and removing my glasses. "You have no idea."

"Wow," he said. "I can't wait to hear all about it, but you, sweetie, should probably take a drink of water before your throat goes dry," he said, handing me my glass of chilled Pellegrino.

I smiled and shook my head. "Get out of here. I don't want to see you back for another," I paused to glance at the clock, "six minutes. Now, shoo!"

"Yes, your highness," he said, giving a small curtsy before heading out. Turning back to my emails and papers, I quickly got a sense for what the rest of my day looked like. If I was lucky, I could be out by 6:30PM, and that meant more time to spend with Andrea.

The run-through went surprisingly well, and I was quite impressed with the work Nigel and his team prepared on the layouts. I do have a highly competent staff, I thought to myself.

A few minutes past five, Emily was bringing in several skirts I asked her to pick up from Calvin Klein when my cell phone rang. Seeing it was Andrea, I answered immediately, though I was careful, knowing Emily could hear.

"Hello, sweetie, is everything okay?" I asked. I thought it best to pretend I was speaking with one of the girls until the divorce was settled, and until Andrea and I had a chance to talk about all this.

"Miranda," she whispered, "my fingers still smell like you. I can't wait until you come over and I can fuck you—"

I quickly ended the call, dropping my phone to my desk as I let out the breath I didn't realize I was holding. I could feel that I was flushed, and was certain that a familiar moisture was quickly developing.

I looked up and Emily was staring at me, speechless. Had she realized what just happened? How could I explain hanging up on my daughter? "Emily," I called, realizing I needed no explanation for my actions, "the skirts, Emily?"

"Oh, right, yes," she stumbled, quickly explaining the selection before me.

I glanced up at the clock. Without interruption, I would surely be able to finish my to-do list for the day. I told Emily I was not to be disturbed and shut the door, focusing on the spreads before me.

Buzz…buzz. My phone vibrated with a new message: "You hung up on me!"

I sighed, reminding myself that this was her second-to-last day with nothing to do. "I'm sorry. I was not alone. I won't make it tonight if I keep getting distracted!" I wrote.

Then, biting my lip, I was worried my words were too harsh. "See you at 7. xo," I added, silencing my phone as I tossed it back into my bag.

By 6:50, I was finished with both revising the Summer spread and finalizing the quarterly expense report for Irv. Leaving both with Emily, I took my bag and headed downstairs, where Roy whisked me away to Andrea's.

"On my way—Need me to bring anything?" I texted.

"Just yourself. :)" she replied.

Smiling, I closed my eyes, but then quickly remembered about the plans to visit Arlington. "Roy?"

"What can I do?" he asked.

"Are you available Saturday?"

"Of course. When and where?"

"Well," I said, "I'm going with Andrea to Arlington to visit her grandma's ashes. I'm afraid we're looking at a twelve-hour day."

"Not a problem," he said. "Best if we leave before 7AM, though."

"That's fine. Shall we say 6:30 at the townhouse?"

"I'll be there," he said. He pulled up to the curb outside Andrea's building. "Shall I wait?"

"No, I'll take a cab," I said. "I don't know how long I'll be," I explained.

"Sounds good. If you happen to be at an, um, alternate location in the morning, just send me a text," he said with a wink.

Good lord, was everyone privy to my sex life now?! Rolling my eyes, I shut the door and headed up the stairs to Andrea's apartment.

Before I could knock, she opened the door. It looked as if everything was packed up. The main lighting was turned off, and a single candlestick sat on the table next to a bottle of prosecco and a box of pizza.

"I hope you're hungry" she said, smiling.

"Yes, famished," I said, realizing I hadn't had much more than coffee and water all day. "Pizza actually smells delicious right now," I said.

She walked over to the table and poured two glasses of wine, then opened the pizza box and proceeded to dish out slices.

"What kind of pizza is this?" I asked, turning my head at the strange shape of some of the pieces.

"Oh, it's the veggie one, I hope that's okay," she said.

"Yes, that's fine. I meant the shape,"

"Oh. Rico, the pizza guy, has had this crush on me since I moved in. Since Nate's been gone, he seemed to think he has a chance with me, even though I tried to tell him I wasn't interested. He found out I'm moving next week, and I guess this was his last-ditch effort to win my heart," she said.

"So it is heart-shaped?" I asked.

"Yeah, they always are," she shrugged.

"I take it you order pizza often?" I teased.

She smiled and nodded.

"Well, there is no one I'd rather share a heart-shaped pizza with," I said, wrapping my arms around her waist.

"Mmm," she hummed, kissing me softly. "I missed you today," she said.

"It hasn't even been seven hours, darling," I said with a laugh.

"Still. It only takes a second to miss someone."

"You're absolutely right," I said, kissing her again. "Was your day okay? I see everything is cleaned up."

"Yeah," she said. "I picked up this cigar box at the thrift store down the street, and I'm keeping my cards in there for now," she said. "It's cool-looking enough that I can keep it on my bookshelf so I'll always see it."

"I think that's a wonderful idea, Andrea," I said. Just then, my growling stomach interrupted. "So, about that pizza?" I said as Andrea giggled.

Dinner was simple but wonderful, mostly because I was sharing it with her. After we finished, I untucked my blouse from my skirt and loosened the side zipper as I tucked my legs underneath me on the futon. She curled next to me, and we finished the bottle of sparkling wine while she flicked through the channels until I made her stop at the movie White Christmas.

"A Christmas movie in April?" she asked.

"Have you never seen this?"

"Nope, sorry."

I rolled my eyes. "This is a classic. We are watching it. It just started a few minutes ago," I explained as Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen took the stage with their sky blue ostrich feather fans.

Nearly two hours later, I woke to Andrea's lips on my cheek. "Your movie's finished," she said.

"Mmm," I groaned, stretching my arm but keeping my eyes closed.

"I, uh, didn't mean to wake you," she said. "If you'd like to stay, we're already in bed," she added.

I opened my eyes and looked up at her. "I'd love to," I said, "but you have to remember I'm fifty years old. My bones require a thick, supportive mattress," I explained as I tried to stretch my back.

"Is that your way of asking me to spend the night again?" she asked with a smirk. "Because, I have to say, that's pretty hot."

I rolled my eyes at her again. "Andrea, you can't possibly continue to sleep on this," I said. "I've just been on it for two hours and I'm already stiff."

"Well, I can't spend every night at your house, Miranda," she said.

I could see she was getting frustrated. "I know, sweetheart. Once you move into your new place, who knows, I might just be spending every night with you," I said, reaching for her hand and tugging her off the couch. "Just until you're able to move in, please, I'd feel better if you stayed with me."

"Okay," she said, feelings of guilt motivating her decision. "I guess I'm living out of a suitcase as it is," she added.

"Then it's settled. You can have the entire guest room to yourself if you'd like," I said as I texted my backup driver.

Within minutes, Andrea rolled her small suitcase from her bedroom. "Okay, ready," she announced, setting her bag at the door.

"Our ride is downstairs," I said. "Thank you again for a lovely dinner."

Andrea smiled as she took my hand and led me out of her apartment.

Back at the townhouse, Andrea carried her suitcase up to the guest bedroom and began unpacking a few items. I quietly followed her and stood in the doorway, mesmerized by her simple movements: opening a drawer, turning to look back at her suitcase, re-folding her pants.

Her fingers danced softly across the denim fabric and I was taken back to the day I first saw her on the street, how she held out her hand to introduce herself in the lobby. Even though she was frumpy in appearance, there was something about her that caught my eye. It couldn't have been anything like fate—figures like Miranda Priestly never fell in the good graces of the gods. So, what was it? I wondered. Andrea was a truly brilliant woman—strong, loyal, courageous, beautiful. Regardless of why she intrigued me at first, the fact of the matter was that I, for the first time in my life, felt undeserving of this beautiful creature's love.


I quickly shook my head, bringing my thoughts back to the present. "Hmm?"

"I asked if everything was okay," she said, stepping closer and wrapping her arms around me.

"Mmm," I sighed. "Yes. Everything is perfect." Just then, I heard Emily enter the foyer, placing the Book on the table and the dry cleaning in the closet. The redhead's discretion never failed to impress me. Surely, she wasn't oblivious to what had been going on over the past few months, but she never once mentioned it. "I need to go over the Book," I said, slowly extricating myself from her warm embrace.

"Okay," she said, "I'm a little tired anyway, so I think I'll just head to bed if you don't mind."

"Not at all," I said. "Wait—you're planning on sleeping with me tonight, right?" I asked, suddenly on the verge of panic.

She smiled. "Of course. I'll be waiting for you," she added.

The next morning, I woke with my arms around Andrea, and I seriously began to doubt inviting her to stay the next few days. I was growing spoiled—entirely too comfortable—with the situation.

"Mmm, morning," she mumbled, turning over as I reached to silence the alarm.

I bent down and kissed her, smiling against her lips as her tongue lazily tried to pry my lips open, resulting in her licking my lips. I brushed her hair out of her face and bent down, pressing another quick kiss to her lips. "I can't be late today, darling. I'll never hear the end of it from Nigel," I said as I began to climb out of bed, my foot stepping on something unfamiliar.

I gasped as I stepped out and picked up the Book from the bedroom floor. Were it not for the physical evidence, I would have forgotten all about bringing the Book to bed and Andrea kicking it over the edge. Several pages were ripped, but more noticeably was the cardboard cover with its dented corners. Sighing, I set the Book on the dresser and continued with my morning routine.

At Runway, it was Nigel who met me at the elevator, not Emily. I arched my eyebrow before stepping out, silently begging for explanation. "Mira, you need to tell Emily what's going on," Nigel said quietly, taking the Book from me. "She's practically worked herself up into an anxiety attack but she's afraid to tell you what she's seen."

"What exactly has she—"

"Wait—what on earth happened to the Book?" Nigel interrupted. "My god, it's been through ten rounds."

"It's just the cover," I said, opening the glass door. "I dropped it. That's all."

"That's all—my ass!" Nigel snickered, heading down the hall to the Art Department.

"Emily," I said, tossing my coat and bag on what would forever be Andrea's desk, I nodded for her to follow me into my office and quietly shut the door behind us.

"Miranda, your schedule is—"

"I know. That's fine. I trust you," I said, walking over to the sofa and gesturing for her to follow. She hesitated before taking a seat. "Emily, I meant that," I said. "I never have to worry about any of the…stuff…I give you. I know you will take care of it urgently, professionally, and discreetly."

"Yes, of course, Miranda. Thank you," she said, blushing slightly.

"Now, will you please tell me what's on your mind?" I asked patiently.

"Oh, no, I don't want to bore you," she said.

"Emily," I warned, my tone significantly harsher. "Tell me."

"It's none of my business, really, and I know I shouldn't be looking, but it's quite impossible to hang something in the closet without noticing other items on the rack, or setting the Book on the table and not noticing someone's keys, or not noticing someone's voice," she rattled, clearly flustered.

"Relax," I said, reaching over and placing my hand on her forearm. She gasped, and I pulled away, realizing that probably increased her anxiety. "I'm seeing someone," I said quietly, my hands in my lap. "We are keeping it quiet and professional for a while, especially since the divorce is not yet finalized," I said. Seeing her fingers still trembling, I decided she had earned further explanation. "We were friends, and sort of became more than that—but nothing happened until Stephen and I were legally separated. This was entirely unrelated to my failing marriage." A quick glance at the redhead told me to proceed a bit further. "You may know this person, but I will not say anymore without their presence." I cringed internally at my intentional misuse of the plural possessive pronoun, but I knew I needed to refrain from saying anything that could come back to hurt Andrea, especially since we hadn't talked about it.

"Okay…" Emily said quietly. "Thank you for sharing that. You know, if there's anything I can do—"

"Keep doing what you've been doing," I said, slowly standing up and walking to the window. "I need to keep this under the radar for the next few weeks—as long as possible, really. I trust you to be discreet, Emily. Do not fail me."

Emily let out a high-pitched squeal as she jumped up and nodded, heading for the door. "Send Nigel in when you see him— I need to speak with him about Galliano before 9," I said, sinking into my desk chair. "That's all."

I knew Emily wasn't the conversationalist, but I was assured by her reaction that she would continue as always, perhaps less anxious now that she wasn't keeping any secrets from me. Before scanning my inbox, I picked up my phone and dialed Andrea's number.

"Hey," she answered. "Is everything okay?"

"Hey is not an appropriate telephone greeting," I said, wrinkling my nose. "But yes, everything is fine."

"Soooo, what's up?"

"I spoke with Emily this morning."


"Us. Well, sort of."

"Are you serious?"

"I just told her I was seeing someone and that we needed to keep it quiet until at least the divorce was finalized. I reassured her that nothing happened before I was separated."

"Wait—so you basically tell your assistant that you're screwing your old assistant and…what's this about you being separated?"

Shit. I stood and shut my office door before continuing. "Andrea, please listen to me. I only told Emily because she was on the verge of a panic attack or something because she's been seeing items that are not mine in my house—your keys, your coat—she even heard your voice. I couldn't risk her raising suspicions, so I told her I needed her discretion. Don't worry, she won't tell anyone."

"That's what you think I'm worried about? Miranda, I don't care if the world knows. I mean, I don't want this to screw up your relationship with your girls, but seriously. Did it cross your mind that maybe you should discuss this with me before telling everyone whose bed I've been sleeping in?"

"Andrea, please," I begged. "It's not like that. I didn't tell anyone anything like that. I just confirmed Emily's suspicions to make her, well, less suspicious."

"Did it ever occur to you that I have a job, too? I have family that I'd like to protect from this information, too? You have no idea what news like this would do to my relationship with my family, especially if they heard it from television or saw it online."

"Andrea, please relax. I'm sorry. I should have called you first." I said, sinking into the couch as tears began streaming down my face. Through the silence of the phone line, I could hear the echo of my sniffles as I tried to hide my tears. I wasn't sure if she had hung up, and I certainly was not ready to take that chance.

Several minutes later, she spoke. "I'm sorry," she said quietly, sounding as if she, too, had been crying. "I didn't mean to make you cry. I just wish you would stop making decisions for me and start letting me in…I mean, if you really want this like you say you do—"

"Andrea don't say another word," I said, interrupting her. "Don't even think it. I have meant every word I have said to you. I do want a relationship with you. I do love you so much, it kills me to know I've hurt you." I took a deep breath, not sure what to say next. "Can we talk more tonight or should I come home now?"

"No, don't leave work because of this. God forbid we cause more suspicion. Sorry—I shouldn't have."

"No," I said, sighing. "You have every right to say that and to feel the way you feel."

We sat on the phone for several minutes, listening to each other breathe. I don't think either one of us was sure where the conversation was headed, but neither of us wanted to be responsible for ending it.

"Are you legally separated from Stephen?" she asked quietly.


"Why didn—when?" she stammered.

"About three weeks ago," I said.

"Are you fucking kidding me?!"

"Andrea, please. It's no excuse, but at the time, we had just kissed and it was all very new for me. It's not that I didn't trust you, but I guess I just didn't believe that you were willing to wait. I thought you would use the separation to push me into something I wasn't sure I was ready for."

"Miranda, I would never do that. I didn't pressure you, did I?"

"No, sweetheart. You did not. Actually, I still find myself in disbelief when I think of how wonderful you were about it all. I didn't know what to think at the time, though. Leslie told me that Stephen could have petitioned to take the girls away and she warned me not to give him a reason. I was petrified. I'm sorry I kept that from you."

"I understand your fears," she said, "but once we decided to, you know, be together, why didn't you say anything then?"

"What?" I asked, suddenly getting defensive, "You expected me to pull away from your arms and say, 'oh, by the way, I'm separated from my husband so this technically isn't cheating…'?"

"Wow. I don't even know what to say to that. I mean—this is all about you, isn't it? It always has been."

"Andrea, what do you mean?" I asked.

"This. You pretend that you actually care, but you're just worried about what other people will think, about how it will look to the public."

"Andrea, please don't say that. I know you're upset, but you're not thinking clearly.

"No, for once I am thinking clearly. I'm not under your spell anymore, so the games won't work," she said. "I won't be here when you get home tonight—I'll stay with a friend until I can find a new place," she added before hanging up.

"Aaaargh!" I shouted, throwing the cordless telephone across the room, smashing a vase. Just then, Nigel walked in.

"Uh, you wanted to see me?" he said, hesitating as he surveyed the damage to the vase.

"Just go away, Nigel," I said.

"I don't think so," he said, carefully picking the phone up from the shattered glass and replacing it in its cradle on my desk.

"I failed," I said quietly, burying my face in my hands. "It was perfect, and I ruined it like I ruin everything good in my life," I cried.

"Now, get yourself together," Nigel said, leading me to the bathroom. "You have a magazine to run and Irv wants to meet to go over the budget you sent him," Nigel explained.

I shrugged and picked up a tissue, dabbing at my eyes. Nigel brought a cup of ice and carefully wrapped a few cubes in a washcloth to help reduce the swelling around my eyes. "Now, I have somewhere to be right now. Will you be okay, Mira?"

"Yes. Thank you," I said quietly. He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek before hurrying out of the office.

"Six? Andy? Are you here?" Nigel called after letting himself into the townhouse.

"Nigel? What's wrong? What are you doing here?" she said, rushing downstairs to meet him. "It's Miranda," he said.

"Oh god," Andrea said, sinking down to sit on the stairs. He wouldn't have believed Andy capable of going paler than she already was had he not seen it with his own eyes.

"What did you say to her?" he asked.

"Wait—is she—is she okay?"

"Honestly, I don't know. She smashed a vase…before her meeting with Irv. Six, what happened between you two?"

Andrea pursed her lips. "It's weird. I don't feel like I should tell you, since the whole thing started with her telling someone without telling me first."

Once Nigel wrapped his brain around that, he realized she could only be talking about Emily. "I'm the one who told Miranda she needed to talk to Emily. She was almost losing it, and I know Miranda needs a reliable assistant right now."

"I get that, but she didn't tell me first. I have just as much to lose as she does if word gets out that we've been together. My family would be shocked to find out I'm in a relationship with a married woman twice my age, not to mention my former boss. John would surely have to take away my new job if others thought I didn't earn it outright, and well, I think we all know Miranda would deny everything and throw me under the bus," Andrea said.

"Miranda can be an idiot," Nigel said. "She thinks too much for her own good. She doesn't know how to separate life and work, so she creates strange mixes, like scheduling appointments with you and coming up with strategies to minimize the press with Leslie. She's learning," he said, "and if you can believe it, she's gotten a lot better since you've been around."

"She lied to me," Andrea said, crossing her arms tightly across her chest.

"I doubt that," Nigel said. "As you know, she's very logical and particular. I can guarantee that in her mind, it wasn't a lie. Sometimes she does get too caught up in the particulars to realize she's hurting others, though."

"She's legally separated from Stephen. Did you know that?"

"No…I didn't."

"Three fucking weeks ago, and she didn't tell me."

"Well, she must have had a reason. She told you now, didn't she?"

"It was on accident. Why are you sticking up for her after she screwed you in a heartbeat in Paris?"

"Mira is like a sister to me. I've seen her at her worst, but I've also seen her truly happy. Andy, whatever you said to her this morning—it hurt her, badly. Your instinct might be to give her time, but time will only make it easier for her to build her walls back up, higher and stronger," he said.

Andrea took a deep breath and turned to Nigel. "I love her, Nigel. I know she's difficult—hell, that's one of the reasons why I love her—I just didn't think she would turn on me."

"You need to talk to her in person," he said. "And I need to get back to the office. Want a lift?"

Andrea nodded and gathered up her bag, following Nigel out to the car. The driver dropped her at the Starbucks across the street where she sat for a few minutes, contemplating her plan. Finally summoning the courage, Andrea dialed her cell phone, only to be met immediately with my voicemail greeting. "Great. She turned her phone off or she's ignoring my calls," Andrea said out loud.


"Emily! What are you—oh, I guess you're getting coffee," she said, seeing the redhead holding a tray of three venti nonfat no-foam lattes.

"What are you doing here?"

"I need to talk to Miranda."

"She gave explicit instructions not to take your calls today," Emily explained.

"But I need to see her, Em. Please. We had a misunderstanding this morning."

"Yes, and I had to clean up the shattered vase. I can't let you up there," she said.

"Okay, when will Miranda be in the town car next?"

"She has an 11:30, so she will be leaving shortly," Emily explained. "Oh no—you can't."

"Em, stay out of it. Just see that she doesn't miss this appointment."

"If you're just going to put her in a horrid mood again, I refuse to pick up any more shards of glass in this silk dress!"

"Relax. Go take her coffee before she fires you," Andrea added, sending Emily scampering away.

Andrea quickly headed across the street after Emily. Finding Roy in the line of town cars, she hopped in the backseat.

"Andy! How's it going?" he asked.

"Ehh, it's been better," she answered honestly. "I need your help."

"Sure, what can I do?"

"You're supposed to take Miranda somewhere at 11:30, right?"

