DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Title adapted from Vergil, Aeneid VI.883: manibus date lilia plenis (trans. 'give lilies with full hands')
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To emeraldorchids[at]outlook.com
Give Me Lilies
"How did we get here? How did it come to this?" Miranda asked as she set her glass on the stone ledge of her balcony.
Andrea shook her head, then finished her glass of single malt scotch. She, too, wondered how she ended up on a balcony in a hotel in Los Angeles, drinking at noon with Miranda Priestly. Only one person could be responsible for this very moment, and sadly, it is the person they just said goodbye to: Nigel Kipling.
For the past eight years, he was working as Creative Director for Juicy Couture, based out of Los Angeles. It was clear to the founders that Juicy was beginning to fall out of favor among the rich and famous, and Nigel was brought on board to help steer the company into a profitable retail model that would be available in department stores across the country by 2015. In a way, Andrea wished he would have lasted another four monthsjust until the 2014 holiday season, when Juicy would unveil its J-squared collection at Kohl's department store. But, she knew he was suffering these past few months, and to prolong such a life would have been cruel.
Fourteen months ago, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. He began receiving chemotherapy and radiation right away, but ultimately, the diagnosis was a death sentence. In the end, Nigel regretted choosing to treat it. The chemo made him sick and weak, more so than the cancer itself would have.
Andrea saw Nigel at least once a year, either when Nigel was in New York, or when she had to visit L.A., which was much less often. She made a special trip to visit him for a long weekend just after his first round of chemotherapy. He hired a nurse to stay with him during those times, but she knew he appreciated her presence. At first, he was embarrassed at his vulnerability, but he quickly grew to appreciate the gentle comfort and strength that radiated from his young friend. They spoke every day on the phone after that. Sometimes just a text message, some nights required a three-hour call. They tried skype for a little, but as the chemo progressed, he found that he didn't want his gaunt features haunting the young woman.
The last time she saw him was just nine weeks ago, when she was in L.A. to cover the Golden Globes when her Entertainment reporter quit rather suddenly.
"I never made it to see him," Miranda said as she, too, drained her glass of the thirty-two-year-old amber liquid. "I kept telling him I would come for a weekend, and then I would have to postpone, or he would have to cancel, and now " Her voice trailed off into the late morning air.
Andrea gently placed her hand on Miranda's arm as both women gazed out in the distance, across the valley to the ocean. "When I saw him in February," she said, "he had a stack of cards from you on his nightstand. And a beautiful orchid he told me you sent him."
Miranda nodded and tilted her chin upwards, blinking rapidly. Tears were falling down her cheeks.
"He knew," Andrea said, gently brushing her thumb along the woman's arm where it rested.
She swallowed and wiped the tears from her cheek and chin. "My girls wanted to comebefore, that is. I told them Nigel wouldn't have wanted them to miss school. And this week, they have exams, or at least Cassidy does. Caroline seems to have more flexible deadlines. Don't ask me why she chose Arts & Lettersno offense to you, of course."
Andrea chuckled quietly. "None taken. I know Emily wanted to be here today, but she had to stay home with little Theodore."
"And I sent Serena to oversee a shoot in Nairobi," Miranda said, shaking her head. "Do you know if he considered moving back to New York? Or, why he didn't?"
Andrea pulled her hand away and gripped the concrete wall of the balcony as she recalled their conversation.
"Come back with me to New Yorkyou can live with me. I have a spare bedroom. I work ten hours a day, so you'll have time to yourself, and then I'll keep you company in the evenings," she said, trying to persuade him.
"You mean you'll tell the endless stream of gorgeous women in your bed, 'Oh, don't mind my uncle, he can't even hear us.'"
"Nigel! I'm serious," she said, playfully slapping his arm. "And for the record, that hasn't been the case for years. I hardly even date anymore. Emily, Serena, and I are the closest thing you have to family, and you know it. We're all living in Brooklyn right now, and they're trying to get pregnant. Nigel, we miss you."
"I can't show my face therein that city. I will run into her, I just know it."
"You never explained why you left in such a hurry after Paris."
"And I'm not going to. It's too humiliating," he said.
"Oh come on. In the span of about twenty hours, I slept with Christian Thompson, banged on Miranda Priestly's door like a raving lunatic and interrupted her meeting with the CEO while not wearing a proper shirt, said 'Fuck you' to the most influential woman in publishing, and threw my company-issued phone into a fountain. Now that was humiliating."
Nigel eyed her closely. "That nightthe night after the Holt luncheon, after she royally screwed me over and after you royally screwed her right back, Miranda and I were both drinking in the hotel bar. We were both sitting there alone, and it wasn't until the other patrons left that I noticed her. Her eyes were glassy and she was unsteady as she made her way to the ladies' room and back. When the bar closed, I helped her off her barstool and we made our way to the elevator. Neither of us said a word, but she was allowing me to help her to her room.
"I opened the door and walked her inside, where she took a tumble right there just inside the doorway. I don't know if she just tripped on her own feet or the carpet or what, but her arm was still linked with mine, so she pulled me down with her. She began laughing hysterically, and I joined her, but soon broke down sobbing like a child.
"She stopped laughing and tilted her head in that way she does, staring at me like she had never seen anyone express emotion before. Through my tears, I tried to explain whythat I would forever be stuck in her shadow, that I would never be happy, that she would never offer me a promotion. 'Oh, Nigel,' she said in this sickening voice. It was condescending, but, at the same time, affectionate. She awkwardly brought her hand up to my shoulder, and I turned to her. Our faces were inches apart, and I don't know what got into me. I kissed her. Not just onceand not a friendly kiss. I kissed her as if my entire fucking life depended on it, like devouring her would ensure my survival. Funny, it was just the opposite. When she finally pushed me away, god, I can still see that look in her eyes."
"So that's why you left? She probably found this spot at Juicy for you, personally demanded that they make you an offer, and then told everyone how sad Runway was to be losing such a longtime friend and collaborator."
"Yes. I didn't have a choice. She flat out told me, 'You do not have a choice in the matter.'"
Andrea shivered as she was reminded of the cruel, manipulative side of the woman next to her. She carefully chose her next words. "I don't think he felt like he had a choice in the matter."
The editor inhaled sharply and turned to face Andrea, who was still staring out into the distance. In that moment, she knew Nigel had told her everything. She wondered how long the young woman had known. She took a deep breath and turned back towards the ocean in the distance. "There are a lot of things that I regret. I'm sorry," she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
Now, it was Andrea turning to face her, looking at her in shock. Her eyes silently asked for an explanation.
"I didn't have the chance to apologize to himno, wait, that's not true. I did have the chance, I just never took it. I don't want to make the same mistake with " her voice trailed off, but they both knew that she had almost said "with you."
Andrea again placed her hand on Miranda's arm. "Don't beat yourself up. It was complicated, and he knew that. He could" She was interrupted by her ringing cell phone coming from the other room.
"You should go," Miranda said, pulling her arm away and walking inside.
Andrea followed her, grabbing her purse and seeing that the missed call was from Emily. As the woman reached for the door, Andrea placed a hand on her shoulder. "He knew you loved him," she said.
Miranda released the doorknob and brought her hands up to cover her face as she tried to choke back tears. Andrea gently pulled her closer and into a hug.
"When do you head back?" Andrea asked after a while.
"Eleven-thirty tonight," Miranda said, stepping away from their unexpected embrace. "The redeye."
"Oh, me tooDelta flight 2394, right?"
Miranda nodded. To be fair, she had no clue what airline or flight number she was booked on, but she remembered her assistant saying it was the only direct flight from LAX to JFK that night.
"Well, I'm sure I'll see you later then."
Miranda opened the door. As Andrea was walking out, she called after her quietly. "I'm sorry for your loss, Andrea. You were very close with him."
"Thank you," she said.
Back in her room, she called Emily back because she wanted to make sure there was nothing wrong with little Theodore, her three-month-old. It turned out that Theodore was doing just fine. Emily was an Assistant Creative Director at Allure, and she phoned because some photos of the two of them from Nigel's funeral had just been posted online. Andrea explained how she talked to Miranda a little, and really didn't want to get into any more detailsmostly, because she didn't want to hear it from those two how she needs to "get over" Miranda. Funny how there was no such thing as "getting over" someone as memorable as Miranda Priestly.
"I promise, it was just a brief conversation. We both knew him, and apparently we were the only ones from New York to make the trip. It's nothing more," Andrea reassured.
"Sachs, you better be telling the truth. With Theo now, I don't think we can handle one of your pity-parties on our couch," Emily said. "Look, I've gotta run to a meeting. Brunch on Sunday? Serena gets in tomorrow night."
"Sounds great. Tell Theodore Auntie Andy misses him," she said before ending the call.
She ordered room service, since she realized she hadn't eaten breakfast or lunch, then tried checking her email. Her brief conversation with Miranda had put her in a mood, and work was the last thing she could concentrate on at the moment. Instead, she grabbed her bag and went for a walk down to Starbucks. A change of scenery would help her to clear her mind.
On the other side of the hotel, in her own suite, Miranda curled up on the lounge chair on her balcony with another glass of Nigel's beloved Oban. Andrea Sachs was the last person she thought she would see today. Designers, models, publishing executives, sure. She was prepared for those. But Andrea, she was not.