"Yes, her therapist. She should be down in the next five or ten minutes," he said.

"Okay. I need to talk to her privately, so I'm going to just stay here in the car until she gets in, okay?"

"Whatever you say, Andy. Should I still drive her to the appointment?"

"Um, yes," Andrea said. "But just keep the screen up and wait until we tell you to head back."

"Yes, ma'am," he said, offering Andrea a mock salute. "Anything else?"

"Do these doors have child-proof locks?"

"Yes, I believe so," he said. "You need me to ensure Miranda doesn't run off on you?"

"If you don't mind?"

"Sure thing," he said, hopping out of the driver seat and engaging the child safety locks on each of the rear doors. "All set. When the doors are unlocked, they can only be open from the outside, not the inside."

"Perfect," Andrea said, sinking back into the corner of the town car while Roy waited on the curb.

Promptly at 11:15, I marched off the elevators, my Versace sunglasses shielding my eyes from view. The ice hadn't really helped reduce the puffiness after my morning of crying, and even Irv felt the need to call attention to my red eyes. I nodded to Roy as I slipped into the backseat, closing my eyes and sighing.


I softly smiled at the familiar voice, but quickly opened my eyes and turned, surprised to see Andrea sitting next to me. Despite our argument earlier, I wanted nothing more than to wrap my arms around her and hold her.

"Andrea—I thought—you said—" I couldn't even string a sentence together as I tried to recall her last words to me, something about not being there when I returned home.

"I overreacted," she said, reaching over and taking my hand cautiously. "I'm sorry. I still am a little upset that you're not telling me everything, but I don't want to lose you over this."

"You mean—wait, you're still…here?"

"Yes. I'm here. I'm not going anywhere."

I smiled and quickly moved closer, capturing her lips in a passionate kiss as she guided my hips to straddle her lap, allowing me to deepen the kiss. Our tongues clashed, my hands moved across every inch of her face, neck, and upper body in a frenzy. I was hungry for her, hysterically kissing her as tears streamed from my eyes, the saltiness mixing with the taste of coffee in my mouth.

She moved her hand from my hip, cupping my cheek gently as she pushed me away. My chest heaved as I gasped for air, desperate to catch my breath and resume kissing her. "I'm sorry," I managed to say between breaths. "Please…give me another chance, Andrea."

"Yes, of course," she said quickly, shifting me off her lap and onto the seat next to her. She kissed me on the cheek and pulled out a tissue, dabbing the tears from my eyes. "We can talk more later," she said, "but I didn't want to interfere with your appointment."

I glanced out the window and saw we were stopped in front of my therapist's building, a brownstone over on East 48th where the first floor had been converted into his office. "I don't have to go, darling. I want to stay here with you," I said, turning back to her.

"It's okay, I'll wait for you if you want."

Just then, I had an idea. Sure, it was unconventional, but it was a step towards fixing the problem I unwrapped this morning. "Come with me," I said.

"What? Seriously? I can't—I mean, I'm not up for—I can't intrude like that."

"Darling, listen. Let me prove that I'm trying to do better to let you in. We won't do a 'couples' thing, and you won't have to say a word if you don't want to. Just sit with me."

"Okay," she said, sighing as she nodded her head.

Peter answered the door, welcoming us and giving Andrea an odd look.

"I brought my friend Andrea today—well, my lover I guess," I added, blushing. "I want her to sit in on our session today."

He reached out and shook Andrea's hand politely before turning back to me. "Miranda, I strongly advise against this. The purpose of therapy is to provide you with a nonjudgmental space where you can speak freely about your fears, struggles, relationships. I would be happy to refer you to someone who specializes in joint counseling—"

"No," I said. "I do not believe we are interested in that right now. I brought Andrea to listen. Anything can be said in front of her, and I am not afraid of her hearing anything I need to say."

"Well, Miranda, we'll do this your way, but just this once. And, you have to understand I will act as if she is not in the room. You will need to arrange something with another therapist if this is to continue."

"That's fine. I almost lost her this morning because I wasn't sharing with her. I can't let that happen again."

"Miranda," she whispered, "I can wait in the car. It's okay, we can talk later," she reassured.

"No," I said, squeezing her hand.

"No," Peter said, echoing me. "Please, Andrea, you are welcome to stay." He ushered us into his office. "Would you like me to pull in another chair?" he asked her.

"No, I think we can share the sofa," she said, taking a seat in the corner and pulling me to lay next to her.

I smiled as I laid back against her chest, kicking my shoes off and resting my feet on the opposite end of the couch. She wrapped her arms gently around my waist and bent down, pressing a kiss to my temple. "I love you," she whispered.

"So," Peter began, "you mentioned something about this morning? Why don't you tell me what happened?"

"I had a little chat with one of my assistants—Emily. Nigel told me Emily was seeing unexplained things at my townhouse, and she was suspicious and petrified. I spoke with Emily and reassured her that I was, in fact, seeing someone, so she shouldn't worry about anything she sees or hears. I explained that I needed her utmost discretion until my divorce was finalized, and reassured her that nothing happened between me and this other person until after I was legally separated. I never once mentioned Andrea's name, and I knew Emily would never ask."

"Then what happened?"

"I called Andrea to tell her."

"To tell her you spoke with Emily?"

"Yes. I felt she should know, since it was concerning us. I just didn't think to speak with her first. I'm—I'm not used to running my ideas past other people first," I admitted in way of excuse.

"What did she say?"

"Well, she was upset that I told Emily, but I think what hurt her most was that I let slip the part about being legally separated."

"Why was that?"

"Well, I didn't really mean to say it. I hadn't told Andrea. But, I mean I called her with the intention of sharing information because I thought it was appropriate. I just hadn't thought she would react so strongly."

"So, how did it make you feel when Andrea got upset?" Peter asked.

Andrea softly brushed her fingers along my side, silently reassuring me. "I was hurt, afraid, disappointed in myself, angry."

"Why were you angry?"

"Well, I didn't have to call her. I could have chose not to tell her anything and she would have never known…and this argument could have been avoided."

"Was that your reasoning behind not telling her about the separation a month ago?"

"It was two weeks and five days ago," I quickly clarified. "But yes, I suppose at the time I was thinking that, but as we grew closer, I just couldn't find the right time."

"Okay, so let's get back to where you said you felt disappointed in yourself and afraid. Did you take the blame for causing Andrea's anger?"

"Yes, of course. My actions directly upset her. I should have spoken with her first."

"Miranda, surely you cannot be expected to share every single thing with her. As you said before, you don't need to run your ideas past her, seeking permission."

"I was selfish and not thinking about her. When it comes to my relationship with Andrea, I need to learn to communicate more."

"Okay. Tell me more about why you didn't tell her you were separated—when was it and where were you?"

I sighed and closed my eyes, resting my head back onto Andrea's shoulder. "It was Sunday, and Andrea was on her way over when I spoke to Leslie. Andrea and I had not been…involved…yet, as I kept saying I needed to wait until the divorce was finalized. She was very patient, and reassured me she would wait as long as I needed. Leslie called to tell me the separation was granted by the judge, and reassured me Stephen was not filing for custody. My heart dropped just learning that he could have, but I've already told you that. I don't want to talk about Stephen right now," I said. "I honestly didn't expect Leslie to say that whatever I did after the separation would not affect my divorce—that he couldn't turn around and claim infidelity if nothing happened before the separation, and nothing did."

"So, what happened when she came over?"

"I told her Leslie said the divorce was probably to be finalized in the next two months, and I briefly kissed her, explaining we needed to wait."

"Why didn't you tell her what else Leslie said?" Peter asked.

"I was afraid she would push me. It's crazy, because she was more than patient, but I thought that if she knew I was legally free, she wouldn't accept my excuses."

"Why were you making excuses, knowing you were, in fact, free?"

I paused for a moment, reaching down to lace my fingers with Andrea's. "I was nervous. I had never been with a woman like that, and, well, I didn't want to lose her. Plus, she was still my assistant. It wasn't until the next day that she submitted her resignation and two weeks' notice."

"So, the whole don't fix it if it's not broken mentality? Keep the status quo in fear of the unknown?"

"Yes, I suppose."

"But you eventually changed your mind, I presume? I mean, have you been involved sexually with her since then?"

"Yes," I said. "We spent more time together, she found a new job, and I reintroduced her to my daughters, who seem to love her, too." After a brief pause, I continued. "On the eve of her last day at Runway, I took her on a date to see the Orchid Show in the evening and arranged a private viewing of Pavilion Three. She was irresistible," I said, recalling that evening. "I had never before felt that overwhelming pull towards someone. I simply had to be with her. And, we weren't even drinking," I added with a chuckle. "She came home with me, and, well, at that point, I didn't know when I was going to be able to bring up the separation."

"Why not tell her then?"

"As she has her lips to my—" I paused, shaking my head. "Was I supposed to say, 'By the way, you can keep doing what you're doing because I'm separated.' I guess I just wanted her to think it was my decision to move forward, not that I was just doing it because of the separation."

"Do you think she would have thought that?"

"I don't know," I said, reaching for the glass of water on the table and taking a long sip.

"Okay, back to disclosing your relationship," Peter said. "Were you planning to keep it secret?"

"Well, yes, I suppose. We never sat down to discuss it, but I think we were in agreement that neither of us was ready for people to find out. The girls still didn't know, and neither did James or Stephen. When Leslie mentioned that Stephen could have filed for custody, I began worrying that James would, too, since he had been arguing a bit about it recently."

"And Andrea?"

"Well, she is just about to start a new job, and I didn't want anything like this to tarnish her reputation before she had the chance to show her worth."

"So, did you tell anyone?" Peter asked, quickly scratching something down on his notepad.

"I told Nigel—as I mentioned, he and I are back to being friends like we used to be."

"What was her reaction?"

"Okay. I remember she said something about being glad I had someone to talk to."

"Whom does she talk to?"

"I—I don't know." Andrea must have felt my muscles growing tense, as she softly kissed my cheek and began tracing her finger in circles on my palm.

"What about her family?"

"I know her relationship with her mother has been rather strained since her grandmother passed, but, well, the last time I asked, she didn't want to talk about it."

"What would your family think if you disclosed this relationship?"

"Well, I don't know what the girls would think. I can only hope I've raised them to live with open hearts and minds."

"And the rest of your family? James? Carol? Stephen? …Richard?"

I sighed. "As long as James and Stephen can't use it to take my children from me, I don't care what they think. Carol is sweet and has been such a wonderful grandmother to the girls—I think she would be happy that I'm happy and encourage the girls to do the same."

"And Richard? Miranda, I know you don't like to talk about him, but you can't pretend he doesn't exist."

"He's no longer in my life," I said, sitting up and unwrapping Andrea's arms from my waist.

"But if news breaks and Richard finds out—wouldn't you be concerned?"

"No. He knows I will fire back with details and proof of all the shit he pulled when Mom was dying. He would lose everything."

"Okay. What about Andrea? What would her friends and family think?" Peter asked.

I looked over at Andrea, huddled in the corner of the couch, her knees up to her chest. Without thinking, I wrapped my arm around her shoulder and pulled her into my chest. "Is this too much, darling?" I whispered.

"No, go on," she said, burying her head in my neck.

"I don't know what Andrea's friends and family would think," I said quietly. "I have never asked her. I really don't know that much about her like that."

"Do you think maybe that's why she was upset you were making decisions without her and withholding information—because she was worried of her family's reaction?"

I bit my lip. "Yes, that is a possibility," I said. "She did seem to equate my telling Emily with me telling the press," I added, softly tracing circles on Andrea's back.

"Okay, what I'd like you to do in the next few weeks is talk more to Andrea. Try to consciously speak with her before making a decision, even if it's something as ridiculous as which color pen you should write with. Just try it. Also," Peter continued, "I want you to talk to her about same-sex relationships. See what she thinks, what her family thinks, how she thinks they might react. Share your fears with her, but be sure to think of overall well-being and not just in terms of one's professional reputation. And lastly," he added, "I want you to talk to her about your divorce. I think it's perfectly healthy for you to keep some things to yourself, but you need to decide what is going to affect her, and make sure she understands that you may choose to keep some details of your past or private life hidden and buried. Just know that honesty sometimes causes arguments, too, but that's not always a bad thing. As humans, we most frequently express our pure, raw emotions when we're arguing."

I bent down and kissed Andrea on the forehead before standing and shaking Peter's hand. "Thank you," I said before reaching down to take Andrea's hand.

"Miranda, can I just have one minute with you before you leave?" Peter asked.

I turned to look at Andrea. "I'll wait in the car, go ahead," she said, smiling before she stepped out and shut the door.

"Miranda, I've never seen you so relaxed," Peter said.

"Well, she calms me. Having her arms around me just reassures me somehow. I know she cares about me very much and always has my best interests in mind."

"And you reciprocate this?"

"Yes, of course," I said, smiling. "That's kind of how this started—with me comforting her on the plane home from Paris when her grandmother was sick."

"Never lose that," Peter said. "I see too many relationships get bogged down in details, schedules, sexual compatibility; people forget how to simply love one another and how to be physically intimate and honest."

"I know," I said, beaming. "Thank you," I said before slipping out the door.

Back in the town car, I reached over and took Andrea's hand, squeezing gently. "Are you okay? That wasn't too much, was it?"

"I'm fine. I do have a few questions, though." I nodded, knowing at least one of the questions she would ask. "Who is Richard and what happened?"

"Richard is my estranged younger brother. He's a recovering drug addict, though I don't know how successful that has been. I haven't spoken with him since before my mother died. When she was getting bad, I called him and told him he should come see her. He did. And I'm glad he did. But I should have known he would steal all of her prescription medications—oxycodone, percoset, demurol, combunox. I had to contact the police and fill out a burglary report in order for the doctor to write new prescriptions. At least my mother didn't realize what had happened. James spoke to Richard on the phone the morning of her funeral, and Richard convinced him he was getting help and getting his life back on track since he moved to San Francisco. That was the last I heard of him, and as I said, I don't think he will be a problem."

"I'm so sorry, I had no idea," Andrea said.

"It's okay. No one knows, though. I've been telling reporters I was an only child for the past thirty years. Nigel doesn't even know I have a brother," I added, hoping she would feel better knowing that I even keep things from him.

Her eyes widened. "But, what if he finds out?"

"When I first met Nigel, I didn't know we would be friends for the next thirty years. There was really no right time. I can only hope he will understand if I do need to tell him someday," I explained. "What else did you want to ask me?"

"Umm, so, how long have you been seeing Peter? I mean, does he know everything about me?" she asked.

"I've been seeing him since your second day at Runway, about once or twice a month. Emily has always scheduled that appointment. And yes, he knows almost as much about you as I do."

"Wow. Uh, can I ask why you went to see him?"

"Sure. Since that first day I met you, I felt something. I needed you. I didn't know how to explain it. He actually reassured me and let me know I wasn't going crazy. He helped me to consider a same-sex relationship for myself, and encouraged me to get to know you as a person if I felt drawn to you. He encouraged me—perhaps too much, looking back—to think of you as a human being instead of my assistant and employee, and, well, I needed that. It didn't feel right talking to Nigel about it because I knew he was also friends with you."

Andrea nodded and leaned into me. I wrapped my arms around her shoulders and squeezed tight. "I love you, Andrea, and I am so sorry I hurt you," I said. "I will work harder to focus on you instead of me. I will learn your needs and your fears—even if you don't want to talk about them—and I will do everything in my power to take care of them. If, of course, you'll let me. And, no more making decisions without you…be prepared for thousands of texts each day," I added with a smile. "Will I see you tonight?" I asked hesitantly as the car pulled to a stop in front of Runway. Sure, we were working things out, but I hoped Andrea didn't feel she needed to stay elsewhere, even for a few days.

"Of course," she said, kissing me softly on the cheek. "I love you."

I returned to the office in much better spirits than I had left; it was still baffling to me how quickly and easily my emotions could change. Before Andrea, there really was only one side of Miranda Priestly, but now, half of my staff has seen me in tears, a few too many people in New York City are privy to the details of my sex life, and, well, I actually liked it. I'm not sure how this happened or if it were even possible, but I think showing a little bit of my humanity has actually earned me more respect than wielding my power.

Sinking back into my desk chair, I quickly handled the stack of papers before me and returned any urgent calls. Before I realized, it was already 4:00PM, and I had a text message from Andrea: "Can I have stuff delivered to my new address? Ordering kitchen things from Bed, Bath, & Beyond dot com."

"Yes, not until Weds afternoon," I replied.

"Awesome. All kitchen gadgetry will be delivered on Friday. Oh—one more thing. What is my rent going to be?"

"Let's talk more tonight. It might be helpful if you can call to have utilities setup if they aren't already—you can get an average monthly cost. Don't forget TV/internet/phone."

"Okay, I can do that now. In my name or yours?"

"Yours. Let's see what utilities and assessments will cost, and then we can set your rent at a reasonable amount from there. We can discuss it over dinner tonight if that's okay?" I replied. I knew this conversation was coming, and while I was still exhausted from this morning, I needed to get a bit more work done since I would not have time all weekend.

"Yes. I'll make some calls and crunch some numbers. Love you."

I chuckled at her response. "Love you, too, darling. xo — will be home around 7PM."

Friday afternoons were secretly my favorite time to be in the office. Most of the employees had left for the weekend, but there was a quiet energy seeping from the walls, one which spurred me on to high productivity.

At 6:45PM, I received another text from Andrea. Mentally kicking myself for not being in the car already, I hurried to grab the folder of layouts I was looking at, as well as my computer before heading down to meet Roy. In the backseat, I read Andrea's message: "I don't think I can afford this, Miranda. Utilities + assessment = $504/month!"

Not wanting to have this conversation via text, I immediately dialed her number. "Darling? I'm sorry, I'm in the car right now and we ran into a bit of traffic. I promise you we will talk about this rent thing later. The whole point of you renting from me is so we can set a price that you can afford without worrying each month."

"I know, but still," Andrea whined.

I sighed. "I was thinking of setting up a separate business account, and your rent can be deposited there each month as a sort of rent-to-own program. Then, when you decide to move you'll have whatever percentage ownership, based on the sale cost of the condo. At that point, we can talk about what you want to do—we can be co-owners for the next renter, or I can buy you out and essentially give back the money you paid. Or, you can buy me out. This way, you're only paying your $500 each month, and anything else will be a sort of investment. But, that's just what I was thinking, darling. I want to hear your thoughts so we can make a decision together. Okay?"

"Yes. I'm sorry for getting worried. I trust you not to screw me over," she said, chuckling. "Sometimes I just get nervous about not having enough money."

"I understand," I said, thinking back to when I was her age. "I'll be home in five minutes—see you soon," I said, hanging up.

"Roy," I called. "Will you still drive us to Arlington tomorrow?"

"Sure thing. I will pick you up at 6:30AM. Um, do you mind if I take care of something while we're there, too? Don't worry—it won't interfere with your business," he added.

"Of course, Roy. Will you need more time there? I can make other arrangements for us if you need," I offered.

"No. I, uh, just want to go see my grandfather's burial site. He was in the First World War, and I've never been out there to see it."

"Of course, Roy. Please, do whatever you need, just leave the car doors unlocked in case Andrea needs to relax or something. I'm really worried about how she will handle everything."

"Better yet," Roy said, "I'll give you my spare set of keys. If there's anything I can do…"

"No, you're doing more than enough. Thank you. And if I didn't already mention it, please feel free to dress casually tomorrow. It's supposed to be hot, and, well, I just want you to be comfortable."

"Thank you, Miranda," Roy said, reaching into the glove box for his spare keys. "Here you go. See you in the morning!" he called as I stepped out of the car.

I walked in the front door at 7:10PM and was pleasantly surprised to see that Andrea had prepared a small roast chicken with roasted apples and potatoes—and there was a fresh blueberry pie on the counter. "Darling, this looks delicious," I said, kicking my heels off and untucking my shirt. "You're spoiling me, you know."

I hadn't realized how exhausted I was from the week's events until I sat at the kitchen table and let myself relax. For a split second, I thought perhaps the delicious aromas of the meal before me would be enough—the thought of picking up my fork for each bite seeming all too strenuous at this point. But, the last thing I wanted was to insult Andrea's wonderful cooking by not eating.

Over dinner, Andrea and I chatted briefly about our day; I told her how Nigel was horrified at the tattered condition of the Book this morning, and she told me how difficult it had been to find sugar in the kitchen when making the pie.

"Was everything okay?" Andrea asked, collecting my half-eaten plate of food from the table.

"Yes, it was delicious. Thank you," I said, smiling as I watched her clear the table, refusing to let me help. She took the remaining chicken and diced it into small pieces, adding some chopped celery, onion, and mayonnaise before packing it in a small travel container and placing it in the fridge with the fruit, chocolates, cheese, crackers, and cans of flavored Pelligrino she planned to bring tomorrow.