It had been almost seven years since she last spoke with herand that wasn't even a proper conversation, it was an email. A few weeks after Andrea took a position at The Mirror, she sent an email thanking her for the recommendation and explaining how grateful she was for all that she learned from her time as an assistant. Miranda replied briefly, wishing her luck in any future endeavors. There was nothing suggesting any sort of future contact, and Miranda preferred it that way.
But something about the young woman spoke to her. She was an insolent brat when she worked for her, but there was even something then that had attracted Miranda. Now, she was olderthey both were. She had matured, but still retained that certain something. Miranda couldn't quite put her finger on it, and perhaps she was wrong when she first identified it as insolence. Regardless, the point is that it was still present in her, and that it was more attractive than ever before.
Needing to clear her thoughts, she stood from the lounger and returned to her room, packing up her things. She was only in L.A. for twenty-eight hours, so she didn't have much, but she wanted it ready to go when she had to leave for the airport later that evening. With everything stacked neatly by the door, she climbed onto the bed and decided she would try and take a nap.
Andrea took a deep breath, her hand hovering over the door knocker. Every bone in her body was telling her to walk away, but she remembered Nigel's words from the last time she visited, when she was thumbing through some of the cards from Miranda.
"She loved you, Six."
Straightening her posture, she closed her eyes and knocked twice on the door. She knew it was risky. The editor had already allowed her walls to fall earlier in the day, and she fully expected them to be back up and stronger than ever by nowthat is, if she hadn't already left for LAX. Still, she knew Nigel would want this. He would want her to try. She could just picture him smiling, taking all the credit for setting them up.
"Just a minute," Miranda called from inside, turning on a lamp.
From the hallway, Andrea could hear her footsteps quickly approaching. They stopped, and for a minute, she wondered if she wasn't going to answer once she realized who was on the other side.
The door opened just a crack. "Yes?" she asked rather impatiently, though Andrea could tell she had been sleeping.
"Hi, sorry to bother you. Would you like to share a ride to the airport? I mean, that is, if you're still taking the redeye," she said. "I have a car coming in ten minutes."
Miranda looked at her in confusion. "Wha"
"It's 9:35 PM," Andrea said, grinning. She was secretly proud that she was still able to anticipate Miranda's questions.
"Oh, yes, of course. When did you say you have a car coming?"
"At 9:45in ten minutes. If you need a little longer, I don't mind waiting, though," Andrea said.
"Are you sure? I only need a few minutes to freshen up."
"Positive. I'll wait for you in the lobby downstairs," Andrea said, turning and heading for the elevators.
Miranda closed the door to her room and pressed her forehead against the cool metal. Something was making her anxiousshe didn't want to keep Andrea waiting for some reason. Perhaps it was the funeral that put her in such a strange mood. Failing Nigel was one thing, but she couldn't help recall the circumstances of her mother's death Quickly shaking her head and pushing away from the door, she headed to the bathroom to freshen up her hair and makeup before joining the young woman downstairs.
They rode in silence for at least ten minutes before anyone spoke. Miranda may not be the nicest person in the world, but she certainly wasn't ungrateful. "Thank you for the ride, Andrea," she said, breaking the silence.
"Of course. It would be silly to take two cars," Andrea said. "Plus, it's just like old times." The second the words left her mouth she regretted saying them. The last time she was in a car with Miranda, she cursed at her, then walked away. "I owe you an apology," she said, hanging her head a little bit.
"What for?" Miranda asked.
"What I said in Paris. It was inappropriate. I shouldn't have said that, and I'm sorry."
"I'll admit it caught me off guard. I thought those words were strictly reserved for auto collisions and marital disputes."
Andrea shrugged. "That's probably true. Regardless, it was unprofessional."
"Did you mean it?"
"When you said it, did you mean it, Andrea?" Miranda asked.
"No. Of course not! I was justI was upset, angry."
"Well, then, apology accepted," Miranda said. She wasn't sure why she let her off the hook so easily, but something about the way the young woman was getting so upset at the situation was distressing. Andrea was staring at her with a dumbfounded expression on her face. "Let's not discuss Paris anymore. Agreed?"
"Agreed." Andrea turned to look out the window as a yawn escaped her lips.
"Are you tired? I don't mind if you close your eyes for a few minutes," Miranda said.
"No, I'm fine." Andrea turned to face the woman next to her. "I don't expect you to talk to me. I know it's not something you really ever do. I mean, it's nice, though, but it's hard to get used to. I mean, talking to you is nice." She bit her lip and slowly closed one eye. "Okay, I'm going to shut up now."
Miranda chuckled softly. "You have no idea how" She let her voice trail off. "I'm glad you haven't lost your way with words, Andrea. It's quite an endearing quality."
Andrea wasn't sure how to respond to that, so she just nodded and kept her eyes focused on her hands, in her lap.
"I forced Nigel out. If it wasn't for me, he would have still been in New York. But you knew that, didn't you?"