As she loaded the plates into the dishwasher, I rested my elbows on the table and cradled my head in my hands. Thinking of the emotions brought to surface today, on top of those I was anticipating tomorrow and Sunday, I just needed a few minutes to wind down.

"Miranda?" she called, rousing me from my sleep as she softly placed her hands on my shoulders. "Why don't you head up to bed? I know it's been a long day," she said.

"Mmm," I groaned, folding my arms on the table and dropping my head to rest on them. "I just want to sleep here for a minute," I mumbled.

Andrea gently began kneading my shoulders, her hands gradually becoming more forceful as she worked the tension out of my muscles, knots dissolving under her expert fingers.

"Come upstairs," she said, stepping away and taking me by the arm. "I'll draw you a nice, hot bath."

I nodded and let her lead me upstairs to my bedroom, where I sank into the bed while she prepared the bathroom. I vaguely recall hearing her say something else to me, but once my head sunk into the goose down pillow, it was clear I would not be moving for several hours. I felt her hands on me, softly removing my socks, belt, and trousers before undoing a few buttons on my blouse. Gently laying a blanket over me, she kissed me on the forehead and turned out the light before I fell into a deep slumber.

I woke several hours later, stiff but thoroughly rested, yet totally surprised to find it was only minutes past midnight. I took a deep breath and reached out next to me, shocked to find an empty bed, the covers still neatly tucked under the throw pillows. Where was she? I wondered.

Sitting up, I realized I had fallen asleep on top of the bed, and I smiled when I remembered Andrea undressing me. I crept into the bathroom and changed into my silk nightshirt, stopping at the sink to remove my makeup and brush my teeth before setting out in search of the brunette.

Just as I was about to check the guest room, I saw a glimmer of light poking out from underneath the door to my office. Quietly pushing the door open, I found Andrea curled up on the couch with a notebook in her lap, her headphones on.

I walked up along the couch and sat next to her, resting my head on her knees, as I didn't want to disturb whatever she was writing. When she finally looked up and set her pen down, I spoke.

"Thank you for letting me sleep—I needed that nap. Did you want to continue our conversation from earlier?" I asked quietly.

"Uh, which one?" she asked.

"About rent."

"Oh, no, not right now. I mean, if that's okay."

"Sure," I said. "Can I ask what you're up working on?"

She hesitated, closing her notebook and wrapping the elastic band around the pages. "It's nothing. Just some writing."

I smiled and nodded. I didn't want to push her right now. "Are you coming to bed soon?" I asked.

She nodded. "I'll be there in five minutes."

I stood and returned to my bedroom, softly brushing her shoulder as I walked past. Turning down the covers, I crawled in between the sheets and willed myself to stay awake until she arrived.

Right on time, she crept into the bedroom and shut the door behind her, shedding her sweater and crawling in next to me. I turned to face her as she scooted closer to the my side of the bed.

"I'm sorry, Miranda," she whispered, burying her face in my neck.

My arms instinctively wrapped around her, pressing her along the length of my body. "Shh," I whispered, trying to soothe her and keep her from shedding any unnecessary tears. "Why are you apologizing, sweetheart?"

"For everything—all this added stress in your life that you don't need. You were exhausted this afternoon, and it's all because of me."

"Darling, please," I said, carefully choosing my words, knowing I had a habit of making others feel insignificant. "You—and my girls—are the most important things in my life right now and I would gladly do whatever it takes to keep you safe and happy." I reached down and brushed her cheek, coaxing her away from my neck. "That being said, I am typically the one who creates the stress in my own life. I am well aware that my uber-high standards, demanding nature, and less than friendly attitude are at the heart of each and every stressful situation I face."

"But tonight, you fell asleep before nine o'clock and I couldn't even wake you for a hot bath."

"Andrea, sweetie, I'm not twenty-five. My body needs rest. And for your information, I am extremely nervous about dinner with James and the girls on Sunday."

"Why didn't you say something?" she asked, switching out of her miserable mood to her caretaker mentality in an instant. I took mental note of the change and filed that away for later. Who knows when I'll need to get her to refocus again, I thought.

"Well, we were busy with other details. I know I shouldn't be nervous, but I can't help the feeling that James will find something to use against me. I can't let him take my babies away," I said.

"I won't let that happen," Andrea said, gently wrapping her arm around my shoulder. "Do you think it would be better if I wasn't here?"

"What? No!"

"I mean, does he suspect anything? How much does he know?"

"I—I don't know. Nothing, I think." My head felt like it was about to explode. "He knows you're my friend. A few weeks ago he asked if I was seeing someone, but I insisted I was not. The girls don't know anything either, so they didn't tell him anything."

"Okay," she said, "don't worry. He's not going to find out. And even if he does, it's probably in his best interest to keep it quiet—as we've seen, the press can be pretty harsh on people whose exes come out of the closet."

"Can we just not talk about this?" I said, sighing in exasperation. I was starting to get worked up, and the mention of the press and coming out of the closet was not something I wanted to think about right now. Not that I was being particularly unrealistic; I was very clear as to how the tabloids operated. I just wasn't ready for my life to be front and center before I had a chance to speak with my girls—and Andrea…

Before I could finish my thoughts, Andrea's lips were on mine, sucking the life from my lungs. I moaned into her mouth as her tongue traced the roof of my mouth, its delightful dance sending shivers through my body. The world melted away as she continued, tiny whimpers and gasps escaping my lips, released from somewhere deep within.

"Ohh, Andrea," I panted, my voice barely above a whisper. "I need your fingers," I said, the fluttering feeling between my legs growing too strong to ignore any longer.

She slowly slid her hand down, across my abdomen and underneath the thin lace band of my silk briefs. My body was on fire, ignited by her touch. I reached down and pulled back the duvet and sheets, letting the crisp air hit my burning skin.

"Please—Andrea—oh god—please!" I cried, tears streaming down my face as all of my emotions bubbled within, threatening to pop at any moment like carbonation against a bottle top.

I was right there—I had been right there at the precipice since her lips met mine. I knew I needed release earlier that day—when I straddled her in the car I would have let her take me right then and there—but the thought of calling Andrea back just for this sent memories of my soon-to-be ex flashing through my mind. No, I would not treat Andrea that way. And no, I was definitely not thinking of him while this beautiful creature was bringing me to such a delightful orgasm.

"Andrea," I panted, "I love you—I—oh-oh-oh," my voice trailed off as my muscles began to contract, little gasps escaping my throat as my head curled up off the pillow of its own volition. As Andrea flicked at my sensitive bud, my body grew rigid and I inhaled sharply, closing my eyes as I felt my muscles drawing her fingers deeper inside.

When I woke, Andrea was pressing a cool cloth to my forehead, and I realized I was laying on the opposite side of the bed.

"Hi," she whispered, her deep brown eyes a welcome sight.

I reached up and slipped my hand around her neck, tugging her forward for a kiss. What I would do without this woman in my life, well, I wasn't prepared to think of that. I gently broke the kiss, reaching up to wipe the tears from my eyes.

"Are you okay, sweetie?" she asked softly, moving the cool cloth to the back of my neck.

"Yes, I'm fine now," I said. "I hadn't realized how much I needed that today," I admitted.

"Well, I can imagine. You had a lot to deal with," she said. "Do you often get feverish like this?" she asked.

I looked up at her, my eyebrow raised in question.

"Well, you kicked off the covers, and then you were dripping in sweat. I'm sure the back of your shirt is still damp," she said. "That's why I moved you to this side and got this," she said, gesturing to the cool cloth.

"Oh, um," I blushed, embarrassed at my profuse sweating. "I guess I never let things build up this much," I admitted. "I'm going to take a quick shower and throw a clean shirt on," I said, extricating myself from her arms and heading to the bathroom.

When I returned minutes later, Andrea was fluffing the pillows and smoothing out what looked like fresh sheets. "I took the mattress pad off the bed for now," she explained. "It's one of those memory foam ones, and those have a tendency to retain heat. They sell new ones now that diffuse temperature much better."

"Thank you," I said, shyly crawling into bed as she held up the covers for me. "Andrea," I said, "don't take this the wrong way, but you're not my assistant anymore. You don't have to do these things."

"I know. I just like to know you'll let me take care of you if I want to," she said, climbing into bed next to me. "Can I ask you a personal question?"

"Darling, you sat with me during my therapy session today. I think anything goes after that," I said with a smile.

"Do you ever masturbate?"

I nearly choked on my breath as she asked the question. Now that was a personal question I was not prepared for. "Why?" I asked after a few seconds of hesitation.

"Well, you said that you never let things build up like that, so I just thought—I guess I was just curious what you used to do."

I took a deep breath. Just the conversation I did not want to have, I thought. "No, I don't. Actually, I never have. I guess I just never felt the need. Do you?" I asked, hoping that by turning the tables, I could distract her from the second part of her inquiry.

"Yeah, sometimes," she said. "If I can't fall asleep, or well, I guess months ago I used to do it after a grueling day at Runway…and I'd think of you."

My eyes widened at that little fact. "Do you mean to say you fantasized about me, darling?"

"Well, maybe a little. Nothing too crazy. It was always like just a tiny tweak to something that had happened during the day. Tiny, but very unrealistic at the time."

"Would you care to share any of these?" I asked, linking my fingers with hers on top of the sheet.

"Maybe some other time," she said with a wink. "You never answered the other part of my question."

I sighed and turned onto my back, staring up at the ceiling. "After our first night—the orchid show—you mentioned that you didn't want to hear about Stephen. Is that still true?"

"Well, not really. I mean, I'd prefer if you didn't bring him up in bed, but, I did ask the question," she said.

"Okay. Just this once," I said. "I don't even know how it got to the way it was, but Stephen and I would frequently meet in a room at The Four Seasons for a quick…um…release," I said. "It worked out quite well, because my needs were met without having to really spend time with him aside from the ten minutes we spent in the room, and I was still fulfilling my wifely obligation."

"Oh." Andrea said. "I guess I'm a little surprised you agreed to that."

"It was the lesser of many evils, Andrea. We were married. I did have feelings for him once. We hardly ever saw each other at home due to his frequent business trips and dinners and my busy schedule. It was efficient," I said, sighing. Somehow, I just knew what she was going to ask next.

"Why didn't you have me meet you somewhere today for a release?" she asked.

"Darling, you are not him. I actually want to spend time with you. I look forward to coming home and seeing you in the evening. And you meet my needs just fine on your own," I added with a smile.

"So my sex-on-the-desk fantasy is out?"

I laughed, a full-bodied laugh bubbling from within. "Yes, darling. I'm sorry about that. But this isn't to say we can't be adventurous," I added. "I just don't want to start out the way Stephen and I ended, you know? We were just using each other."

"How often did it happen?" she asked.

"Maybe two or three times in the past six months," I said.

"So, since you've met me."

"Yes. Darling, I thought I told you all this."

Andrea shrugged. "I don't remember. Tell me again."

I sighed. "On your very first day at Runway, the day I hired you, in fact, I met with him that morning because I couldn't get my mind off of you. The next time I remember was the night you came upstairs with the Book and interrupted our argument. He was accusing me of being obsessed with you, and I was just too exhausted to fight. I think it's fair to say I haven't been interested in him in years."

She smiled and lazily pressed a kiss to my cheek. "I love you, Miranda Priestly," she whispered. "Thank you for sharing so much with me today, for letting me take care of you, for being willing to try new things with me."

"Of course, darling," I said, glancing at the clock. "We should try and get some sleep—we have to be up in less than three hours," I said.

She nodded and curled up alongside me as we both drifted off to sleep.

When the alarm went off at 5:30AM, I did us both a favor by hitting the snooze button. I was certainly used to more than a few hours of sleep on a Friday night. Something told me that would be changing in the near future. Hitting the snooze again at 5:39 and 5:48, when the alarm sounded at 5:57, I slowly crawled out of bed, leaving the shrill beeping on to wake up Andrea while I washed my face and began applying my makeup. Finally, I heard her turn off the alarm, muttering something while she stomped off to the guest room. I quickly slipped into a pair of slim-leg white jeans and selected a thin chambray blouse with a white camisole underneath. I stepped into a pair of casual cork wedge sandals and finished the casual, summer day look with a simple silver necklace and a few bangle bracelets and my watch. Hearing the shower turn off in the guest bedroom, I headed downstairs to pack our small cooler.

I took the items out of the fridge, plus added a few bottles of still water, knowing how hot it was supposed to be today. I threw some additional tissues in my bag, and just as I was about to pick up the morning paper, Andrea came down the stairs.

"Good morning," I said with a smile. "Did you sleep well?"

"Yeah, just not enough," she said, trying to stifle a yawn.

"I was thinking we could have Roy stop at Starbucks for some coffee on our way out of the city."

"That sounds perfect," Andrea said. "Do you mind if I bring a blanket in the car?"

"No, not at all. There are several to choose from in the chest in the den," I explained.

Once she selected a small navy fleece blanket, I picked up the cooler and carried it out front, where Roy picked it up and placed it in the front seat.

"Good morning, Miranda," Roy said, smiling brightly in his khaki shorts and Lacoste polo.

"Roy," I said, acknowledging him with a slight nod. "We will need to stop at Starbucks before we leave the city—whichever one you think is closest," I added before sinking into the back seat.

Once we were fully caffeinated, Andrea began to wake up. I neatly folded the newspaper I was reading and tucked my glasses back into my purse. "I think you're very brave for doing this today," I said, reaching over and taking her hand.

"I couldn't do it by myself," she said. "Thank you for coming with me."

I nodded and turned to face her. "How have things been with your mother and grandfather?"

She turned her head to meet my gaze. "I still don't feel like talking about that, Miranda," she said. "Just because Peter told you to talk to me about it doesn't mean I will answer."

"I'm not asking because he said to. If you only knew half of what he's wanted me to do over the years," I said, shaking my head. "Sweetie, I've been asking you this for a while, if you recall. Can you at least tell me you have someone to talk to about it?"


"No you won't tell me, or no you don't have someone?"

"Miranda, I don't have anyone. My friends sided with Nate when we broke up. My friends from home and college—well, I just grew apart. They're all getting married and having babies and playdates…that's not me. It's sad, but I would probably count Nigel and Emily as two of my closer friends, and I don't even think Emily likes me."

"Where do I fit in?" I asked quietly, noticing she failed to include me in her list of friends.

"What? Oh—well, you're just different."

I couldn't help but purse my lips at that explanation. Didn't Andrea consider me a friend? Wasn't that how things started between us? We were friends, sharing stories, comforting one another. Had I somehow let that slip away? I closed my eyes and tried to think back to when things changed. Surely we were friends during Andrea's last week at Runway. And surely we were friends the night of the our date at the Orchid Show. And that weekend…

I froze, realizing I was seeing a pattern—something as simple as houndstooth or nautical stripes. The more we explored each other sexually, the more closed off we were. I gasped at my own realization and quickly turned back to Andrea.

"You okay?" she asked.

"No. No, I'm not. For a few weeks there, you were my best friend, Andrea. I felt like I could tell you anything, and I think you were very forthcoming with me, too. I even seem to remember you walking out on a lunch because I wasn't viewing you as a friend. All that changed once we started having sex, though, didn't it? You said you'd be patient and take it slow with me, be at my side as a friend, but now what?"

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"Think about it," I said. "You didn't include me in your list of friends. I even introduced you to Peter as my lover. God, how could I have been so stupid!"

"Calm down," she said, gently resting her hand on my arm. "We can still make this work," she said. "You are still my best friend. I know I can tell you absolutely anything. But, I think it changed for me when Cassidy got sick two weeks ago."

"What?" I asked, sitting upright. How was my daughter involved in this?

"Not directly. But, Miranda, you dropped everything for her."

I wrinkled my brow in confusion. "But, have I not done that for you, too?"

"That's not it. Miranda, I know your daughters come first, and I am entirely supportive of that. You were—I don't know. It was like your relationship with your daughters was back and there was no room for me. It just made me anxious, knowing I only had so much time with you each day, if that. I guess I wanted to make the most of our time," she said.

I sighed, thinking back to what Nigel had told me several weeks ago. "Andrea," I began, "if we never have sex again, I would be okay with it as long as you were still at my side. I mean, I would miss it, but that's not what I love when I say I love you. It's you—your presence and friendship means more to me than anything else ever has or possibly could."

Tears began to form in Andrea's eyes, and she furiously blinked and looked upwards, trying to keep them from falling. "But what will happen once I start my new job and move into the new apartment next week? And once the girls move home?" she asked.

"We'll make it work. I'll, I don't know, send you emails during the day, and you can write back with silly things about your coworkers, or important things. Anything. We'll work it out. There might be more movie nights with two ten-year-olds than you were planning on, but I know they will want you there with us as much as I do."

Andrea sat for a moment, thinking about what I just said.

"Darling," I said, picking up her hand. "I can't predict the future, but I can try my hardest to keep doing the things that make you—make us—happy. Will you try that with me?"

Andrea nodded, and I pulled her in for a close hug. We sat like that for quite some time, until Roy was forced to slam on the brakes, sending our arms out to brace ourselves on the seat in front.

Once we settled back, Andrea moved into the corner of the backseat and kicked her feet up, urging me to sit between her legs and lean back into her, stretching out my own legs a bit. Andrea wrapped her arms tightly around my waist and pressed a small kiss on my temple.

"So, I didn't want to tell you about my mom because you're always taking sides with her. I'm not saying you need to agree with me on everything—you wouldn't be you if you weren't logical to a fault," she said, squeezing me tightly. "But if you're going to lecture me about being a mother and say you can see where she's coming from, I'm not going to talk."

She was right. I did feel the need to understand things from Andrea's mother's point-of-view a bit too much. I nodded, and Andrea continued, telling me about her grandpa's weakening knees, her mother's controlling behavior while she simultaneously complained no one was helping, her father's threats of divorce, and her aunt's deep depression. I was glad we were sitting the way we were, because I couldn't bear to see the pain in her eyes as she spoke all of this.

"So, what comes next?" I asked.

"Well, my mom moved into my grandpa's house and cut back at work. Even when she goes home to visit, she's emotionally cut off and won't talk to my dad. I don't see that lasting. My aunt sits and cries all day on the couch. My mom cries all night. Neither 'believes' in therapy or anti-depressants, and honestly, I'm sick of hearing it. My mom will sit and text me all of her problems, but I don't care anymore. I've tried to offer advice, but she won't listen. She only wants to listen to the people who aren't giving her any direction—her siblings."

"What about your father?"

"He texts me, too, complaining about Mom's complaints. I don't have time to get involved with that, either. It's cruel, but I just don't want anything to do with them. I wish I would have never given them my new number."

"Sweetheart, we can change your number easily, but that won't repair your relationship," I said.

"I don't have a relationship with them. I don't want to."

"So have you actually talked to them or is this all via text?"

"I talked to my mom last week. She told me about an argument she was having with my aunt about Gram's favorite color and simply wanted me to call my aunt and tell her my mom was right. It's ridiculous and petty. Everything with them is."

I laced my fingers in hers, resting softly against my ribcage. "I'm going to apologize in advance here, but what do they think of same-sex relationships? I mean, do they know you're not straight?"

Andrea took a deep breath, and I felt myself move with her chest. "They don't know. I'm their daughter who's supposed to be a rocket scientist, meet a handsome millionaire, and have several gorgeous children by the time I'm thirty."

"Well, you've got one part covered," I said, leaning my head back onto her shoulder. "I'm your handsome millionaire."

Andrea rolled her eyes. Apparently she did not find that humorous.

"No, I'm pretty sure they meant a handsome male millionaire."

"Well, were they specific?"

"No, but come on. You only use handsome to talk about guys."

"Eh, that's not true. The OED lists multiple entries for handsome, the first relating to a good-looking male, the second relating to an imposing, stunning female, the third relating to an object of high quality, the fourth…"

"Okay, okay," Andrea said, finally giggling at my tirade. "You would have the dictionary memorized," she said with a laugh. "Yes, I suppose you are my handsome millionaire, then. But it doesn't change the way they'll see it," she said, her tone growing more and more somber.

"How bad do you think it would be?" I asked.

She sighed and removed her right hand from my waist to run it through her hair. "Mom will cry and scream. And then cry that it's not right over and over. Dad will tell me how disappointed he is, and Mom will tell me how all dad does is cry. Dad might come around someday. He's a little more forward-thinking just because of his professional and educational experience. Mom lives in a bubble where all her friends and coworkers think and act exactly like she does. She'd rather tell her friends I died than tell them I was dating a woman."

"I'm so sorry, Andrea," I said. "Do you think it would help if I spoke to them with you?"

"No. Thanks for offering, but I was thinking that I would let them find out for themselves."

"You mean, not even prepare them?"

"No. I don't care. They can't do anything to me."

"Darling, maybe we should rethink that idea. First, they could talk to the press and make it difficult for both of us professionally—specifically you with your new job—depending on what they said. But also, I think it would be better if they knew the details that will no doubt get buried beneath the sensationalized headlines when this eventually breaks."