Now it was Miranda's turn to look down at her hands. "I didn't realize until today how close you were with him. I mean, even after Runway."
"Nigel didn't blame you," Andrea said.
"Of course not. I'm sure he blamed himself," Miranda said quickly. "And that's worse, isn't it. He blamed himself, when it's me he should be directing that at."
"Should have been," Andrea said, correcting her.
"Fuck," Miranda murmured, pinching the bridge of her nose. "You know, I wasn't always like thiscold, demanding, unfeeling, unwilling to converse."
Andrea recognized that Miranda was launching into a deeper explanation, so she refrained from interrupting. It didn't matter, though. They were turning into the airport, and Miranda sat up and slipped her sunglasses on. It didn't matter that it was after ten o'clock. The walls were rebuilt.
And they say Rome wasn't built in a day.
As they walked through security and to their gate, Andrea followed a step behind Miranda, watching in amazement. She was obviously the same woman, but it was also obviousat least to Andreathat she had aged. When Andrea worked at Runway, the editor was forty-nine years old. Now, she wasAndrea paused to do the math in her headfifty-eight years old. To the untrained eye, she was as beautiful and slender as ever. But to a former assistant who spent months devoting her life to that singular woman, it was obvious.
When she relaxed, her shoulders were slightly rounded. She made an effort to straighten her posture, when it appeared her natural inclination was to slouch, but just a little. She was wearing flats as they walked through the airport, and as Andrea noticed earlier at the funeral when she was in heels, she seemed to be favoring her right leg, but just a little. Her upper arms seemed a little bit softer, and the skin beneath her chin was just a little less taut. She was wearing looser clothing, flowing garments, not the perfectly tailored blouses and suits and dresses that Andrea remembered. But, then again, they were in Los Angeles and she wasn't there as Editor-in-Chief. Still, Andrea couldn't help but suspect that the woman's waist was a little less defined, her breasts just a little lower, her buttocks just a little less firm. And she probably had that little bulge just below her navelthe one whose existence spawned an entire line of "slimming" undergarments. She was thinking about how wonderful it would feel to wrap her arms around the woman and
"Andrea?" Miranda called, gently shaking the young woman's arm.
"What? Oh!" she said, blinking a few times and looking up at the monitors. "Sorry, I zoned out."
Miranda's left eyebrow arched upwards as she waited for a better explanation.
"I was thinking about the last time I was here, how Nigel came to the airport with me, trying to convince me to stay," she said. It was an absolute lie, but she knew Miranda would find it an acceptable reason for daydreaming and silently congratulated herself. Most of the time, she was a terrible liar.
"Well, it appears our flight is delayed. Twenty-three ninety-four, right?" Miranda said, her right hand on her hip screaming "irritation."
"Yes," Andrea said, bringing her boarding pass up on her iPhone. "That's the flight, and it says here that we're waiting on a plane to arrive from Denver. There was an ice storm there, so that's the delay."
"Did they say how long?" Miranda asked.
Andrea opened her mouth to reply, but stopped herself. "I don't know," she said with a shrug. "I'm going to go have a seat." As she walked over to some empty chairs near the window, she fought the urge to see whether Miranda followed. Just in case, though, she set her bag down on the empty seat next to her. She typed up a quick email on her phone to Doug, letting him know her flight was delayed and that he didn't need to bother picking her up in the morning. She would take a cab, or, depending on how things went, maybe share a ride with the editor.
"May I sit?" Miranda asked, gesturing at Andrea's bag. It had been nearly fifteen minutes since they arrived at the gate, so the area was quite crowded.
Andrea nodded and moved her bag.
"I spoke with one of the attendants, and as you said, they are waiting on the plane from Denver. It hasn't even taken off yet, so once it does, it's two, maybe three hours by the time they land, deboard, and fuel the plane," she said. "And I already inquired about other flightsif we wait until morning, there are plenty of flights to New York, but tonight, this is the only one."
Andrea smiled. "Thank you for looking into that. I think it makes the most sense just to sit and wait for this flight. Are you staying?"
"I don't know," she said.
"Well, I'm going to go find something to eatI haven't had anything all day. Are you hungry?"
Miranda shook her head and reached for Andrea's suitcase, tugging it closer. "I'll stay here with the bags. Can you bring me a bottle of water, though? Please?" she added.
Twenty minutes later, Andrea returned with two pre-packaged salads, a bottle of Diet Coke, and a bottle of water. "I guess everyone had the same idea as meand the only food available is a grab-and-go deli. The line was insanely long," she said. "Here, I grabbed you a salad, too, just in case they ran out." She handed Miranda her water and salad.
"Thank you," Miranda said.
The two women sat in silence, picking at their chopped salads that were no doubt prepared several days ago. An attendant made an announcement that the flight had just taken off from Denver, so the updated departure time was 1:25 AM.