"You mean, telling them we were friends and didn't do anything until after you were separated and I left Runway?"


She thought for a few moments, silently weighing the options. "I just don't want to open a can of worms, you know. It's easier not to tell them."

"I know," I said. "Don't you think I wish I could simply not tell the girls or James? I just think it's easier to be honest upfront than to have to backpedal and make excuses. But," I continued, "we don't have to make a decision right now. It would be nice to have a plan in place if something does leak, but I think we are safe for a while," I said, sitting up as the car came to a stop.

"Where are we?" Andrea asked.

"Just outside of D.C. it looks like," I said, judging by the tourist signs at the gas station.

Roy gently rapped on the window before opening the door. "Does anyone need anything from inside?"

"One of those cold cans of Starbucks, please? I think it's called 'doubleshot'—any flavor," she said.

"Sure thing, kid," he said. "Miranda?"

"I'm fine, thank you," I said as Roy shut the door and headed inside. I pressed the button to lower the privacy screen and reached up front for the cooler. It was small enough that I could really put it at my feet, especially since Andrea seemed intent at keeping her legs up the entire time as it was.

I pulled out a can of lemon-flavored Pelligrino and offered Andrea some fruit since neither of us had the chance to eat breakfast. "You know," I said, "we can stop somewhere for a meal if you're hungry."

"I know," she said. "I just thought a little picnic would be nice."

I nodded and tucked the food back into the cooler as Roy returned to the car with Andrea's caffeine. As the car began to move, Andrea sat up, leaning against my shoulder. "When do you plan to tell the girls?" she asked.

Oh, right. We were in the middle of a serious conversation before we stopped, I thought. "I don't know. Hopefully it can wait until they move back home. Although," I added, "the more I think about it, the more I think we should tell them before they move home so they have a chance to get used to it."

"And James?"

"Well, I think I have to tell James before I tell the girls—but only right before."

"Would you want me there?" she asked.

"With James, yes," I answered quickly. "I think Cassidy will need some special attention, so I might talk to her alone first, but then we can talk to them together if you want."

"Yes, I would like that."

"Let's just hope we have another month or so," I said, quietly closing my eyes and drifting off to sleep.

I woke when Roy tapped on the window again. Opening the door, he told us that we would have to leave the car here. He was going to run and get us a small golf cart they use on the grounds, but after exchanging glances with Andrea, I let him know that would not be necessary. He was planning to visit his grandfather, and, well, Andrea and I had other plans.

We both straightened up a bit in the backseat, reapplying lip gloss and taking a sip of water before heading out. I tucked a bottle of cold, still water in my purse just in case. The cemetery was beautiful, really, and seeing so many gravemarkers in a row just sent a chill through my spine. I reached down and held Andrea's hand as she followed the signs and led us toward the Columbarium.

We walked for about twenty minutes before we arrived at the air-conditioned building, where Andrea stood in the Visitor Services line. I took a seat on one of the marble benches and secretly wished I had worn something cooler on this hot day. Andrea returned with a small map; the gentleman at the desk had been kind enough to draw a route for her.

"It's just through there and to the left, it looks like. He says we need visitor badges before we can enter," she said, gesturing at the line of about ten people waiting for badges.

I stood and gently guided her over to the line, patiently standing while visitors in front of us spent a ridiculous amount of time filling out their name and address on a small slip of paper. Without thinking, I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms across my chest.

"I can go talk to them about skipping the line, Miranda," Andrea whispered. "I'm sorry I brought you here—I didn't know it would be like this."

I quickly reached out and grabbed Andrea's arm before she had the chance to step out of line. "I am not above waiting in line, Andrea. And please, don't apologize. I think it was technically me who brought you here anyway," I said, picking up her hands and squeezing tightly. I sought out her eyes, hoping to wordlessly convey my support. I could see she was terrified.

Andrea nodded and I pushed her ahead of me as the line inched forward. Soon, we received our visitor badges and proceeded through to view the markers.

The walls were lined floor to ceiling with thousands of plaques. Before I could open my mouth to speak, Andrea stopped in her tracks and pointed at a stone several yards ahead of us. Linking my arm with hers, I slipped on my reading glasses and saw what she was staring at: ANDREW JOSEPH WILLIS, COX. b. 7/15/1922 d. ______ SPOUSE d. 3/7/2006.

"They—they can't even put her name on it?" she gasped.

I guided her over to the small bench along the center aisle and softly began tracing circles on her back. "It appears that they place the serviceman or servicewoman's name on the stone," I said, grateful I was able to make that observation so quickly. "This is a military cemetery, so things are very different here."

"Her entire life she lived in the shadow of my grandpa, and even in death she's only known as his fucking spouse," she hissed. "How could my parents let that happen?" she asked.

I firmly wrapped my arm around her shoulder and pulled her close, her head resting on my shoulder as she cried. With my free hand, I reached into my bag and pulled out several tissues for her to wipe her eyes, though, looking around, I saw several boxes stationed on nearby benches.

After several minutes, her tears subsided, but she still sat wrapped up in my arms. I softly kissed the top of her head and urged her to sit up. Looking into her eyes, I noticed that same sadness I had seen when she showed up on my doorstep several weeks ago.

"Sweetie, do you think you might want to move closer, and—I don't know—touch the stone, or maybe talk to her or say a prayer or something?" I wanted to support her in whatever she needed—even if it meant staying on this bench. But, I also knew that with a lot of emotions surging at once, the little reminder wouldn't hurt.

She handed me her used tissue—which I graciously accepted with an open hand—and walked closer, dropping to her knees in front of the stone. Keeping an eye on her, I deposited the tissue in the trash bin and squirted a healthy bit of antibacterial gel onto my hands before returning to the bench.

Nearly twenty minutes had gone by and Andrea was still on her knees in front of the marker. I took a deep breath and walked over, dropping to my own knees next to her rather clumsily in my wedges. I reached down and picked up her hand, gently brushing my thumb over her knuckles.

"She would have loved you," Andrea said quietly. "She was the only person in my family who really understood me. She was a feminist at heart, and she knew a kind soul when she saw one."

"I'm sorry I never had the chance to meet her," I said, squeezing her hand tightly.

"Yeah," she said, sighing. "Do you have a pen and paper?" she suddenly turned and asked.

"Yes, of course," I said, releasing her hand as I dug through my bag, providing her with the pad of paper attached to my checkbook. She carefully wrote something and tore the sheet of paper out, handing the book back to me. I watched as she reached up and affixed the paper to the plaque, tucking it carefully into the lower corner.

"There," she said, sitting back. I wrapped my arm around her shoulder as I read the words: ELEANOR ANDREA WILLIS, BELOVED GRANDMOTHER <3.

"It's beautiful," I whispered, softly pressing my lips to her temple.

She took a few deep breaths, then turned to me. "Okay, I'm ready," she said, standing to her feet. My body was nowhere near as limber as hers, and I could already feel that my left ankle had fallen asleep completely, which would make walking an unfortunate sight.

"Help?" I asked, shrugging my shoulders as I held my hand out for her to pull me to my feet.

She smiled and wrapped her arm around me while I twirled my sleeping foot in circles to get the circulation flowing. "Okay? Ready?" she asked.

"Would you mind if I just take one minute alone here?" I asked.

"Oh. Uh, sure, of course," she said, quickly stepping away.

Standing in front of the beautiful sign Andrea had just laid at her grandmother's grave, I closed my eyes and offered up a meagre prayer: Eleanor, Please forgive me, as I'm not really the religious type—but I care very much about your granddaughter, and it kills me to see her in such agony. Please watch over her—or whatever it is that you can do. As you probably know, she deeply admired you, and I'm really afraid that I'm not enough. But thank you for leading Andrea to me—or me to her—I can assure you I will do my best to love and protect her for the rest of my life…

I took a deep breath and opened my eyes, a single tear cascading down my cheek. Turning around, I met Andrea and linked my arm in hers, heading back towards the car.

"Can I ask what that was about?" Andrea said once we were some distance from the Columbarium.

I stopped walking and turned to face her, taking her cheek softly in my hand. "I thanked her for leading you to me, and I promised her I would love and protect you all the days of my life," I said, gazing into her deep brown eyes.

She quickly kissed me on the lips before pulling me into a hug, burying her face in my neck. "Thank you," she whispered. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

I held her, waiting for her to pull her head up. "How about we find a nice, shady patch of grass and have some of that chicken salad you made?" I asked as we approached the car. She pulled out the cooler, and I grabbed a medium-sized canvas blanket from the trunk that the girls and I use whenever we go to events in the park. Andrea selected a spot at the foot of a giant oak tree, facing the water. There was a surprisingly cool breeze for such a hot day, I thought as I spread out the blanket and took a seat against the oak.

Andrea opened the cooler and pulled out two acrylic plates, spooning a little bit of chicken salad, fruit salad, cheese, and crackers onto each before handing me one, along with a napkin.

"Did you want me to open the wine?" she asked.

"Not for me," I said. I had been feeling a little dehydrated after the tears yesterday and heat today, opting instead for a cool bottle of still water.

We quietly nibbled at our plates in companionable silence. While I was still thinking back to the issue of friendship, I found that I was more concerned about Andrea's relationship with her family than anything else at the moment.


"Andrea—" we both spoke at once. Smiling, I gestured for her to continue.

"Miranda, you are my friend—my best friend, in fact. No one else would do this with me," she said, her voice trailing off as she played with a grape on her plate.

"I know, darling. I'm sorry I made a big deal about it before. I guess I was just afraid of losing the connection we had. I—I—" I paused, licking my lips and setting my plate down before continuing. "I think I was worried that once things had settled with your grandma…well…that you would no longer need me around."

"Miranda, that's not true at all," she said, quickly turning. "I think my concern over my grandma certainly provided an opportunity for us, but it was never the reason. I mean, really, we could say the same thing about Stephen after that night at the gala."

"Darling, you are so very smart," I said, "that is absolutely true."

As I turned to look out over the river, I saw a quick reflection from something in the bushes near the banks.

"Andrea, don't move," I whispered. "I believe there is a photographer in the bush," I said.

Andrea looked down at her plate and ate a small bite of cheese. "What should we do?" she asked quietly.

"Reach into my bag over there as if it's yours, and pull out some paper as if you're scribbling something down," I said. "I will get up and walk back to the car, if you can quickly gather things up." I stood, angling my head down at the brunette as if I were giving an order. "I'm so sorry," I said before quickly snapping my head back and marching off to the town car.

Several minutes later, Andrea placed the cooler in the front seat and returned to sit next to me. "I'm so sorry about that, Andrea," I said. I was extremely nervous—petrified, in fact. What if there had been photographers when I cupped her cheek, or when she kissed my lips?

"It's okay. We can't take any chances," she said. "I understand."

"But it shouldn't have to be like this," I said, clutching the leather seat. "We shouldn't have to hide. You shouldn't have to act as if you're my assistant. I should be able to do whatever the hell I want."

"Someday," Andrea said. "This will be over soon enough. I just hope we can talk to the girls in time."

"Let's hope we don't have to have that discussion first thing tomorrow morning," I added. "Actually—I'm going to give Leslie a call. Do you mind?"

"Of course not, go ahead," she said as I began to dial.

"Hi, Leslie? Yes, we are at Arlington National Cemetery and…yes, Andrea and I—and we think we spotted some photographers in the bushes…No, I'm not certain…Well, we were having a friendly, but innocent picnic under a tree, but I marched off to the car and left Andrea to clean up once we spotted them…Um, maybe? A gentle touch and a quick kiss…Yes…Yes…Please. I can't have the girls hearing about this before I can speak with them…No…We were visiting her grandmother's urn…Yes, that's fine. Thank you. Call me if there is news."

Ending the phone call, I sank back into the seat and closed my eyes. "Andrea, it is highly embarrassing when your PR rep needs to tell you to stop acting like a teenager. I do not recommend it," I said.

"Does she think it will make the news?"

"She's not sure. She said there have been a few photos from Arlington that have come through in the past few months, but she agreed that the picnic shots were not the ones to worry about."

"But, you don't think—"

"Andrea, I don't know. I wasn't looking for cameras, I was focused on you," I said, throwing my arms up.

"I was going to say," Andrea began, "you don't think they will show up in tomorrow's paper, do you? Photogs can't usually turn around and sell an image in that quick of time unless it's a breaking news event."

I pursed my lips. She did have a point.

"And plus, even if they did see you with your hand on my cheek, it's not scandalous enough to bump premium Sunday coverage. If anything, it will be tucked inside Page Six of the Post on Monday or Tuesday."

I sighed. I know that was supposed to make me feel better, but it wasn't working. "We need to tell the girls tomorrow," I said.

"Okay, what's the plan, chief?"

I turned and gave her a quizzical stare. "Chief?"

"Well, I didn't think sweetie held quite the same authority," she said, blushing.

I shook my head, thinking about how much I loved this woman beside me.

"Okay. When they arrive, I'd like to eat right away, as I don't want to miss out on my promised dinner with them. Then, I'm thinking you can take the girls and Patty our for a bit while I talk to James, and when you bring them back, we can tell them together."

"I thought you wanted me with you when you talk to James?"

"I did—I do. But I know the girls will be concerned if I try to send them upstairs or something. This is fine. It will be okay," I said.

"If you find yourself needing to slug James again, I fully support that," Andrea said.

I smiled, just as Roy returned to the car.

"Are you ladies ready to head back?" he asked.

"Sure, whenever you're ready, Roy. If you haven't had a chance to have lunch, please help yourself to anything in the cooler before we head out. Except the chocolates—I don't think Andrea will share those," I added with a smile.

"Thank you, Miranda," he said, opening the cooler and fixing himself a small plate while he started the car and got the air conditioning running. "And thanks again for letting me visit Pops, too."

"Of course, Roy. I'm glad you were able to make it."

Within fifteen minutes, we were back on the road to the city. We kept the privacy glass down, opting to listen to the soothing tones of whatever NPR station Roy had on. Andrea and I were both curled up on the spacious backseat, her arm draped protectively over mine as we used the fleece blanket for a pillow. This is bliss, I thought. Even with its ups and downs, there was no place I'd rather be than in Andrea's arms.

"I can't sleep," I said, reaching over and switching the bedside light on.

"Neither can I," Andrea replied, sighing and nudging the covers down.

Once we returned to the townhouse, I fixed a light dinner and we headed upstairs to the study to wind down. I sat at my desk to go over the Book while Andrea was curled up on the sofa, reading through articles on The Mirror's website, trying to familiarize herself with the different writing styles of the journalists she would be working with. Forgoing anything too intimate, we shared a brief but tender goodnight kiss before curling up in bed.

"What time is it?"

"2:11AM," I replied, sighing. I knew what was keeping me up—thoughts about those damn paparazzi and the position they were now putting me in with my girls.

"It's going to work out," Andrea whispered, propping herself up on her elbow as she squinted against the soft light of the lamp. "The girls—they will still move home."

I opened my eyes, slowly turning to meet Andrea's gaze. How could she have known that was what I was worried about more than anything else? "I hope so," I whispered as she wrapped me safely in her arms.

I messaged James early Sunday morning, asking him to come by for brunch at one o'clock instead, as it not only required less preparation on my part, but also served to let me see the girls sooner than I had planned—if only by a few hours. So far, none of the news outlets included anything about our trip to Arlington, and Leslie's assistant confirmed that there were no photos circulating on Getty or APNewswire.

"You probably don't need to tell them today," Andrea said as she set the table for five.

"No, we're doing it today!" I said, practically shouting. After the words escaped my mouth, I quickly clasped my hand over my mouth, turning away from Andrea.

"Hey," she said softly, the gentleness of her hand on my lower back reminding me she just dropped what she was doing to be at my side. "Is everything okay?"

Fighting back tears, I simply shook my head. "I'm scared," I said, turning into her arms. She gently coaxed me to the floor, kneeling next to me as I launched into a breakdown. "If they don't… if they're not… what… I can't choose… they can't make me!" I cried as my sobs competed with my words.

"Ohh, shhh, shh," she whispered, holding me tightly. "It's going to be okay," she said over and over again as I struggled to catch my breath, inhaling large gulps of air. "The girls love you, and I know they'll want you to be happy."

"But…what if?"

"Shh," she said, pressing her lips to mine, instantly silencing me. I relaxed against her, our lips pressed together, not moving. Somehow, this was calming me and keeping away the unspoken concern that had been pervading my mind all morning.

After sitting like that for several minutes, I caught my breath and laced my fingers in her hair. I pulled away just enough to look into her eyes. "Thank you, darling," I said, taking her lips in a fierce kiss.

Andrea began trailing her lips down my jawline, latching onto the side of my neck and eliciting a moan from deep within me.

"Andreaa," I moaned, arching my back into her touch. "We can't—"

"Yes we can—we almost have an hour before they'll be here," she said, pushing me onto my back and crawling on top of me, her eyes bright and shining.

I chuckled as Andrea began unbuttoning my shirtdress. "Come here," I said, my hands gently pushing hers away. "Kiss me again," I said, wrapping my arms tightly around her waist and tugging her down. She leaned forward, tossing her long brunette strands over her shoulder and out of my face as she pressed her lips to mine. "Oh, Andrea," I moaned.

Nearly an hour later, I returned to the kitchen, lipstick carefully reapplied. Andrea had prepared a small antipasti platter along with a veggie salad, some hard-boiled eggs, and what looked like french toast soaking in egg.

"Thank you, darling. This looks perfect," I said.

"Will the girls be okay with this? I know it's not pizza," she said.

"Yes, of course. Plus, homemade french toast might be their favorite food."

"Great," she said with a smile. "I even made sure to use organic eggs from a local farm for Cassidy."

"That's very thoughtful," I said. "I'll pour some drinks and make a fresh pot of coffee—why don't you go freshen up?"

Andrea nodded, and I began fussing with the coffee pot.

When the doorbell finally rang, though Andrea offered to answer, I asked her to wait in the kitchen.

"Mooom!" "Mom!" the girls cried as they ran through the door, nearly toppling me over with their hugs.

"My darlings, it's so good to see you," I said, kissing them each on the forehead before standing to greet James. "Andrea is already here. I thought we could have something to eat, and then you and I can sit and talk?" I said, leading James towards the kitchen where the girls were playing with Patricia.

"That's fine," he said.

Our meal was actually quite nice. Everything Andrea prepared was delicious, and as I expected, my daughters devoured the french toast. The girls really carried the conversation, telling us all about a movie they recently saw in one of their classes and asking Andrea questions about her new job. I couldn't help but smile warmly as I again watched the three most important people in my life interact so sweetly.

"When can we go to the park, Mom?" Caroline asked.

Woof! Woof! We all chuckled as Patricia starting pacing in front of the front door, barking loudly. "Well, you know she does not like to be teased about the p-a-r-k, so you better head out now," I said, standing up. "Why don't you girls get your shoes on and put Patricia's leash on?—I have to speak with Andrea for just a second," I said, nodding for Andrea to follow me into the sitting room.

"Here's some money in case they want something to eat or drink. Make sure to get Patricia some water, especially if you go far, and…"

"Hey," Andrea said, squeezing my hands. "It's going to be okay. Do you want me to stay back? I can get Emily to take the girls," Andrea said.

"No, no, it will be fine."

"Okay. Text me if you need anything at all," she said, reaching her thumb up to brush the tears from my left eye. "You can do this," she said, kissing me gently on the forehead before running off to catch the girls as they headed out the front steps.

I closed my eyes and wiped my cheek, taking a deep breath before returning to face James.

"What is going on, Miranda?" James asked, interrupting the silence as he leaned against the doorframe in the sitting room.

"I'm just a little emotional," I said. It was not a lie.

"I see that. But what was going on there," he asked, gesturing wildly in my direction. "with Andrea?!"

I bit my lip, hoping he would calm down as I began to explain. "When we spoke several weeks ago, I told you I changed—that something was different."

"Yeah…and you said something about how Andrea's grandmother died and it made you all reflective. Miranda, what is going on?"

"I fell in love," I said, biting my lower lip and closing my eyes as I held my breath. "With Andrea."

James ran his hand through his hair and began pacing the living room. Every time he came near me and opened his mouth to speak, I flinched. Never in my life have I wanted to run away from a situation like I did at this very moment.

"Jesus christ, Miranda!" he shouted. "How can you think it's okay—I mean—she's your assistant—she—she—she's a woman!"

By now, I couldn't help the tears that were streaming down my face as I sat down in the corner of the sofa and pulled my knees up to my chest. I was wrong to think he could have changed in the past ten years.

"Miranda, listen to me, is she putting those thoughts into your head?" he asked, his fingers almost painfully gripping my arms. "Or, is it Nigel? Is he poisoning your mind?"

"Stop! STOP!" I screamed. "You're such a fucking asshole," I cried. "I'm sorry, I can't help it. She—she's changed me."

"Yeah, I'll say," he said, finally releasing my arms. "Can't you see how wrong this is, Mira? Thank god the girls aren't around to hear this."