Miranda balled her left hand into a fist and closed her eyes when they made the announcement. When she opened her eyes, Andrea was looking at her with concern in her eyes. Miranda unclenched her fist and wiggled her fingers.
Andrea didn't say anything for a few minutes as she tried to process what she just saw and tried to figure out what could have possibly angered Miranda so much. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Miranda take a deep breath and exhale through her lips, something she knew to be a calming exercise. She looked around, and it seemed that a few people waiting at their gate were staring at Miranda. They must have recognized her. Thankfully, none of them seemed to be taking photos.
She leaned over and turned her head so that no one would be able to read her lips even if they were looking. "Are you okay?" she whispered.
Miranda turned and looked at Andrea like she had two heads. "Why?"
"You look agitated or something, and I just wanted to make sure you're okay."
"Why do you care?"
Andrea took a deep breath. She anticipated this conversation, just not so soon. "Because I just do. I cared about you when I worked for you, and I cared about you somewhere in the back of my mind for the past seven years. Okay?" She crossed her arms in front of her chest and leaned back against her chair.
"I didn't mean to alarm you," Miranda said. "I don'tI don't handle" she paused for a minute and gestured in the air with her hand, "delays very well."
The woman's honesty surprised Andrea, but she tried not to make that known. "Oh, well, delays are always irritating. Is there anything I can do?" The words were out of her mouth before she could stop herself. She had made a point of not acting like Miranda's assistant earlier when they arrived at the gate, but seeing the woman dealing with, well, whatever it was she was dealing with, Andrea couldn't resist wanting to help out in whatever way possible.
"Of course, now you ask that," she said.
"Why am I not surprised that you just called me out on that?" Andrea said.
Miranda took a deep breath and leaned back in her chair, her Hermes bag in her lap. "Do you know why we do the things we do, Andrea?"
She knew better than to answer that question. In retrospect, she learned that Miranda only ever used the collective "we" or "us" when she had something serious to say about herself. Like that day in Parisshe wasn't really saying she had a wonderful, enviable life. She was lamenting the fact that everyone thinks her life is so fucking perfect they would kill to be in her shoes, when, in fact, her shoes were just about the only part of her life that weren't a complete disaster. Andrea was glad she paid enough attention during her tenure to catch on to these things.
"We do these things, Andrea," Miranda continued quietly, "because we are conditioned to, no different than Pavlovian dogs. We learn how to react to stimuli as children, and go forth living our lives in a predetermined pattern. A set of impulses, action and reaction, stimulus and response. My mother didn't understand this. She thought that ignorance led to some sort of cosmic chain of events whereby problems resolve themselves; that a stimulus without any response at all, somehow ceases being a stimulus in the first place. We do what we do because we are conditioned, either through imitation or abhorrence. My responses are unfortunately a result of complete and utter abhorrence of my mother's outlook on life." She paused for a moment as if, only then, realizing how much she had revealed to the young woman. In an attempt to qualify her soliloquy, she added, "When I first met Nigel in the late 1980s, we commiserated over our mothers."
"Ah, I see," Andrea said.
"Is your mother?"
"Alive? Yes. Overbearing? Yes. Abhorrent? No," Andrea said. She wasn't sure what Miranda was going after, but this was a conversation in which she would rather listen than participate.
"Of course not. You and your midwestern values. You, no doubt, have one of those mothers depicted in greeting cards. I always struggled with that on Mother's Day. I've often wondered what my girls think about the cards they send me," she said.
This conversation was taking an unexpected turn, and it was making Andrea increasingly uncomfortable. "Not to interrupt, but would you like some coffee? I just saw someone walk by with a Starbucks cup, so there must be one in this terminal," she said.
"I thought you were trying to prove a point," Miranda said.
"Show me that you've matured. That you're too good to fetch my coffee or rearrange my travel plans now."
"I wasn't trying to prove anything. Maybe I'm just conditioned to fetch coffee. Are you going to find the Starbucks? If so, I'd like a venti iced redeye with no syrup, two splenda, and a splash of half & half," she said, turning her attention to her phone.
"I don't want anything."
"In that case, I'll be back shortly," Andrea said, grabbing her thingsincluding her suitcase this timeand heading off in the general direction that the guy with the Starbucks cup had come from.
Miranda took a deep breath and felt her hands shaking. "Shit," she muttered under her breath as she fumbled in her purse for a prescription bottle. She pulled one capsule out and quickly swallowed it with whatever was left of her bottle of water. It was rather important that she remember to take her beta-blocker at the same time every day, so much so that she programmed a reminder in her calendar so she would take it precisely at 2:00 PM every day. With the time difference, she completely ignored the alert today.