"James, I want the girls to know. I hoped you would stay so we can all tell them together."

"Wait—that's why?" he asked, jumping up and resuming his pacing. "I need a drink," he said, heading to the kitchen as I mentally prepared myself for phase two. I genuinely did not want to argue with him. For once, I felt like I didn't have the energy to fight.

Meanwhile, Andrea and the girls were sitting down at a small cafe while Patricia got a drink of water from the bowl. Andrea had sent a few text messages to check up on everything back at the townhouse and was beginning to grow worried that she received no reply.

"Hey girls, why don't we start heading back? I know you probably want to spend some time with your mom before going home tonight," Andrea said.

"Ugh! I wish we didn't have to go home. Dad is such a jerk sometimes," Caroline said.

Andrea wanted to stay out of that argument, so she just shrugged and started walking back in the direction of the townhouse, sending another text message: "Is everything okay? Please say something—I'm worried. I love you. xo"

Seconds later, the phone dinged with an incoming message: "Hi Andy, can you please bring the girls back to my house? :)"

Andrea stared at the phone for several minutes, trying to decipher the strange message until it hit her—Miranda didn't write that message. It was all wrong. It must have been James, then. Before she let her mind go crazy imagining scenarios, she quickly engaged the girls in a fun game of "Let's see who can make it to the next block the fastest," which basically meant they were sprinting home.

When James returned to the living room with a glass of scotch, Miranda didn't even notice he had her Blackberry in his other hand. She was very focused on what she was going to say next.

"James, the girls are coming home to live with me—permanently—in three weeks when the schoolyear is through."

"I will not allow it. You're not going to poison them with this garbage, Miranda—I won't let them be raised to think that!"

"That WHAT? That it's okay to love whomever you wish? That all human beings are equal? Is that what you won't let them think!?" I practically growled. "Would you prefer them to grow up preaching hatred and intolerance?"

"Miranda that's not what I meant."

"No, it is," I said, rising to my feet to face him and channeling my best Ice Queen persona. "You've always been that way, just never towards me before. You think America should 'fix' these 'problems and we should hide them from our children—our children, James!"

"Miranda, listen. I can get you help. I know someone who does hypnosis and speciali—"

"Fuck you, James. Fuck! You! I know I haven't been a perfect mother. I've definitely made some questionable decisions in the past twenty years, and I'm truly sorry that I've hurt you along the way. But, now, for the first time in my entire fucking life, I feel alive. Happy. Confident. I want nothing more than to share my life with my daughters before it's too late, and I will not have you turning my girls against me!"

"You know what? When we all get home tonight, we're going to have a nice long talk. What you're doing is disgusting, Miranda. I will not have my daughters exposed to that—or to the media circus that will follow you for years. This," he said, thrusting my phone in my face, "will not last. She's using you, Miranda. She's a whore."

"Where did you get that? Give it back!" I shouted, lunging for my phone.

"You were careless and left it on the counter. Is this what you want your daughters to see? Text conversations and sexting?"

I lunged for the phone again, but he quickly darted out of the way and I fell to my hands and knees on the carpet.

"You're too fucking lonely and desperate to see through it. You're fifty, not sixteen, Miranda. She's a golddigger. Wake up before you ruin my daughters' lives!" he shouted as I collapsed against the floor, burying my head against my arm.

"Get. Out. Of my. House!" I shouted between sobs. "Get out!!" I screamed at the top of my lungs before succumbing once again to my tears.

When Andrea and the girls reached the front porch, they paused to catch their breath. "Why don't you two run up to your mom's bedroom and take Patricia with you? Don't worry about taking your shoes off or anything, just go up there and wait for your mom," Andrea instructed.

"Why?" Cassidy asked.

"I know your mom wants to talk to you, and, well," they froze as they heard Miranda screaming at James to get out.

"Go—upstairs, now," Andrea said, unlocking the door and shooing them all inside. Luckily, Patricia was still in sprinting mode so they practically flew up the steps as Andrea raced into the living room.

I was instantly comforted when I felt her arms wrap around me, her lips softly pressing against my hair as she tried to calm me down. After several minutes following the rise and fall of her chest, I lifted my head.

"Miranda, did he hurt you?" Andrea frantically asked.

"No, I'm okay," I said, gazing at the strong young woman beside me. I know I must have looked like a wreck by then, but seeing Andrea's eyes light up, the only thing on my mind was kissing her.

"What was that for?" she asked as she slowly pulled away.

"I love you, Andrea," I said, taking her face between my hands. "I really do. No matter what anyone else thinks."

"Okay…I love you, too. What happened that had you screaming at James like that?" she asked.

"Wait—where are the girls?" I said, suddenly jumping up and looking around in panic. "Is James still here?!"

"Relax," she said, helping me to my feet and wrapping her arms around my waist. "The girls are upstairs with Patricia in your bedroom, waiting to talk to you. James ran out when I came in."

"What am I going to tell them?" I said. "What if they think like James?"

"We—what are we going to tell them. I told you, we're in this together. Now, what happened with James?"

I sighed. I should have told her beforehand, but part of me knew she would have never let me have that conversation on my own. I probably shouldn't have, I thought.

"When I first met him, he was very…critical…of those who choose to live their lives differently than he does. His family is very conservative, and I had hoped after living in New York City for the past thirty or forty years, he would have somehow understood…"

"It's okay," Andrea said, hugging me tightly. "I get it. I'm so sorry you had to do that alone."

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you."

She shrugged. "Are you worried about the girls?"

"I wasn't. But after talking to James, who knows what he's been putting in their heads," I admitted.

"Well, I don't know exactly how they'll react, but I have a feeling they will be demanding some answers when you get upstairs," Andrea said.


"They heard you screaming," she said, wincing.

Taking a deep breath, I pulled away from Andrea's embrace and clasped her hand, offering her a forced smile. I couldn't have her think she had done anything wrong. Today, she was nothing short of a lifesaver.

I knocked gently before opening my bedroom door, smiling at the girls cuddled with the giant Saint Bernard on the bed, watching TV.

"Mom, are you okay?" Cassidy asked, quickly rushing off the bed and hugging me. I glanced at myself in the mirror and understood the concerned expression.

"Let me just clean up my face," I said, releasing my hand from Andrea's. "Give me a minute."

Cassidy followed me into the bathroom and watched as I cleaned the makeup stains with a cotton ball and some cleanser. My eyes were still red and puffy, but nothing was going to fix that right now. Looking at Cassidy's reflection in the mirror, I smiled. "Better?"

"Yah, a lot better," she said, giggling as I pinched her waist. "Oh, Mom?"

"Yes, baby?"

"I, uh, brought this back," she said as she pulled a white Hermes scarf from her pocket. "I need a new one."

"Okay, darling," I said with a smile, softly kissing my daughter on the cheek. "I'll give you one before you leave," I said. "Hey Cass, what do you think of Andrea?"

"She's cool. Why?"

"She's a very, very good friend, and I've come to care about her a lot. I hope you and your sister can get to know her more, because I know she cares about you, too," I explained.

I watched as my daughter thought about what I said. "Do you love Andy, Mom?"

"Yes, I do, baby. I love her very much."

"Well, then I love her too," Cass said, wrapping her arms around my waist in a hug.

I smiled brightly at my sweet, loving daughter before leading her back into the bedroom where Caroline and Andrea were awkwardly watching the muted television.

I walked over and turned off the program, taking a seat on the bed. "First, I'm sorry if you heard your father and I talking earlier. You must know that we love you both very much. We only fight sometimes because we don't love each other anymore."

They nodded in agreement as I reached behind me for Andrea's hand. She quickly joined me and wrapped her other arm around my shoulder. "But I do love Andrea," I said, biting my lip as I waited for their reaction.

"And I love your mom," Andrea added after a brief silence.

"That's it? That's what you were going to tell us?" Caroline said.

"Yes," I said. I was confused. Did this mean they were okay with it?

"Car, I told you Mom wasn't pregnant!" Cassidy said, playfully hitting her sister as she smiled over at Andrea and me.

We quickly exchanged surprised glances. "No, I am definitely not pregnant," I said. "But do you understand what I meant when I said I loved Andrea? Are you okay with that?"

"You mean like gay, right?" Cassidy asked.

"Why are you asking us if we're okay?" Caroline said. It seemed they were more confused than I was right now.

"I have been spending a lot of time with Andrea lately since she left Runway," I said, being sure to stress that detail. "And, as you know, photographers are everywhere, so—"

"What do we need to expect?" Caroline asked in a very businesslike manner.

"Nothing, darling. Nothing right now. Andrea and I went to visit her grandmother's ashes yesterday at Arlington and we had a friendly picnic. I saw a photographer, but I wasn't sure if they saw us holding hands or kissing on the cheek."

Caroline shrugged.

"So you really don't think it's weird or anything?" I asked in disbelief.

"No. I mean, it's like Uncle Nigel, right? You just like girls," Caroline said.

"Yes, but not exactly girls. Just one girl—Andrea," I said, resting my head against her shoulder.

Caroline and Cassidy exchanged glances before Cassidy finally spoke: "That's cool with us."

I reached over and hugged them both. I couldn't have asked for two more wonderful daughters. When Cassidy reached around and pulled Andrea into our family hug, I felt a tear trail down my cheek.

"When can we move in?" Cassidy asked as we pulled apart.

"Well, this is kind of what your dad and I were disagreeing about earlier. We both want what's best for you, but we have different ideas of what that means," I said.

"Can we just stay here and have Cara bring our stuff over tomorrow?" Caroline asked.

"Darling, it's not so simple. You have school in the morning." I reached up and pinched the bridge of my nose as I tried to think of a way to tell them their father was homophobic without including words like "asshole" and I was coming up blank.

As was the case more and more, Andrea sensed my struggle and took over. "Girls, like you said before, your dad can be a jerk sometimes. He's a good dad because he loves you, but he's not always nice to people he doesn't love. Some people are very closed-minded. They don't like new things or changing the way things work. In their minds, boys are supposed to marry girls and things like that. It's hard for them to understand why others would think differently from them—it's hard for your dad to understand why your mom chooses to love someone like me."

"But you're awesome, Andy! Maybe he just doesn't know you!" Cassidy said, hugging Andrea.

"Aww, thank you, sweetie," she said, "but sometimes people like that are very determined not to know. They are proud of their ignorance, and they do not like to learn new things. No matter what, I want you to know it's not your job to get your dad to like me. You just focus on being you, okay? And let me or your mom know if you have any questions or if anyone says anything to you."

"Okay," they said in unison.

I reached over and took Andrea's hand, gently bringing it to my lips. "Thank you," I whispered. "I love you."

"So, Andy's your girlfriend? Is she going to live here?" Caroline asked.

"Yes, temporarily," I said with a smile. "She moved out of her old apartment and is moving into a new one next week," I explained. "Maybe she'll invite you over for pizza and movies sometime after she gets settled," I said, teasing Andrea with my elbow.

"We'll plan it for a night when your mom has a meeting at work—then we can have pizza, ice cream, and candy!" Andrea said, giggling with my daughters as I rolled my eyes.

"Yeah, all the stuff mom won't let us eat!" Caroline said, grinning at her sister.

"Stuff, Bobbsey? What about 'foods' or something?" I suggested. "You are well-educated and I do hope you have learned enough words by now to string together an eloquent sentence."

"Mom!! You do realize you said 'stuff' at least three times during dinner tonight, right?" Cassidy said.

"And last week, you definitely said it on the phone!"

"I opened my mouth to defend myself, but began chuckling when I saw Andrea was trying very hard to keep from laughing. "And you?" I asked.

"Yes! Jeez, Miranda, I even have text messages from you!" Andrea said, laughing loudly with my daughters. The mention of the text messages sent a strange chill through my body.

"I'll be right back," I said, suddenly jumping off the bed. "I need to—find—I'll be right back." At that moment, the only thing I could think of was finding my Blackberry.

Rushing down the stairs, quickly scanned the kitchen, den, and foyer, but it wasn't in any of the usual places. Remembering how I lunged at James, I went to the opposite side of the room and found my phone on the floor between the bookcase and side table, the battery cover popped off the back.

My hands were shaking as I knelt and turned the device back on.

"Hey," Andrea called as she descended the stairs. "Did you find what you—Miranda?" she gasped, crouching down next to me on the floor. "Sweetie, are you okay?"

I nodded, and she pulled me into her arms. When I was finally able to take a deep breath, I sat up and pulled away.

"I'm sorry, I just—I don't know what happened. You mentioned text messages and I immediately had this fear that James had taken my phone."

"It's okay," Andrea said, squeezing my hand in reassurance. "What can I do?" she asked.

"Where are the girls?"

"They're in their rooms, rearranging something."

I nodded. "Just hold me…please."

We sat like that, huddled against the bookcase for several minutes. If I had a clear head, I would have wondered why Andrea's touch was so calming. Just then, the girls came down the stairs.

"Mom? Andy?" they called. "Mom! Are you okay?"

I squeezed Andrea's hand and stood up. "Yes, my darlings, I'm fine," I said, walking over to them and hugging them tightly. "I can't get over how nice it is to have you two home."

"We want to come back, Mom. I don't like living at dad's but he says we have to," Caroline said.

"Oh, Bobbsey, you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. I'll talk to your dad again and we can figure this out, okay?"

"But Mom, he was being mean to you!"

"Oh darling, don't worry. I can be mean, too, when necessary," I said with a grin as the girls and Andrea began giggling.

Because the girls begged me to let them stay the night, we called James on speakerphone and they politely asked if they could spend the next few nights. I knew James was hesitant, but I was relieved when he didn't say anything in front of the girls, instead promising to drop off their school bags and some clothes later that evening.

After a light dinner of leftovers, James arrived, quite literally dropping off a suitcase and two book bags without saying a word. The girls were thrilled to be spending the night and eagerly took to arranging their rooms and finishing their homework at my kitchen table—our kitchen table.

Later that evening, I decided there was something I wanted to show them. "Why don't you girls come with me? I have something to show you," I said, leading them into the closet in my bedroom.

"Why are we going into the closet?" my daughter asked.

"I want to show you something," I said, reaching up to the box on the top shelf. Sitting on the floor with them, I carefully opened the box.

"You girls remember Grandma Harriet, right?"

"Yeah, she used to squeeze us really tight when she hugged us!" Cassidy said, giggling at the memory.

I smiled at my precious daughters. I, too, remember how my mother gushed over the girls. "Now, please be very careful—some of these letters are fragile," I said as I pulled out the cards banded together that my mother wrote to them. "Here, these are some cards your grandma wrote to you when you were just babies."

"What is all that?" Cassidy asked, pointing at the other letters and cards in the box.

"These are letters she sent me."

"You saved all those?"

"Yeah. It's a nice reminder," I said, feeling my emotions growing too close to the surface. "Andrea?" I called out.

"I'm in here," she called from the bedroom.

"Come here." She took my outstretched hand and sat next to me on the floor. "Why were you out there?"

"It seemed like a family thing," she said, shrugging. "I didn't want to impose."

"Darling," I whispered, turning my head so my daughters couldn't read my lips, "You could never impose. I love you. I need you, here, at my side."

We spent several hours reading through the cards, my girls and I laughing and crying as we shared memories of my mother. As the girls carefully put the the cards away, I reached over and linked my arm in Andrea's, kissing her softly on the cheek before resting my head on her shoulder.

"Thank you for putting up with three sentimental Priestlys," I said.

"Thank you for sharing with me," she said, softly kissing the top of my head.

I looked over to the girls, who were suspiciously quiet, only to be met with twin stares.

"Yes?" I asked.

"You look really happy, Mom," Cassidy said.

"I am, darlings, I am. Come here," I said, reaching out and pulling them into my arms.

Once they were settled in their rooms and tucked in, I met Andrea downstairs in the den, practically collapsing into her arms as I burst into tears.

"What's wrong?" Andrea asked as she held me tightly in her arms. One year ago when we first met, I would have never guessed she would be the one to brush away my tears and hold me through the night.

"Nothing," I said. "It's perfect. I just—I don't know."

"Oh, right," Andrea said, "I almost forgot the crying-when-you're-happy thing," she said. "Here, let's lay here for a while," she said as she stretched out and pulled me alongside her.

"I love you," I said, pressing a kiss to her shoulder.

"Miranda, while I will never tire of hearing that, you really don't have to tell me two hundred times a day," she said, squeezing me tight.

"I'm sorry. I just—it's all I can think about," I said, quietly curling against her.

Twenty minutes must have passed before either of us spoke.

"What are you thinking about?" Andrea asked.

"You—always, you."

"What about me?" she pressed.

Sighing, I softly began tracing my fingers along her forearm. "When I first met you," I started, "I never in a million years would have guessed you were so strong—that you would be my rock. I never thought I'd be sitting down, explaining to my daughters that I loved another woman, or that you would be helping me teach them about intolerance. This past year—no, really the past two months—so much has changed. But, each night I fall asleep without worrying about what tomorrow will bring. And it feels so good. God, Andrea. I don't even have the words to describe what I'm feeling anymore. I just know that I love you so damn much."

I looked up and met Andrea's eyes.

"Darling? Why are you crying?" I asked, suddenly concerned that I hadn't been paying enough attention to her. Was it something I said?

"Because I love you," she whispered, pulling me on top of her and kissing me like it was her last breath.

"Oh Andrea, let me love you," I whispered, moving to straddle her legs.

"No—not here," she groaned, easing my hips off of her. "The girls," she said, swiftly picking me up off my feet. I instinctively wrapped my arms around her neck as she carried me up the stairs and into the bedroom, gently laying me on the bed as she went back to lock the door.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, my lower muscles quivering as I felt the mattress dip.

"Not tonight," she whispered, softly brushing her knuckles along my cheek. "I just want to hold you until you fall asleep," she added with a kiss to my temple.

I pulled myself up towards the headboard. "Is everything alright, darling?"

"Yes. Better than 'alright'—it's perfect," she said. "I've just been thinking about a lot of stuff this weekend, namely how quickly our relationship has progressed, and I…well, I just would prefer the slow-and-steady route."

"Mmmhh," I nodded in agreement, "now you tell me. What other stuff were you thinking about?" I asked with a hint of mischief in my eye.

Within seconds, Andrea and I burst out laughing. I curled against her slide as she protectively wrapped her arm around my shoulders.

"I was thinking about how grateful I am. Some days I wake up and wonder if I'm dreaming."

"Darling, if you're dreaming, I'm having the same incredible dream," I said, kissing her passionately before we drifted off into a restful slumber.

The next day was, well, challenging. It had been months since I got the girls up, ready, and off to school on time, and to complicate things, Andrea was also trying to get ready and out the door for her first day at work.

Having just dropped the girls off at Dalton, I found myself lost in thought, as this was the first time I'd had to myself since, well, Friday morning. I knew Andrea was nervous for her first day, and I wished there was something more I could do to reassure her. If it were possible, I would stay with her all day, but certainly having Miranda Priestly shadowing her would not allow her to establish the credibility she so yearned for.

Since Andrea was too rushed trying on outfits this morning, she didn't have a chance to eat breakfast—and she probably didn't have the opportunity to grab anything once she got off the subway. I felt awful allowing her to ride that crowded, filthy train, but I knew I needed to give her some space to make her own decisions.

As we pulled up to Elias-Clarke, I motioned for Roy to stay in the car. I quickly pulled out a $20 bill and scribbled a note.

"Roy? Can you do me a favor?" I asked.

"Of course, anything," he responded.

"Please stop at that cupcake place Andrea likes on 58th and get her a cupcake—red velvet, I think. Then, please deliver it to her at The Mirror with this," I said, handing him the note and the cash.

"Of course, Miranda," he said.

"I'm sorry to ask this of you, Roy, but—I just can't—"

"I understand," he said. "You can't have Emily or a messenger do this without revealing your relationship. Don't worry. I'll be discreet."

"Thank you," I said. "See you later."

Roy tipped his hat and I exited the vehicle, marching through the doors and into the waiting elevator. Time to pull it together.

Meanwhile, Andrea had just finished meeting with Human Resources at The Mirror and John was showing her to her new office, as well as introducing her to the staff. He gave her the next few hours to finish some paperwork, and had arranged for a lunch with his team to welcome her to their department.

Andrea was starving. Having already finished the forms and setting up her email, she casually began rearranging her desk—anything to keep her from checking the clock or texting Miranda.

Then, she overheard a familiar voice speaking to the administrative assistant at the desk near the door. Smiling, she looked up as Roy gave a wink before heading out the door. Lizzy, their assistant—her assistant—softly knocked on the door.

"Ms. Sachs? I have a delivery for you," she said quietly.

"Thank you, Lizzy," Andrea responded, taking the small box from the young girl and closing the door behind her.

She certainly recognized the box, and knew it could only be one of maybe three people who would send her something on her first day. Opening the lid, she saw a small note nestled against a delicious-looking red velvet cupcake from Crumbs.