Andrea took her time walking through the terminal. She stopped and sat on a bench near Starbucks because she just needed to spend some time away from Miranda. Seeing her at the funeral and having a conversation afterwards was one thing. Spending the past two hours with her was something entirely differentsomething she didn't think she was ready for.
As she sipped on her iced coffee, she thought more about their conversation. Miranda was freely opening up to her, and she wasn't entirely sure why it made her feel so vulnerable. Miranda was the one delving into her past, but yet she felt guilty for listening. Maybe it was some kind of intuition: she knew Miranda would end up saying something so entirely personal that Andrea would freak and walk away (again), and she was sort of waiting for the proverbial sword to fall. Or the other shoe to drop. Or whatever the saying is.
But the more she thought about it, the less convinced she was. In fact, she had managed to talk herself out of her own theory in the course of fifty-four minutes, which was exactly how long it took Miranda to find her.
"Oh, there you are," she said, approaching the small bench. "I thought you were hiding from me." The left corner of her lip quivered just enough to let Andrea know she wasn't fooled. "Will you watch my things while I use the restroom?"
Andrea nodded. If there was one thing she wasn't going to argue about, it was bringing luggage into a public bathroom. That was incredibly disgusting, and she probably would have offered if Miranda didn't ask. Since it was relatively empty in this area of the terminal, she quickly headed back to the Starbucks counter for a center-of-the-sun venti skim no-foam latte for her former boss. A peace offering, so to speak. She did, after all, spend nearly an hour blatantly avoiding the woman.
"What's this?" Miranda asked.
Andrea shrugged and handed her the latte. "You don't have to drink it. I justI wasn't hiding from you. I needed to sort out my thoughts."
"Oh, well then," Miranda said, taking the cup, "I trust you have everything sorted?"
"Not at all. I think I'll just have to roll with the punches."
"Oh, Andrea. You should know that I don't punchI bite."
The flight from Denver arrived slightly ahead of schedule, which ultimately meant less awkward conversation with Miranda. Andrea couldn't help but be relieved when the woman's boarding group was called. If she thought about it too much, she would actually miss the editor's company, and that was exactly what she did not need for the next six hours.
On the plane, Andrea was lucky enough to be sitting in an aisle seat with an empty space next to her. The flight was nearly sold out. For a brief second, she wondered if Miranda had to sit next to someone in first class. Probably, but at least there was more leg room and wider seats. Once they were up in the air, Andrea, like most other passengers, put her headphones in and closed her eyes, hoping to rest for a few hours.
In the front of the plane, Miranda watched carefully to see when the flight attendants began to unfasten their seat belts. As soon as they were up an about, she, too, stood up and took her bags, heading towards the back of the plane. She spotted Andrea with her eyes closed in the second to last row, in the aisle.
"Excuse me," she said, leaning over Andrea and tapping the young man in the window seat on the shoulder. He removed his earbuds and gave her his attention. "Would you mind trading seats with me?" She held out her boarding pass. "First class, second row, window seat."
"Seriously? Okay, what do I have to do to in exchange?" he said.
"Lift my suitcase into the overhead bin for me," she said. "That's all."
"Wow. Um, sure. Thanks, ma'am," he said. He gathered his things, then tapped Andrea on the shoulder so she could let him out.
"Huh? What's going on?" she asked.
"Sorry. I just need to get out. We're trading seats," he said with a shrug. Andrea turned her body so he could get past her legs, and once he lifted Miranda's bag, he took her boarding pass and made his way to the front of the plane, thanking her again for the "sweet deal" as he put it.
"I'm sorry, Miranda, am I missing something? Why would you " she let her voice trail off as she saw a flash of hurt cross the older woman's eyes. She shook her head gently and stood up so that Miranda could make her way into the window seat. "I didn't mean it like that. I just wasn't expecting to see you here. And I was half asleep."
"Is this honestly supposed to be enough space for a third person?" Miranda asked, pointing to the empty seat between them.
"Economy class," Andrea said, shrugging. It looked like the other woman had more to say, so she was cautious of her body language as she turned towards the woman.
"What did you need to sort out earlier?" Miranda asked.
She stopped and thought for a minute. "Um, just Nigel-related thoughts." Technically, it was true, since Nigel told her a great deal about Miranda in his last few weeks, specifically that he would be terribly disappointed if the two of them never managed to "hook up" at least once. Andrea felt herself blushing at the thought.
"Oh," she said. "Hehe was special, wasn't he?"
Andrea nodded. For the first time in nearly eight years, she wondered if Nigel was as blunt with Miranda as he had been with her.
After staring at each other for several minutes, Miranda broke the silence. "It hasn't been the same at Runwaysince Paris, losing you and Nigel," she said.
Andrea's eyes went wide.
"Not what you were expecting me to say, I know," Miranda said. "It's like seeing you, talking to you, being stuck in an airport with youit's a gift. With Nigel, I failed. But with you, I still have a chance."