My darling Andrea, I wish you the very best as you embark upon a new journey in your career today. I am so very proud of you. I love you so much it hurts. Always, MP xo

Andrea's fingers softly traced the paper, fighting back tears. When her eyes returned to the cupcake—complete with a miniature fork and knife—she began to laugh. "No one at Runway would ever believe that Miranda sent sickly sweet and sugary cupcake to someone, hoping they would eat and enjoy it!" she said to herself before digging in to the satisfying treat.

Lizzy quietly interrupted her thoughts. "Ms. Sachs, we're leaving for lunch in five minutes."

"Thanks, Lizzy. And please, call me Andy," she said. The young assistant nodded before heading back.

Gathering her bag and coat, she quickly sent a message: "Best breakfast ever. I love you and miss you. Be nice to your new second assistant today, please. I'll see you at home and make everything up to you. ;)"

I grinned as an incoming text message dinged on my Blackberry—I knew Andrea must have received my present. Chuckling, I quickly replied "I can't wait. :)"

I didn't see Andrea until nearly 7:00 PM that evening when she finally returned home. I left the office at 2:30 to go with Roy to pick up the girls, and I worked from my office at home for the rest of the afternoon. The girls were just finishing their homework when Andrea walked in the door, and it warmed my heart to hear them rush to the door to greet her and ask about her day.

"Moommm! Andy's home—and she's starved, she says. Can we eat now?!" Caroline shouted upstairs.

Smiling, I closed my laptop and turned off the light in my office, meeting my family at the base of the stairs. Family, I thought, that sounds nice.

"Andrea," I said, "how was your first day?"

My daughters were each holding one of her hands, trying to tug her towards the kitchen.

"Moomm, let's just eat. She can tell you at the table," Cassidy said, rolling her eyes.

Andrea shrugged and followed the girls into the kitchen.

"Cassidy, why don't you clear your schoolwork off and set the table? Caroline, please get the salad from the refrigerator. I need to talk to Andrea in private for a minute."

The girls groaned as they reluctantly let go of Andrea's hands and headed into the kitchen.

I quickly tugged Andrea's hand and pulled her down the hall and into the bathroom, pinning her against the back of the door as I pressed my lips against hers.

"Ohh, Andrea," I moaned as her hands slipped under my blouse. "Oh god, I missed you, darling."

"Miraaaaanda," she moaned as our lips danced across each other's skin, "oh, I'm so ready—I need you."

"But the girls—"

"Hurry, quick," she said, unbuttoning her pants and pushing them down around her knees.

I slid my hand inside her lacy underwear and quickly slid my fingers inside, pinching her rosy bud with my thumb as her orgasm washed over her. I pulled my fingers out and licked her juices as I grabbed a washcloth and gently cleaned her up—enough that she could survive dinner, anyway.

"Thank you," she panted. Her cheeks were rosy and I could see beads of sweat along her hairline.

"More later," I said with a wink as I slipped out of the bathroom and headed to the kitchen to take the lamb chops from the oven where they were keeping warm.

Andrea joined us in the kitchen two minutes later. "Thanks guys, I needed to freshen up," she said as she took her seat. "This looks delicious, thanks!"

"Thank you," I whispered, leaning over and kissing her softly on the cheek as she began to tell us all the details of her first day at work.

After the girls went to bed, I realized how much I enjoyed catching up with the young woman. Even though I found myself thinking of her far too often during the work day, knowing that I would be able to spend time with her in the evening was comforting.

"So, closing is on Wednesday, right?" she asked.

"Yes," I said, sipping my tea as I browsed through the Book.

"I wish I could be there with you."

"Darling," I said, "you really shouldn't be there anyway. Jonathan is coming with me—it should be very quick since they don't have to wait for the bank to transfer the balance."


"It's a cash sale. There will be no mortgage, so the bank doesn't have to wire money to the third-party holding company," I explained. "Let's talk about something else," I said. I honestly didn't mind discussing the closing, but I was extremely nervous about James or Stephen discovering our arrangement with the condo. Stephen, I thought. My court date to finalize the divorce was approaching—on Thursday.

"I'm sorry," Andrea said, setting her glass of water on the coaster. "I'm going to head to bed—I—I'm going to have a busy day tomorrow," she said before she walked out of the study.

As she shut the door behind her, I took off my glasses and closed the Book. "Shit!" I said, resting my head in my hands. I didn't intend to push her away, but it was clear that's what I did.

When I walked into the bedroom, Andrea was curled up facing the window. The lights were off. I quickly used the bathroom and changed into my pajamas before crawling into bed and snuggling up behind the young woman.

"Darling, I'm sorry. I just wanted to change the subject. I was starting to worry about James using you against me, and I just needed to think about something different."

"I'm clearly being bothersome to you," she said. "I can go to the guest room or get a hotel—"

"No. No! Andrea, look at me!" I said, sitting up with her and turning her shoulders to face me. "Don't—why are you doing this to me?" I cried, bringing my left fist to my mouth to stifle my sobs. I didn't want my daughters waking up to me crying.

I knew I was manipulating Andrea. I knew she couldn't resist my tears and would wrap her arms around me in an instant, but it's not like the tears weren't honest.

"Shh, I'm sorry," she said, kissing my cheek and taking my hands. "I'm sorry, Miranda. I'm just being emotional. We both have a lot of changes in our lives right now."

"Please—don't leave me," I cried, "not yet—I love you."

"Miranda, I'm not leaving—never," she said. That evening, I was lulled to sleep by Andrea's sweet reassurance.

Tuesday passed much like Monday, but minus one delicious breakfast cupcake. On Wednesday, Andrea left early for work, and I again planned to leave the office by three in order to be home with my daughters. The school year would be over in a few weeks, and I knew I would be forced to have Cara watch them for a few hours a day during the summer. Right now, I wanted to spend as much time as possible with them.

It wasn't until now that I realized I had taken my full custody privileges for granted. I could have been spending every waking moment with them, but I chose Runway instead. It wasn't difficult to leave a few hours early. I actually found it quite simple to focus on my work when the girls were doing their homework at the dining room table with me.

Before Andrea, there was little doubt that their father would win a legal battle against me. Come to think of it, it was strange that I hadn't heard from James since Sunday.

"Miranda?" Emily called quietly from the doorway, jolting me from my thoughts. "It is 12:15 PM, and Roy is waiting downstairs with Jonathan."

I quickly jumped up, nearly forgetting about the closing. I grabbed my bag from under my desk and met Emily where she was holding the elevator for me. "Have the apartment painted this afternoon, then cleaned. There is furniture on hold at the store I like, so arrange to have that delivered tomorrow. That's all," I said as the elevator doors shut.

I smiled to myself—sending Emily on these little missions always made me smile. I hadn't given her the address, keys, paint colors, or name of the furniture store, but I knew she would have everything executed flawlessly. Although, thinking back to her choice of eyeshadow today, maybe I shouldn't have let her choose the paint colors.

The closing went by quickly, as expected. By 1:15 PM, I was strolling back into Runway. I deposited the spare key on Emily's desk with strict instructions not to make a copy. She jumped up to show me a few new designs we received from Thierry Mugler, and I instructed her to take them to Nigel before walking into my office and shutting the door.

"Hello, Andrea Sachs please?" I said after dialing the number to Andrea's office.

"Just one moment. May I inform her who is calling?" an all-too-cheerful assistant asked.


"…do you have a last name?"

"No. If you do not connect me to her extension in the next five—"

"Miranda?" Andrea answered frantically. "What's wrong? Are you okay?"

"Darling. Hello," I said sweetly.

"Is everything okay? Lizzy is practically in tears."

"Andrea, you need to figure out how one makes a direct call in your office. I simply cannot keep going through that incompetent…Lizzy."

Andrea chuckled, "Okay. I'll figure it out before I leave. How is your day?"

"Fine, just fine. I'm looking at the keys to your new apartment now," I said with a smile, even though she couldn't see me.

"Yayy!!!" she squealed into the phone.

"Calm down," I said, laughing. "What time will you be home tonight?"

"Probably late again—I'm sorry. I just really want to get up to speed here," she explained.

"I understand, darling. Should we hold dinner for you?"

"No. The girls need to eat at a decent time. But thank you. I will try to be home by 8."

"That's fine," I said. "I have a lot to work on for tomorrow anyway. I'll see you later, darling."

"Bye, Miranda. Oh—" she added, "thank you for calling me at work. It's nice to hear your voice during the day."

"Likewise," I said, ending the call before heading back to my desk to finish reviewing the accessories layout.

Once Roy picked up the girls from Dalton, he drove by Elias-Clarke to pick me up and we all rode home together. It was nice, coming home with my daughters, fixing them an after-school snack. What else did I miss out on all these years? I wondered.

Later that evening, after homework and dinner, I retired to my study while the girls went to get ready for bed. I closed the door and immediately dialed Leslie to discuss the strategy for tomorrow's divorce proceedings, taking advantage of Andrea's absence.

I was required to be at the courthouse at 10:00 AM, though our case would likely not be called until close to noon, if not after lunch. I had Emily clear my schedule for practically the entire day, save one call with Tokyo at 7:30AM, for which I would have to be in the office early.

Leslie was confident that things would go smoothly. There was nothing to contest, and Stephen was satisfied with his settlement. After all, he was considerably wealthy himself, so it was never really my money he wanted. He did negotiate a Van Gogh work we purchased together at Sothebys, but I had taken it down from the bedroom wall weeks before he even filed for divorce, so that did not matter. Again, Leslie cautioned me not to bring Andrea or any other assistant with me, just to be safe. I agreed.

I hardly heard Andrea come in the house, as I had been staring into space at my desk, deep in thought. I gathered my senses and headed downstairs, seeing that it was nearly 9:30 PM and the Book had not been delivered yet.

"I'm sorry I'm late," she said as she dug through the refrigerator, looking for something to eat.

I shrugged my shoulders, knowing I wouldn't have been much company this evening anyway. Stepping closer, I wrapped my arm around her shoulders and kissed her softly on the cheek. "Did you have a good day at work?"

"Yes, it's going great," she said, pulling away and grabbing a plate as she set her armful of bread, cheese, turkey, lettuce, and mayonnaise on the counter.

"That's good," I said.

"Is everything okay? You seem kind of distant today," she said.

"No, just tired. Still waiting on the Book, and I have to be in for a 7:30 AM call with Hong Kong—no, wait, Tokyo—tomorrow," I said, yawning. Sleep was the only thing that could slow down my mind at this point. "I'm going to run up and tuck the girls in. Can you bring up the Book if it comes?"

"Sure," she said as she carefully constructed her sandwich.

Upstairs, I spent a few minutes with my girls, brushing their hair and talking about school.

"Mom, I like this. Us. Being together like this," Cassidy said.

"Yeah, I love how you're home more now," Caroline added.

"Oh, my darlings, I love it, too. I wouldn't give this up for anything," I said, hugging them both tightly.

"Not even Runway?" Caroline asked.

"No, never," I said. "I would quit my job in a heartbeat if I needed to," I said, pulling them in tighter.

"Oofh!" Cassidy grunted. "You're hugging us like Grandma Harriet!" she giggled.

I smiled and kissed each of them on the forehead, tucking them in.

I saw the lights still on downstairs, but for some reason tonight, making conversation with Andrea seemed like too much effort, so I returned to the study and sat at my desk, reading through emails.

Little did I know that downstairs, Andrea was busy texting Emily.

Andy Sachs: "Did you leave the office yet?"

Emily Charlton: "No. Waiting for the Book."

Andy Sachs: "When you bring it, can you also bring me something to wear for Miranda tonight?"

Emily Charlton: "TMI! I shan't!"

Andy Sachs: "Please, Em. Miranda's really stressed this week for some reason. I promise you she will be in a better mood tomorrow…"

Emily Charlton: "Ugh, you win. I wish I knew nothing. What do you want?"

Andy Sachs: "Well, the last thing she really liked was that Versace lace minidress. Do you have anything—dress or even loungewear that may have caught her eye?"

Emily Charlton: "I think I do. Just came in today. She gasped at it, and I presumed she hated it, but now I think I know more than I want to. Okay, Book just came. I'll be over in 20 minutes."

Andy Sachs: "Thanks Em!"

When Andrea came upstairs with the Book, I thought nothing of it. She dropped it at my desk, and I immediately began flipping through the pages.

"You're still in your work clothes?" she asked.

I glanced down at the wrinkled pinstripe suit, the silk camisole untucked. "Yes, I haven't had time to change," I said quickly returning to my task. She sat on the couch with a glass of water, fidgeting as she always did. Knowing I would be out of the office for most of the day tomorrow, I needed to get as much accomplished tonight as humanly possible.

I thought nothing of it when Andrea stood and left the room, nor when she returned a few minutes later. It wasn't until she was standing next to my chair that I finally looked up.

"Andrea," I gasped. I could already feel my throat going dry. I pushed my chair back from the desk as she stalked towards me, my eyes taking in the lace bodystocking she was wearing. It was the same one Emily had shown me this afternoon, but as she was striding closer, I didn't have time to think of how or why it passed from Emily to Andrea.

She slowly straddled me in the chair. My hands were drawn to her skin like magnets. I slowly ran my hands across the thin, silky lace covering her entire body, feeling how she reacted to my touch, her pebbled nipples straining against the smooth lace.

As beautiful as her breasts were encased in lace, I needed to free them. Thankfully, the deep-v neckline allowed me to do so without cutting a hole in the lace—and yes, that actually crossed my mind.

Her moans were so sweet and delicious as she undulated her hips over mine, snaking her hand down between our legs and pushing my skirt up around my waist. I hissed as she pushed aside my silk thong and plunged her fingers inside me. I finally let go of her breast and rested my hands at her hips, tossing my head backwards as it was growing too complicated to do anything with this beautiful creature undulating inside me.

"Oh god, Andrea—I can't—ohh—ohhh," I babbled.

"Wait—wait for me," she whispered against my neck as she stilled her fingers. She softly took my my hand and slid it backwards, practically cupping her ass. I could do that, I thought. But then, she pushed farther, and I realized she was wearing a crotchless bodysuit as i felt her slick folds with my fingertips. "Ohhh, Miranda, I'm so close," she practically growled.

I, too, was ready to explode, so I quickly began pumping my fingers inside her slick walls as she pinched my clit between her thumb and forefinger, bringing me to climax.

Before I realized what was going on, she slid down onto her knees and gently pulled my hips forward to the edge of the chair. I could feel my sticky fluids coating the leather chair I was sitting in, but I didn't have time to think about that when Andrea's tongue began assaulting my core.

"More, oh god, Andrea, harder, faster, more," I begged as I bucked my hips, practically sliding off the slick surface of the chair.

Andrea carefully lifted my legs up and over the arms of the chair so they rested just beneath my knees, keeping my legs spread wide for her. I gasped and moaned as I thoroughly enjoyed this delicious torture at the mouth of my lover. When she finally took my already-hardened bud between her teeth, I came harder than I'd ever come, practically howling in pleasure as she unbuttoned my blouse with her hands. She carefully lowered my feet to the floor and stepped back, leaning on the desk, her lips glistening with my juices.

I stood shakily, quickly discarding my clothes without breaking my gaze. I wanted—no, needed—to feel that exquisite lace against my skin. Pushing the Book and a few photo frames off to the side, I pushed her back onto the desk and climbed on top of her, kissing her neck and décolletage as my hand reached down to her slick folds. Her lace-encased breasts felt exquisite against mine as I slowly slid down to drink her juices.

Her thighs quivered, and by this point she was having difficulty keeping her legs apart. As her lacy inner thigh pressed against my cheek, I abandoned my task to lick and suck her skin, biting small holes in the lace that prevented my tongue from tasting all of her. She was going crazy—I could tell by the way she was pressing her fingers against her clit.

Resuming my earlier task, I thrust my fingers inside as I sucked on her bud, feeling her inner walls clenching my fingers and pulling me deeper as her body grew rigid. As she calmed, I slipped my fingers out and pulled her onto my lap on my chair, holding her close.

Andrea's eyes fluttered opened and she pressed her lips to mine in a passionate kiss.

"Darling," I said, clearing my throat after realizing we hadn't really spoken in the past thirty minutes. "What was all this about? You look incredible in this Versace, if that wasn't clear."

"I thought you might like it," she said with a grin. "Emily said you gasped when you saw it."

"Ahh, I suppose I did," I said, smiling.

"Miranda, will you tell me what's on your mind today?" she asked.

"You, and how much I want to rip this bodysuit off of you," I said.

"No, I think we can have a lot more fun with this one," Andrea said with a wink. "Something was on your mind when I came home, and it was not me. Talk to me, Miranda," she said.

I took a deep breath. "Andrea, I love you—so much," I said. "Why don't you shower and get ready for bed. I'll clean up in here—"

"No. I'll clean up here. I'll meet you in bed, okay?" she said, standing from my lap and helping me off the chair slowly. My sticky, sweaty body was not playing well with the leather chair. "Here," she said, handing me my robe, "I thought you might need this."

"Thank you," I said with a smile, grabbing the Book and heading down the hall to my bedroom to shower.

Fifteen minutes later, Andrea stepped into my bedroom wearing boxers and a tank. She locked the door behind her and crawled into bed next to me. I finished making notes on the last page of the Book and closed it, carefully setting it on the floor before I turned out the light and snuggled into the woman next to me.

"I have a court date tomorrow with Stephen to finalize the divorce," I said, burying my head on the young woman's shoulder.

"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked. "I'll call in sick tomorrow and come with you."

"No!" I shouted, perhaps a little too loud judging by her reaction. "No. I'm sorry. You cannot come with me. This is why I didn't tell you."

"Huh? Why not?"

"Everything has been going so well. He hasn't contested anything, and this will be one of the quickest, uncomplicated divorces on record. Even Leslie agrees that you cannot be seen with me tomorrow."

"Well, I will wait in the car with Roy and see you when you come out, after it's official," she said.

"No. Andrea, please. If Stephen doesn't make it an issue, then maybe, I don't know, maybe it won't be an issue for James," I said.

"Have you talked to him?"

"No. Not since Sunday. I'm scared. What if he tries to file for custody?"

"Relax," she said, soothingly tracing her hand along my back. "One step at a time. Tomorrow you'll be in court with Stephen, and Leslie will be there with you. I'll stay far away, but I'll keep my phone on me so I don't miss any calls. Tomorrow night, we can talk about James. Maybe Leslie can recommend a family court attorney who has dealt with same-sex couples like this," she said.

"You're right," I said with a sigh. "Promise you're not upset about tomorrow?"

"Of course not. I mean, I wish I could be with you, but I understand the situation. I'll do whatever you need."

"Thank you," I said, closing my eyes and allowing myself to fall asleep in her arms.

Thursday morning, I sent Andrea to ride with the girls to Dalton, as I needed to be to work earlier. My morning was going fine until about 9:30 AM when Nigel walked into my office with my coat and bag.

"What on earth are you doing?" I asked, snatching my coat and bag from him.

"Coming with you," he said.

"Oh, don't be absurd, Nigel, you're too busy."

"No. Emily cleared my schedule, which was easy considering half of my meetings were with you."

"But, Nige, how did you even—?" I began to ask, wondering if I actually did tell Nigel the details after all.

"Andy. She called me. She didn't want you to be alone. Mira, I know you don't need anyone with you, but I want to be there. I'm coming as your friend, okay?" he asked, softly placing his hand at my lower back as he led me into the elevator.

"Okay," I said, nodding and trying to hold back tears.

As it turned out, I was truly grateful to have a friend there to talk to while we waited. Leslie was busy on the phone, and Nigel and I were able to play our little what-not-to-wear game with the others waiting in the busy courthouse.

Our case was the last case called before lunch. The judge was a woman, and she looked familiar. I nodded as if we had met before—it must have been at one of the benefits. She was harsh on Stephen, almost too harsh when she scolded him for his drinking with young children under the same roof.

When the judge asked if I had anything to say, my response was "No, your honor," and with that she granted my divorce. I allowed myself a few minutes of enjoyment as I hugged and thanked Leslie and shared a quick hug and kiss on the cheek with Nigel.

"What!?" Stephen bellowed as we were exiting the courtroom. "You bring your new boy toy to court with you!?"

I bit my lip to keep from laughing as I looked over at Nigel.

"First," Nigel said, "I am nobody's toy. Second," he said, gesturing dramatically, "my boyfriend would not appreciate that. Third, if you had been a decent husband worth keeping around, you'd know that I have been Miranda's best friend for over twenty years, and that I work with her at Runway. But I guess you were too drunk at those dinners and benefits to remember meeting me."

"Order!!" The judge called as Stephen's lawyer held his wrist and kept him from lunging at Nigel.

"Good riddance!" Nigel said before storming out of the courtroom, myself and Leslie on his heels.

In the car, Nigel and I were laughing so hard we could hardly catch our breath. We stopped for lunch at Smith & Wollensky, where I quickly texted Andrea: "No more Stephen. I'm all yours, darling. See you tonight. xo"

"So you two are really that serious?" Nigel asked.