"A chance for what?" Andrea asked shakily.
"I'm not sure," she said, breaking her gaze and looking out the window into the night sky. "I'll tell you anything you want to know, Andrea."
The young woman sat back and leaned against the armrest. Why did Miranda want a chance with herthat was the pressing question. For fear that she wouldn't like the answer, she decided to go a different route and keep Miranda talking. "Tell me more about your mother."
Miranda looked at her in surprise. "Okay, let's see. My motherCassandrawas naturally beautifulblonde hair, blue eyes, slim and well-proportioned. Her family was from a line of Texas cattle-ranchers. She had soft hands, probably from never working a day in her life. She met my father right after the war when he was released from an Army hospital. They married and moved to New York. I don't know much about their life before I was born, except to say that they had difficulty having children. I was born ten years after they married, and then my sisters six years after that."
"You have sisters?"
Miranda turned and looked at her in surprise. "Yes, is that so difficult to believe? I was in second grade when my parents brought them home from the hospitalEllen and Louise, or Ellie and Lou. Looking back, we all had such matronly names, it's no wonder we used nicknames all the time," she said. "I imagine my father would have corrected me just now for using 'matronly' and said something about how anus is the Latin word for an old woman," she said with a chuckle.
"Aww I don't think 'Miranda' is matronly at allor, as your father would have it, anile," Andrea said.
Miranda pursed her lips and paused for a moment.
Andrea shrugged. "Still don't think it's matronly. What was your nickname?"
"My father called me 'Ria.'" She stiffened and looked out the window into the darkness. "The rest of my family and a few friends called me 'Mim.'"
"Interesting," Andrea said. "Anyone still call you either of those?"
"No," she said. She opened her mouth to continue speaking, but then closed it. She repeated this several times, until Andrea finally interrupted.
"What?" she asked.
"'Miranda' isn't my name," she whispered. She held her breath, waiting for some sort of reaction from the young woman, but there wasn't any. "Did you hear me?" she asked, leaning closer.
"Yes, I heard you," Andrea said. "I was just waiting for you to say more."
"Doesn't that bother you?" Miranda couldn't understand why this former assistant sitting next to her wasn't fazed by the knowledge that Miranda was a construct.
"No. I really don't care what your name is, no offense."
Miranda sighed and sat back in her seat. Nearly an hour had passed before she found her voice. "It's Miriam, Miriam Princhek."
"Well," Andrea said, turning her head to face Miranda, "when you put it that way, it is quite matronly."
Miranda looked up and smiled.
The women slept for several hours as the plane made its way across the country. Andrea woke first, and upon looking over at the sleeping woman, she felt a sort of privilege. Humans are already so vulnerable while they're asleep, and to be asleep next to this woman who just revealed something that was clearly very personal, in her own way, Andrea felt this was her gift. "Thank you, Nigel," she whispered.
Andrea could see a glow coming from behind the window shade, so she quietly lifted her armrest and leaned over Miranda to lift the shade. The beauty of the sunrise caught her breath, and also woke Miranda.
"Sorry," Andrea said, gently resting her hand on the woman's arm. "Look," she pointed out the window.
"Mmm, morning already," Miranda said, lifting her hand to cover her mouth as she yawned.
"Yes, and I've never seen a sunrise above the clouds like this," she said. "It's breathtaking."
Miranda pulled her eyes from the window and studied Andrea's features. The woman looked so young, her eyes so filled with wonder. She didn't realize how long she was staring until Andrea's eyes turned to her.
"I didn't mean to wake youit's just, that was incredible," she said.
"Had I known you never saw a sunrise on a plane, I would have woken you sooner," she said.
Andrea smiled. Even though she was no longer looking out the window, she was still leaning over into the editor's space.
"Andrea, you are a beautiful woman," Miranda whispered. "I don't think I've ever told you that."
"Thank you," she said, blushing.
Miranda gently patted Andrea's hand. "If you'll excuse me, I need to use the restroom," she said.
The young woman nodded and moved back over to her seat, unfastening the seat belt, then standing up in the aisle. It felt good to stand and stretch after sitting for so long on the plane and in the airport before that. She closed her eyes as she wiggled her toes and thought about how Miranda said she was "beautiful."
Suddenly she heard a thump and noticed that Miranda had fallen.
"Are you okay?" she asked. "Did you trip?"
The older woman was on her knees between the seats. She blinked slowly as she pushed herself up off the ground. "Ohh," she sighed as her eyes shut again and she slumped awkwardly against the seat back.
"Miranda?" Andrea gently took her hand and cupped her cheek as she tried to direct her to sit up straight. Her eyelids were heavy, but at least she was awake. "Hey," she said when the woman fully opened her eyes. "I think you passed out or something. Are you okay?"