"Yeah, I guess so," I said. "But it's funny. I don't think of us as being serious. It's just like she's my best friend, who I also happen to be ridiculously attracted to. It's…I don't know. I can't explain it."

"It's love," Nigel said with a sappy smile.

"So wait, do you really have a boyfriend?" I asked, changing the subject.

"I'm surprised it took you an hour to finally ask. Yes, nothing official, but we've been seeing each other for the past few weeks or so."

"You're not going to tell me more?" I asked in disbelief.

"Well, do you promise you won't say anything to Andy?" he said nervously.

"Uh, okay, I promise," I said. "Why is she involved?"

"Well, the guy I'm seeing, Doug—"

"…was one of her best friends," I said, finishing his sentence. I recalled her saying her friends stopped hanging around once she and Nate broke up. "When did you meet?"

"That's just it. About six months ago. Andy was meeting him for drinks after work and I happened to be walking out at the same time. He gave me his business card and told me to call if I was ever looking for a stock broker. It was a little too professional and I never really thought about him again, until a few weeks ago. He came up to me in a coffee shop and reintroduced himself."

"So, why can't we tell Andrea?" I asked.

"He says he isn't ready to talk to her. I don't think he knows she's gay—he certainly doesn't know she's in a relationship with you," Nigel said, "but this is not our place to interfere."

"I suppose," I said, "But this Doug—you like him? Is he good for you?"

"Yeah. I think so," Nigel said. "I mean, we're still getting to know each other, but it feels good."

"Well, I hope so. You deserve some happiness," I said, digging into my steak.

x o x o

We returned to the office around 2:00 PM. Roy would return in an hour to pick me up and drive me and the girls home. "Emily, please arrange to have dinner delivered to the townhouse for four tonight at six—from that place with the pasta the girls like."

Emily nodded and scribbled something on her clipboard. "Miranda, here are the keys back to the apartment. It has been painted, cleaned, and the furniture was delivered this afternoon. I unwrapped and arranged it as best I could, but I'm not sure where you wanted…"

"Did the linens come in?" I asked, suddenly having an idea.

"Yes, I put them on the bed and the other towels in the bathroom."

"Thank you, Emily. That's all," I said.

Everything was falling into place. I would spend some time working with the girls, then we would eat dinner with Andrea, and then I would give Andrea the keys to her new place.

I sifted through a few emails, anxiously waiting for Roy to pick me up. When I saw my Blackberry vibrating on the desk, I was surprised to find Roy calling. I picked up the phone and stood to face the window, allowing me a tiny bit of privacy with the call.

"Hello, Roy?"

"Miranda, I'm sorry to bother you, but the girls weren't at school."

"What do you mean?" I asked as my heart began pounding. "Where are they?"

"They didn't come out with the rest of their peers, so I went inside and inquired with the main office," he said quickly. "The woman told me their father signed them out twenty minutes before the last bell. Should I pick them up there?"

"No. That's all." I said, only slightly relieved that they were with their father instead of some stranger. As far as I knew the girls did not have any appointments coming up, but then again, there was the possibility James had scheduled a check-up weeks ago.

Why I was giving him the benefit of the doubt, I didn't know. Maybe because it was the better alternative, I thought as I dialed his number. After several rings, he finally answered.

"Miranda, I was expecting your call," he answered.

"James, Dalton tells me you signed the girls out early? Is everything okay?" I asked, trying to remain calm.

"Yes, they're fine."

"Well, can I speak to them? When are you bringing them home?"

"They're busy right now."

"James, when should I expect them home—or would you like me to pick them up?" I asked. His short answers were seriously trying what little patience I had left.

"They're not going home with you, Miranda. Not while you're still on this lesbian thing," he said, whispering the last part as if it were too taboo to say aloud.

"Damnit, James!" I cried feeling a sense of panic wash over me. "You have no right to do this! I have full custody!"

"Not for long. I'm having my lawyer draw up some papers now. Currently, you are—wait, how did he say it? Oh, yes, you are a 'threat to the girls' emotional well-being and it is in their best interest to stay here.'"

"You kidnapped them!" I cried, banging my hand against the wall. "Put them on the phone NOW or I'm calling the police! I mean it!" I cried.

I heard muffled voices on the other end of the line; he was clearly covering the mouthpiece while he told them something.

"Damnit, James!! I want to talk to the girls!"

"Okay, okay. You're on speaker now," he said.


"Oh baby, Cassidy, sweetheart I love you and miss you so much. Is your sister there?"

"Yeah. Hi, Mom. We miss you too. Are you coming to pick us up here?"

"I will be there in a heartbeat if your dad lets me," I said, "but right now I just want to know that you girls are safe. Did your dad hurt you at all?"

"Fuck you, Miranda," he said, picking up the receiver. "You and the garbage you're filling their minds with!"

"Please watch your language in front of them! And is it so wrong to be concerned for my children's welfare when they are practically abducted from school?!" I spat.

In the background, I heard Cassidy crying, and James was whispering something, trying to get her to stop. Paralyzing fear filled my veins as I worried for my daughters' safety.

I took a deep breath. "Let me talk to Cass," I said.


"Baby, I'm here. What's wrong?"

"Dad threw the scarf away," she said between tears.

"What? What scarf?" I asked.

"The new white one you gave me the other day. I had it tied to my backpack and he ripped it off!" she cried.

"Baby, it's okay. I can get you another one. I love you, my darling. I'll drop one off right now," I said.

"NO," James interrupted. "You are not coming here. Miranda, I'm filing an order of protection to keep you away from them," he said, quietly so the girls wouldn't hear. "If it's up to me, you'll never see these girls again!"

"But that's not what they want—" I started saying as tears flowed down my face, only to realize that the line was dead.

I was beyond sobbing, my body shaking violently as I took in giant gulps of air. I slowly slid down the wall…and then everything went black.

When I woke, Nigel was cradling my head in his lap. "Mira!!" he cried, kissing me as he helped me to sit up. "Are you okay? Do you need a doctor?"

As soon as I saw my Blackberry on the floor, I remembered everything and began crying into his arms. "He took my babies, Nigel. He took them away from me!"

"Shh, shh, we'll get them back," he said, trying to reassure me. "Do you want to call the police?"

"No, I don't want that. James won't hurt them, will he? Oh god," I cried even harder.

"Emily," Nigel said, "have your friend at the NYPD keep watch on the house to make sure he doesn't take them anywhere. And I thought you said she was on her way?!"

Judging by the sound of her voice, Emily was standing right next to Nigel. I could only imagine how ridiculous I looked at the moment, so I kept my head buried in his shoulder, willing my audience to disappear.

"She is," Emily said. "There was an accident on Fifth blocking all lanes. She texted that she was getting out of the taxi and would run here. I can only imagine what she'll look like when she gets here."

"Have security hold an elevator for her," Nigel said. Emily quickly left the room.

"Who?" I asked. My body was still shaking uncontrollably, so I tried to curl up tightly against Nigel's body. "I'm c-c-cold," I said.

"Come here," Nigel said, lifting me to my feet and walking me to the couch. I curled up against the pillows as he draped the wool/cashmere blend throw over my body.

It felt much warmer, but I was still shaking and I couldn't seem to stop the tears from falling. What was going on?

"Miranda!" she called from the outer office, and I soon felt her arms around me. My Andrea, I thought as tears continued to stream down my cheeks.

"Em, go find some Xanax or Valium or Ativan or something. Someone here has got to have one," Andrea said. "It's okay, Miranda," she whispered, "just try to relax. It's going to be okay," she reassured. Her mere presence was comfort enough, and I could feel my body stop shaking.

We sat like that on the couch for several minutes, Andrea's body draped over mine as she whispered reassurances into my ear. Finally, Emily ran in with a glass of water and two small blue pills. "Take this," Andrea said, handing me the pills and holding the water up to my lips.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Xanax," Emily said.

"Both?" I asked. It had been years since I'd taken anti-anxiety medication.

"Yes," Andrea said, "it's a small dosage."

Once I swallowed the pills, Andrea stood to hand the glass back to Emily, and I shrieked at the loss of contact. "Hey, hey, I'm right here," she said, immediately returning to my side. "Nigel, please shut the door for a minute," she said, adjusting her position on the couch.

"Miranda, look at me," she said firmly. I tried to focus on her eyes. I felt her hands against my cheek. "Take a deep breath with me," she said. "In…and out. Let's do it again. In…and out."

After several minutes, I closed my eyes and felt my breathing return to normal as her hand brushed my cheek.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

I slowly shook my head. "No. I'm scared," I said. "I want my girls back."

"I know you do," she said, hugging me tightly. "But you have to be strong for them, okay? I'm scared, too, but we can do this together," she said.

"Don't you understand? That's why he took them—because we're together. He's going to make me choose between you and them," I cried, burying my face in her neck.

"I know you will choose your daughters over me, but that's part of what I love most about you. Please don't worry about me. We will figure it out."

I quietly nodded and pushed myself up. My eyes hurt from crying, and I could only imagine what I looked like. "I need to clean up," I said.

"No," she said, picking up the argan oil cleanser Emily had brought to the side table earlier. "Let me."

I nodded and Andrea gently removed my makeup, then added a lightweight tinted moisturizer. "I love you," she said, softly kissing my lips before adding a light pink gloss. "Are you ready to go home?"

"Yes," I said, allowing her to help me balance while I stepped back into my heels and put on my oversized, dark sunglasses.

The ride back to the townhouse seemed to take ages, but that was probably because neither of us spoke. Halfway through the ride, I reached over and squeezed Andrea's hand. I couldn't bear to look in her eyes and see the hurt. That she knew I would choose my daughters over anything was painful but true. In a strange way, it was reassuring to know she, too, was scared.

When we approached the townhouse, Roy got out to open the door for me.

"Are they all here because of the divorce?" Andrea asked, gazing out at the twenty or thirty cameramen and reporters gathered around the steps to the town house.

"I guess so," I said. Andrea quickly darted out the other door and ran up to the front door, clearing a path and reminding the reporters that my steps were private property and they would be prosecuted for trespassing.

Andrea unlocked the door as Roy ushered me up the stairs, but then I felt someone tug on my elbow. I stopped and turned, meeting eyes with an older woman, perhaps older than I was. She had ashy blonde hair with grey roots, and she was wearing an oversized, wrinkled blouse with masculine-looking khakis and a pair of Birkenstock sandals.

"Miranda, would you like to make a statement on your latest divorce? Is there another Mr. Priestly in waiting?" she asked, sticking her recording device in my direction.

"What's your name?" I asked.

"Marjorie. I'm with The Post," she said.

"Marjorie, let me tell you something. There is nothing more important to me than my eleven-year-old daughters, daughters whom I have custody of. Their father is trying to keep them from me and won't let me see them, and getting them back is my number one priority. And you are concerned with my divorce? While your priorities obviously differ, please stay out of my way as I attend to mine." I said, storming up the stairs.

I was doing everything I could to keep it together until the door was closed safely behind me. I felt my chest tightening and was beyond grateful when I felt a strong arm around me, whisking me towards the staircase. My legs were shaking.

"I—I need to sit," I said, grabbing the rail and collapsing onto the stair.

"I'm going to get you a glass of water," Andrea said, rushing off to the kitchen.

I kicked off my heels and shrugged off my embroidered blazer as I tried to take a deep breath. Andrea returned and handed me the glass of water, gently tracing circles on my back.

"Let's go upstairs," she said. "You'll feel better once you can lay down and get some rest."

I took a deep breath and nodded as she helped me up to the second floor, then onto my bed. I unbuttoned and kicked off my trousers.

"Lay with me?" I asked. She quickly stepped out of her heels and laid next to me on the bed. "Andrea, what am I going to do?" I asked, curling up against her and laying my head on her shoulder.

"We'll figure it out," she said, pulling me closer. "Just get some rest, and we'll have a plan ready when you wake up. I do need to go back to the office, but I'll be home no later than 8 PM." I nodded and drifted off to sleep with her hand gently squeezing my own.

I woke about two hours later, and felt very groggy. My head was heavy, my hair was matted, and I had definitely been drooling on the pillowcase. Didn't I fall asleep on Andrea? I wondered. Sitting up, I saw a note on my dresser under a bottle of water: Went back to the office to finish up—will be home by 8. Rest up and call if you need anything. Love you. xo A

I smiled, climbing out of bed and making my way to the bathroom. It was only six o'clock, so I changed out of my blouse and threw on one of Andrea's t-shirts before returning to bed, flipping over my pillow and pulling the comforter tightly around me.

On the other side of town, Andrea stepped out of the taxi and paid the driver, taking a deep breath as she headed up the stairs to James' home. After several moments, James answered the door. "What do you want?"

"First, here are a few things the girls left at the townhouse—I know they'll need their chargers for their gadgets," she said, handing a small shopping bag to him.

"Okay, I'll give this to them," he said as he took the bag. "Good night."

"Wait!" Andrea said, pressing her hand against the door in an attempt to keep him from closing it completely. "Can we speak—privately—for two minutes? It's about the girls."

James studied her features for several minutes, but seeing no deception, he set the small bag down inside and joined Andrea on the porch, walking over to the top step and having a seat. "Look, I've made my decision clear to Miranda. I don't really care what you have to say," he said, staring out into traffic.

"I know," Andrea said, taking a seat on the step next to him. "And I could sit here and try to tell you how good I am for Miranda, or how I would do anything to keep your girls safe…but I won't."

James looked up from the pavement and met Andrea's eyes. "What do you want from me?"

"Just answer one question," she said quietly. When James nodded, she proceeded. "If I wasn't in the picture, that is, if Miranda was single, would you still keep Caroline and Cassidy from their mother?"

"No," James said, pausing for a moment before he continued speaking. "No, I do not think it would be an issue."

Andrea took a deep breath. "Okay, that's all I needed to know," she said, standing up. "If I promise to be gone first thing tomorrow morning, will you call her and work out a living arrangement?"

"Yes," James said, nodding slowly. He was dumbstruck. "So that's it? I mean, just like that you'll leave?"

"Yes," Andrea said, blinking slowly. "I love Miranda, but I love your daughters, too and I know what an important part of her life they are. I couldn't live with myself if she had to choose between them and me." I paused for a second. "It's already breaking her heart. The girls deserve their mother's love and affection."

"Wait," James said, gently reaching for Andrea's wrist as she began walking down the stairs. "Is she okay?"

"She will be as soon as she hears from you. Please don't tell her I came here."

"B—bu—but I don't understand," he said, running his hand through his hair. "What should I tell her?"

"Tell her you had a change of heart, I don't care. I doubt she'll look into too much when she hears what you've decided."

"And you're just going to disappear?"

"I will leave her a note, telling her it was too much for me, that I wasn't ready, something like that. She'll get over me. If I stayed, she would never recover from losing those two young ladies in there," Andrea said, pointing at the front door.

"Thank you, James," she said, walking away down the street.

James shook his head again and took a deep breath, meeting two young red-heads in the foyer who were anxiously digging through the items in the shopping bag.

"Did Mom bring this?" Cassidy asked, clutching the white scarf tightly behind her back.

"No, her assistant dropped it off," James said. "Why don't you take everything up to your room and get cleaned up for dinner, okay?"

They nodded and ran upstairs. James sat down as he tried to wrap his mind around the conversation with Andrea just minutes ago.

It was still light outside, and just before seven o'clock. Andrea hurried up the stairs to her office at The Mirror and shut the door behind her. One of the perks of working in a newsroom was that there were people working 24/7. One of the downsides was you were never ever alone in the office. Struggling to keep her composure, she drafted a letter, then grabbed her laptop and headed back to the townhouse.

I woke to the sounds of rustling clothes on the other side of my bedroom. "Andrea?" I called. It was dark in the room, and my head was still foggy.

"Shh, go back to sleep—I'm just sorting my clothes," she said, walking over and kneeling next to the bed. I felt her soft fingers stroking my cheek and smiled, allowing myself to fall back asleep, hoping she would replace the nightmare that had been playing on repeat all afternoon.

Little did I know that while I slept, Andrea packed her suitcase and tote and carried them downstairs, leaving only a clean set of clothes to wear the following morning.

I woke again a while later and felt the empty space in the bed next to me. "Andrea?" There was no response, so I reached over and checked the time on my phone: 11:38 PM. Seeing that I had one voicemail from James, I quickly checked it.

Hi Miranda, it's me. Um, listen. Things got out of control earlier. I think we should talk. The girl are fine—sleeping now—but please call me when you get this. I want to take back some of the things I said. And…discuss a joint living arrangement for our daughters. Uhm, yeah. So, call me back when you get this.

I bit my lower lip as I replayed the message. Taking back what he said? A joint living arrangement? I smiled. There was hope. Slowly, I got out of bed and went in search of Andrea. Seeing light seeping out from under the door to the study, I knocked gently before pushing it open, finding Andrea sitting on the couch with her laptop.

"Are you coming to bed, darling?" I asked, leaning against the doorframe.

She looked up from her screen. I could feel her eyes devouring me. The t-shirt was barely long enough to cover everything, and I was sure she realized I was not wearing any underwear. Now she knows what I felt like when she had that bodystocking on the other day.

"Andrea?" I asked again, jolting her from her thoughts.

"Sure," she said with a half-smile, closing the lid of her laptop. "I was just trying to catch up on some things from earlier. Are you feeling better?"

"Much," I said, unable to hide my smile. "James left me a message—he wants to talk about joint living arrangement for the girls. I think I'll call him back now—he's usually up late."

"Wow," Andrea said, gathering up her things and stacking them neatly on the coffee table. "Why don't you wait until morning to call him back?"

"He seemed anxious to talk to me—I really don't want to delay this," I said.

"You've had a long day," she said. "You're better off talking tomorrow morning when you have a clear head."

Come to think of it, I still felt a little groggy. "Okay," I said, nodding as we both headed back to the bedroom. I sent a quick text to James explaining that I would call him first thing in the morning, then powered off my Blackberry so as not to be disturbed. I turned back to Andrea, curling up against her slender body. "Are things going okay at work? You seem on edge," I asked her.

"Yeah, I just want to make a good impression, you know. My first edition is officially on Sunday, so I'm just a little nervous," she said.

"I'm sure it will be great. I can see how hard you've been working," I said. "I'm sorry if I've gotten in the way of your work," I added, thinking to how she rushed to my side earlier that day.

"Don't worry about it. Look, I have to be in early tomorrow because a few sections of the Sunday paper are printed in advance, at 7 AM on Friday. Then the movers are moving the boxes out of my old place tomorrow afternoon. I just want to get some sleep tonight—I think we could both use it."

"Okay," I said, softly kissing her shoulder, "good night, sweetheart."

"Good night, Miranda."

The next morning, I woke to an empty bed and was shocked to see I had slept past eight. I quickly reached for my Blackberry to tell Emily I would be running late, and I was shocked to see nearly fifteen missed calls from James, in addition to a note from Emily that she was rescheduling my morning.

Quickly checking my voicemail, the only words James left was "Call me back." Without hesitation I dialed his number, only to be sent to voicemail.

I spent the next hour getting ready, keeping my phone nearby in case he returned my call. Once dressed, I headed down to make myself some coffee and toast, again dialing James' number.

"Miranda, thank god."

"James, what's wrong? Are Care and Cass okay?" I asked, panicked.

"Yes, yes, they're fine. They're at school now. Miranda, I need to talk to you."

"In case you've forgotten, I have a job to attend to. I can't keep dropping everything for you and your whims. As long as the girls are safe and they don't need anything, can't we have this conversation this evening? Maybe we can meet somewhere neutral for dinner?"

James sighed. "Fine. But don't say I didn't try," he murmured.

"Excuse me?"

"I said, let's try for six," he said. "You can come over, I'll have Cara make something."

"Okay, tell the girls I'm looking forward to seeing them," I said. I still wasn't ready to trust James one hundred percent.

"Uh, one more thing…did you talk to Andrea this morning?"

"No," I said, twisting my lips. "And what business is that of yours?"

"Nothing. You're right, it's not. I'll see you tonight," he said, ending the call.

Strange man, I thought as I finished my coffee. I stood and peeked out the front window. Seeing Roy waiting for me, I quickly cleaned up the kitchen then went to gather my things, tucking the Book and whatever papers Emily left back into my bag, knowing I would have a lot to catch up on this morning.

Once in the backseat of the town car, I sent a quick text message to Andrea: "Having dinner with James and the girls tonight. Hope your day's going well. See you later. xo M" Without a second thought, I tossed my phone back into my bag.

The rest of the morning went quite well, considering the past few weeks. I know Emily was flustered to see me in earlier than she expected, but I explained to her that I did not want to be disturbed until after lunch, so hopefully that set her at ease. I was surprisingly productive that morning.

Seeing it was 11:30 AM, I pulled out my phone, knowing this was when Andrea took her lunch break. I dialed her number, and was surprised when it went straight to a generic voicemail greeting. Opening up my messages, I saw that the text I sent her earlier was marked "undelivered."

I quickly sent her an email reiterating my dinner plans. Then, I instructed Emily to look into the plan for the phone and to make sure it was up to date or whatever because it appeared that it wasn't getting a signal today.

Sighing, and not wanting to deal with that incompetent Lizzy, I scrolled through a few emails from earlier in the week and found Andrea's work cell phone number in her email signature.

Dialing the number, I was again directed to Andrea's voicemail, where I left a message: "Darling, I'm starting to get worried—I haven't heard from you. I know you're busy today, but I just wanted to say hi. I love you."

I looked over at the clock—I had just over an hour before my first meeting of the day. I wasn't really hungry, so I put my glasses back on and went through the loose papers that were stacked with the Book.

The first was a memo from Irv to all of Elias-Clarke staff, asking that we be mindful of energy consumption and try to keep unnecessary lighting and electrical "off" when not in use. The second was a copy of the period four expense report, with the Runway line circled in red. It didn't matter to him that Runway was responsible for ninety-percent of the company's revenue…no, we were still only allowed the same share of expenses as Auto Universe. Seriously, I wondered if this man had failed basic math in grade school.

I almost threw away the next sheet, until I recognized Andrea's handwriting. Lifting it up, I leaned back in my chair to read it.

Dear Miranda, By now you've probably realized that I've moved out of the townhouse. I'm not taking your calls, and, well, I'm not coming back. I know this is cowardly, but I didn't want to give you the opportunity to use that icy glare on me again like you did when I was your assistant. Miranda, we're through. I'm tired of being mixed up in your divorces and custody battles, not to mention having to worry about the press seeing us if we're ever in public. I'm tired of the fancy food and expensive clothes. I'm tired of private booths and using your name to get what I want. I don't need that anymore. I need someone younger, someone who doesn't try to control me, someone who isn't so needy and clingy. I need someone who puts me first. Unfortunately, you were none of that. I thought for a split second that you could change—I really did. When I first recognized your attraction towards me, I thought we could give it a try. So we did, and honestly, I felt nothing. I knew it would have been a mistake to leave you when I would be unemployed and homeless, so I put up with it until my situation was stable. And now, I need to get on with my life. You're not a bad person, just not good for me. I hope you understand and that you find someone else to give you what you need. I know any number of men and women who would jump at the chance. I just couldn't bring myself to lie to you any longer. I'm sorry. Andy P.S. The rent and security deposit that we decided upon for the apartment will be deposited into your account in advance on the first of each month. Contact my broker at 213-123-4567 if you have any questions.

"This—this, it can't be," I said aloud as my eyes scanned the words on the page over and over. "No—no—no, it's just not true," I said as tears streamed down my eyes. "This is a cruel joke," I cried, except I knew deep down it wasn't.

Suddenly, everything fell into place. The cell phone. Leaving early this morning. Her anxiety last night. How long had she been planning this, I wondered.

Once my anger began to kick in, I picked up my phone and called her again, leaving several angry messages, followed by a rather humiliating apologetic one as I sobbed into the receiver and begged her to take me back, promising I would change.

Knowing she would not return my calls, I opened the bottom drawer of my file cabinet and pulled out a bottle of whisky. I kept this in the office for rare occasions, and this was certainly rare, indeed.

Was it true? Did she really feel nothing? Was she lying to me—just 'putting up with' me? I knew I needed to talk to someone, but I feared that Nigel would lecture me with this "I told you so" conversation I was nowhere near ready to have.

Throwing back several glasses—was I on four or five by now?—I sat facing the window, the letter resting on my lap. It was already crumpled, and tears blurred the ink in one section. The only thing I felt right now was the need to have Andrea's arms around me. Maybe if I drank enough, I wouldn't feel anything.

"Miranda?" Emily called, startling me from my thoughts. I slowly opened my eyes. I was holding the letter in one hand and an empty glass in the other. "Miranda," Emily continued, opening my office door and walking up to my desk, "Your one o'clock—oh!" she gasped, running out of the room.

I can only imagine what I looked like, eyeliner and mascara running down my face and dripping onto my white blouse, eyes glazed over and red-rimmed with tears.

"Andrea won't take your call!" I called after Emily. I heard her hang the phone up and quietly walk back to the doorway of my office. "She will not answer your call."

"What are you talking about, Miranda?" she asked. "I can call Roy to take you home if you wish."

I shrugged. Several minutes later, Emily was at my desk, packing some things up. "Here," I said, handing her the letter to add to the items in my bag. "Go on, you can read it," I said, pouring the last drops of whisky from the bottle.

Emily glanced at the letter, long enough to get the idea. "No, Miranda, I can't. This is private. Roy is waiting downstairs. Do you need anything else?"

I finished the drink in my hand and reached for her hand to help me up from the chair. For being as thin as she was, I was surprised at her strength as she pulled me to my feet. She held out my bag, which I threw over my shoulder before I marched out and towards the elevators, careful to keep from swaying.

Roy met me at the elevators, and I gratefully leaned on him as he ushered me into the car. Without saying a word, he drove me to the townhouse and helped me over to the couch in the den. I could see he wanted to stay, but I shooed him out. I needed to be alone.

Why does it always seem like when things are going well and I'm actually happy for once, my world comes crashing down on me?

I don't know how much time had passed, but it was now dark outside and someone was banging on my front door. I crawled off the couch and steadied myself, feeling a wave of nausea coming over me. I stumbled into the bathroom and emptied the liquid contents of my stomach into the toilet before rinsing out my mouth. I tried to remove the makeup stains on my cheeks with a hand towel before turning my attention back to the insistent banging on the door.

"Miranda! I know you're home! Open the god damn door!" James bellowed.

"Okay!" I shouted back, making my way over to the door to let him in.

"Miranda, I—Jesus, what happened to you?" he asked.

"Yes, it's nice…to see you…too," I said, struggling to keep my eyes open.

"How much have you had to drink?"

I shrugged. "I don't know…two? three?" I said, gesturing with my hand. Unfortunately, the slight movement caused me to lose my balance and topple into the wall. "I'm fine, really," I protested as James picked me up and carried me upstairs.

"You need to take a shower and sober up," he said, gently standing me up in the middle of my bathroom. "And then I need to talk to you," he said. "Now, I'm just going to help you with the buttons, but then I'll wait outside," he added, quickly unbuttoning my blouse and undoing the top clasp on my skirt before turning the shower on and stepping out.

I peeled my blouse off and unzipped my skirt, letting the clothes fall to a pile in the center of the floor. Carefully balancing on the towel bar, I slid my underwear down and stepped out one leg at a time. After that, I unclasped my bra and walked into the shower.

I hissed as the cold water splashed against my skin, sending goosebumps down my arms and making my nipples pebble. Switching on the hot water, I quickly washed my body, then turned the water off. I couldn't say that I felt better after the shower, though, since it had only sobered me up enough to remember Andrea and the harsh words she wrote.

I dried myself off with a towel and wrapped a robe around my body before taking a seat at the small stool under my vanity to remove my makeup. Tears crept into my eyes as I began wiping the mascara stains away with my argan oil cleanser, bringing memories of Andrea too close to the surface.

James knocked gently on the door before pushing it open. For a minute, I forgot he was even here. "I grabbed something for you to throw on—is this okay?" he asked, awkwardly handing me a stack of clothes.

"It's fine, give me a minute," I said, taking the clothes from him. He shut the door again and I hung my robe on the hook, stepping into the underwear and Lululemon yoga pants he selected, along with a built-in-bra tank and a zip-up cotton/lycra blend jacket.

Opening the door, I walked over to the bed and sat next to him. "Okay, let's talk," I said.

"Miranda, we were worried about you. I told the girls you were looking forward to seeing them at dinner, but you never showed up. I didn't want to alarm them, so I pretended like I had just received a text from you that something came up, but I was worried," he said, resting his hand on mine on the bed.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I shouldn't have stood the girls or you up like that," I said. "It's just—" I somehow couldn't bring myself to tell him what had me so upset. Although, it was slightly suspicious why he wasn't asking—unless he felt subject to Emily's rules, too.

"Miranda, I'm an idiot. I tried to get in touch with you last night and then again this morning to tell you what was going on, but it just pissed me off that you were blowing this off for work," he said.

"What are you talking about?" I asked. Maybe I wasn't as sober as I thought. I couldn't follow his train of thought.

"Andrea," he said. "I'm presuming you read her letter sometime between talking to me this morning and missing dinner?"

I gasped. "Wh—what do you know about the letter?"

"Miranda, she came to talk to me last night. You can't let her go. She's one of the best things that happened to you. The girls look up to her, and she would do anything for you—in fact, that's what she did."

"What do you know about this letter?" I asked again, not quite following his train of thought. "And I thought you said she was a whore and a golddigger?" I spat.

"Look. I'm sorry. Last night she asked me if I would let you see the girls if she wasn't in the picture. I said yes. I had no idea what she was going to do or how it would affect you."

"So...you planned this with her?"

"No, it wasn't like that. Miranda, don't you see? She sacrificed her own happiness so you could be with the girls. She left so you wouldn't have to choose. I was a fool to think that would solve everything. But even more so, I now see what a good person she is, how she loves you and the girls. She's a good influence, Miranda, and you can't let her go."

"I don't seem to have a choice."

"Yes, come on, we're going to talk to her."

"What? No. I can't. She doesn't want to see me," I said. Suddenly, I felt afraid to face her. "Plus, we, uh need to talk about a custody arrangement."

"Can we can talk in the car?" James asked. "I feel awful and really want you two to straighten this out. I don't want to explain to the girls why Andy doesn't come around anymore."

"I don't think she'll take me back," I said as James stood and helped me to my feet. "She said I'm too old and controlling and clingy—and she's right," I cried. James draped his arm over my shoulders.

"Please trust me, Miranda," he said. "I need to fix this."

I nodded and followed him out to the car. "So, what does this joint custody entail?" I asked, pulling my knees to my chest in the passenger seat of his car.

"Well, I realized that I can't keep them from you. I may not agree with all of your personal decisions, but the girls need a mom. They're going to be getting their periods and going to dances with boys and all that stuff," he said. "They need you. And two moms are even better than one."

A tear slipped from my eye. "Thank you for realizing that," I said. "I also know they love you, too, and I'd never want to keep you out of their life."

"So, what I was thinking," James said, careful to keep his eyes on the road, "was that we could have our custody arrangement re-drawn so it's more like 70/30. For the most part, the girls could live with you, but I could have them every other weekend and twice every two weeks, which breaks down to two days per week."

I nodded, doing the math in my head. So for every fourteen days, James would have them one weekend plus two days, so a total of four days, which was more like 72/28, but who was counting. "I think that could work," I said. "Then you could take them for a long weekend if you wanted, and we could still be flexible around our work schedules and travel commitments."

"Exactly," he said, breathing a sigh of relief. "You don't mind that I want this in writing?"

"No. I'll want my lawyer to look it over before I sign, but I agree that our official custody agreement should include us both." After several minutes of silence, we came to a red light. "So what's the catch?" I asked.

"Huh? Oh, there's no catch."

"I'm supposed to believe that overnight you just changed your mind? One day you're threatening an order of protection and the next you're so agreeable?"

"Really," he said. "I told you, after talking to Andrea last night, I just, I don't know, had a realization. I know I would regret it if I kept them from you."

I nodded. If there was more to it, I wasn't sure I was ready to hear it right now.

When we arrived at Andrea's, I didn't even bother asking how he knew her address. My stomach turned when I heard her voice answer the intercom.

"Andy, it's James."

"You shouldn't be here," she said cautiously.

"I need to talk to you—it's about Miranda."

"Oh god is she okay?"

"Can I come up?" he asked.

"Eighth floorShe responded by buzzing us upstairs.

"I can't do this," I said, struggling to take a deep breath in the elevator. "I—I can't face her."

"Yes you can," James said, tugging me out of the elevator with him.

Although I wanted nothing more than to be back in her arms, this felt like torture—like it was my punishment to be dragged to face the one who scorned me.

As we approached her door, she quickly opened it. "Miranda!" she gasped.

I moved behind James and tried to pull my arm free but he was gripping my wrist too tightly. I couldn't breathe. I needed to run—to leave and walk away before she hurt me any more. I hardly noticed that James had walked me inside until he eased me onto the couch.

"Andy," James said quietly, "I know I've said some not-so-nice things about you, but what you did yesterday changed my mind entirely. You are a good influence on Miranda and my daughters, and though I don't understand how or why you love my ex-wife, it's quite clear that you do. Miranda needs you as much as she needs the girls, and I was a fool to think it could be one or the other."

"Okay…" Andrea said cautiously, "So what do you want from me?"

"Tell her you didn't mean what you wrote in the letter. Explain that you were just doing this so she could be with the girls. Take her back."

My eyes were tightly shut as I buried my head in my lap. This was utterly humiliating, and were I stronger, I would have been able to run away.

"Will you please stop talking about me as if I'm not here?" I said.

"Give us a minute?" Andrea asked James. He got up and stood in the doorway, no doubt preventing my escape. "Miranda, what he said is true," she explained, sitting next to me.

"Writing that letter to you was the hardest thing that I have ever done. Saying goodbye to you, knowing that last night was the last time I could hold you in my arms. I was a mess yesterday. I wanted to talk to you so badly, but of course, you were the one I could no longer talk to."

She picked up my hands and held them until I looked up at her. "Please forgive me. I was only trying to do what was best for the girls. I am sorry I've hurt you so much," she said. Tears began to stream down her cheeks but she didn't bother to wipe them away. "I love you, Miranda."

"So…you don't think I'm too old or too controlling? You're not just using me?" I asked. Part of me still needed the reassurance since her words cut so deeply into my insecurities.

"No, none of it was true. I just knew that would be the only thing you would believe," she said. "Okay?"

"Okay what?"

"Okay, do you forgive me? Will you stay here tonight?"

Looking up at her, I was so flooded with emotion I was speechless. Nodding, I reached up and wrapped my arms around her, burying my head against her neck.

James cleared his throat from the other side of the room. "If you two are okay, I'm just going to head home."

"Yes, thank you," I said, standing from the couch.

"See you tomorrow afternoon," he said as he stepped out the door.

Andrea quietly stood behind me and slipped her hands around my waist. "You know, I even love you when you've had too much to drink," she said. "Let me get you a glass of water and some aspirin," she added.

I took the offered aspirin, but knew I would still be feeling the effects well into tomorrow.

"How about something to eat?" she asked. "I don't have much, but there's leftover pizza in the fridge, or I can run to the cafe around the corner and get some soup or something?"

"Andrea, I'm really not hungry," I protested.

"I'm sure you haven't eaten since dinner yesterday, so you really need something."

I rolled my eyes. "Pizza is fine. Just one piece."

As we sat a the barstools and ate cold pizza using paper towels as napkins, I took a minute to look around the place. Emily really did a great job arranging the furniture, and the pale blue paint with one cobalt blue accent wall was quite striking. I could see that the bedroom looked to be a soft lavender and the bathroom was turquoise.

"I wish—"

"How much—" we both began to speak at once.

"Go ahead," I said.

"How much whisky did you drink?" she asked.

"I didn't keep track. But I know I opened a new bottle this morning because I remember playing with the wax," I said.

"What were you going to say?" she asked.

"That I wish I could have helped you move," I said, setting down my half-eaten piece of pizza. "Andrea, I'm so sorry about all of this. I wish you never had to get involved."

"Hey, don't say that," Andrea said, softly cupping my cheek. "I'm not going anywhere now," she said, kissing my cheek, then pressing her lips to mine.

Suddenly, I felt sick to my stomach. Quickly pushing her away, I hopped off the barstool and ran to the bathroom, emptying the contents of my stomach. While it was rather disgusting, I always felt better after purging like that—especially when I'd had too much to drink.

I rinsed out my mouth and found a small bottle of mouthwash in the cabinet. Emily must have brought that along with the other travel-sized items that were on the shelves. I smiled to myself. If she only knew that this was Andrea's apartment.

"Miranda?" Andrea called, knocking on the door. "Are you okay?"

I reached back and opened the door before rinsing my mouth again. "Let's just go to bed," I said.

Andrea nodded and led me into her bedroom. "Do you want to change into something more comfortable?"

"I didn't bring anything."

"I, uh, took some of your stuff," she said, blushing. "The red silk lingerie, the pink cotton night shirt, a white blouse."

"Well, that's convenient," I said, taking the offered cotton night shirt.

Once in bed, Andrea curled up next to me. "I know you probably don't feel up for it now, but I do want to break in this new bed sometime soon," she said, pressing a kiss to my neck.

"Mmm," I said, "that sounds wonderful. Sleep now, though."

The next morning, I woke feeling much better, no doubt because I was wrapped in my lover's arms. I softly extricated myself from her embrace and slipped into the bathroom, freshening up.

When I returned to the bedroom, I crawled on top of Andrea and gently trailed kisses down her neck, eliciting a sweet, sleepy moan. When her eyes opened, I pressed my lips to hers, tasting every inch of her mouth, gasping as she reached up and palmed my breasts.

"I take it you're feeling better?" she asked with a grin.

"Yes, but now I'm hungry," I said, winking at her as I slid down her body and pulled off her panties.

"Ohh god, Miranda," she moaned as her hips bucked off of the bed. I softly teased her folds with the tip of my tongue, enjoying watching her writhe with pleasure. "Please, I'm so close," she begged.

I slowly dragged my tongue across her clit and move upwards just enough to look into her eyes. "Never. Leave me. Again." I said, thrusting my fingers deep within her core. She came almost instantly, her passionate screams echoing through the empty room.

I crawled up next to her and soon found myself flipped onto my back. She was on all fours, slipping my nightshirt over my head and practically ripping my panties off. Her lips set fire to my skin, and by the time she was through with me, my throat was sore from screaming.

"Andrea," I said after a few minutes, gently rubbing my hand along her back.

She opened her eyes and moved closer, kissing me softly.

"I love you," I said. "I want to spend the rest of my crazy, complicated life with you."

"I love you too, Miranda."

"Andrea, I'm serious. I still don't know how I feel about marriage—with my track record, plus the press, and the girls. But Andrea, I want you at my side for the rest of my life, whatever it takes."

"Yes," Andrea said, smiling and pressing her lips to mine. "Whatever you're proposing, yes, yes!"

"Oh darling, I love you," I said, hugging her tightly. "I've been meaning to talk to you about this, but there's just been so much going on lately."

"It's okay," she said, "I understand. I kind of agree about marriage. I mean, I love you and I would love nothing more than to be your wife, but as long as I know you're mine and I'm yours, formalities don't matter."

"Sweetheart, I promise I'll get you a ring. I just couldn't wait."

"Maybe we can shop together for our rings," she added with a smile. "Do you think the girls will be okay with the idea of us?"

"I'm certain they will," I said. "Speaking of the girls, James and I were considering a 70/30 arrangement—every other weekend and two days every two weeks. Does that sound okay with you?"

"I think it's a good compromise," she said. "Can I still stay here in this apartment for a while?"

I sat up and pulled the sheet around my neck. "You can do whatever you wish, but I hope you know that you're welcome at the townhouse," I said.

"I know. I'm just not very productive at your house because all I want to do is curl up with you," she said with a little frown.

"I feel the same way," I said. "Maybe I can come here some nights, or you can join us for dinner or maybe even a sleepover or two?" I asked.

"Well I know Caroline and Cassidy would like that, but I don't know about you," she said.

"Darling, I've said this before. I don't need this sexual intimacy as much as I need your companionship. You just being there with us, curled up on the couch watching a movie is incredibly satisfying for me."

"Oh," she said, a wicked smile crossing her lips as she began trailing kisses down my neck. "So, you don't need this?" she asked, taking my left nipple in between her teeth. "Or this?" she asked, circling her fingers over my clit.

"Oh godddd," I moaned. "Don't stop, please, don't ever stop," I begged.

"Good. I don't ever intend to," she said, crushing her lips against mine. "Oh wait!!" she exclaimed, jumping out of bed and wrapping a robe around her. "I almost forgot!"

"Andrea? What are you doing?" I asked as I heard her front door open and close.

She practically squealed in excitement as she came rushing back into the room. "Look—here," she said, handing the paper to me.

"What am I looking at?" I asked, squinting to read without my glasses.

"The editorial masthead!" she exclaimed, pointing to her name.

"My god, Andrea, that's wonderful. Congratulations!" she said.

"I know!" she squealed, doing a little dance around the bedroom before setting the paper down on a box.

"Darling, I'm so happy for you, and so proud of you," I said, "but I do believe you were in the middle of something? Hmm?"

"Oh!" she exclaimed, jumping back onto the bed and pulling the sheet away. "How could I forget?" she asked, pinching my waist and pressing her lips to my neck.

I laughed, a full, hearty laugh. Somehow, I knew that everything was going to work out as long as Andrea was at my side.

The End

Return to The Devil Wears Prada Fiction

Return to Main Page