The woman nodded and tried to get up.
"No, no, no. Stay here for a minuteI don't want to be picking you up off the floor." At least that earned a smirk. "Can I get you a glass of water or something?"
"Yes, thank you."
Andrea quickly retrieved a bottle of water and a cup from the flight attendantone of the only perks of sitting in the second-to-last row. The attendant offered Andrea some ice packs and explained that sometimes people get really bad panic attacks on long flights like this. She declined, and returned to sit with Miranda, who was sitting in the middle seat in their row. "Do you feel flushed or nauseous?" she asked, pouring her a cup of water.
Miranda took the water and shakily took a drink. "No, just a little lightheaded."
"Okay is that normal?" she asked. "I mean, good thing the armrests were up or you would have gotten a black eye for sure."
Miranda finished the water and handed the cup back to Andrea. "I think this is from my medication. I missed it this afternoon, so I took it at the airport, which, in hindsight, was not the best idea." At Andrea's puzzled look, she added, "It causes my heart rate and blood pressure to drop."
"Why don't you lay down for a little while, then? You know, with your feet elevated?" Andrea suggested.
"No, no, no. Where will you sit?"
"Right here. You can use these two seats, and then drape your feet over my lap."
"I will not have my feet dangling out into the aisle," Miranda said.
Andrea rolled her eyes. "First off, you're not that tall. But, I'll hold them, and even massage them a little to get the blood flowing. Plus, everyone back here is asleep anyway. I'm not giving you a choice, Priestly," she added with a smile.
"I guess you're not," she said, toeing off her shoes and laying down. As she turned onto her back, she was supremely conscious of the fact that her ass was directly against the young woman's thigh. "Ohh," she sighed as Andrea began to gently work her thumbs into the soles of her feet. "This should not feel as good as it does," she said.
Andrea smiled. "Just relax and take some deep breaths. Try and flex your pelvic muscles if you can."
Miranda brought her hand up to cover her face. "Oh my god, where do you come up with this?"
"First aid training. I've been CPR certified for the last twenty or so years," she said as she continued to gently knead the woman's feet. "Is this okay?" she asked, moving a little farther up to her ankle and calf.
"Just think, if only Nigel could see us now," Andrea said.
After a while, Miranda gestured for her to stop, and Andrea held out her hand to help the woman sit up. "Thank you," she said.
"Good. Still need to use the bathroom?"
"Yes, actually," she said, slipping her shoes back on.
Andrea stood, and this time, held out her hand to help the woman up. When they were both standing in the aisle, Miranda squeezed her hand before letting go. She wasn't sure exactly what that meant, but it felt good.
"Did Nigel ever talk to you aboutabout me?" Miranda asked once she was back in her seat.
"Yeah," she replied, nodding. "What about me?"
Miranda gently chewed on her lower lip and nodded. Their eyes met briefly before she turned back to her hands in her lap.
They both spoke at the same time. "Andrea, I am not who you think I am. This Editor-in-Chief thing is just a persona, a character. You have been misled."
"Well, I guess that's a good thing, then. I was just going to say that it's not like I really even know you at all. But I do think I would like to get to know youthe real you, if I may," Andrea said. She stretched out her hand and set it on the empty seat between them.
Miranda thought for a moment, then reached out and placed her hand on top of hers. "Yes. Yes, you may."
They kept the conversation light for the remainder of the flight. Miranda talked a little about the girlsCaroline was studying literature at Yale and Cassidy was studying biology at Georgetown. Andrea spoke a little about her job (she was recently promoted to Managing Editor, Features), and also told Miranda all about her two-year-old niece Elsa who stole her heart.
When they returned to New York, Miranda offered her a ride home since it was on her way. Andrea was a little disappointed to hear that Roy had retired and moved to Florida, but all the same, it was just another reminder of how much time had passed between them.
"I have a new number," Andrea said.
"Oh, of course," Miranda said, digging through her purse, looking for a business card or scrap of paper. "Mine has changed as well."
"Just give me your phone," Andrea said.
Miranda looked confused, but handed her iPhone to the young woman.
"Here, I'm just going to text myself from your phonethat way I'll have your number," she said, "and you'll have mine."
"Oh, is that how they do things now?"
Andrea smiled and handed the phone back. "Just want to make sure you don't give me a fake number."
Miranda laughed out loud and shook her head. "I really enjoyed this, Andrea."
"Me too. And I'm looking forward to getting to know you better, too. If you're still up for that. If not"
"No, I am. Let me get in touch with my girls and see what their plans are this summer, when they'll be home and so forth. I know Cassidy wanted to take summer courses, but I don't know the details. I might take some time to visit them."
"Of course. You know," she said. "It's weird, but I almost feel like we've managed to catch up on eight years in the matter of a few hours."
"I know. It was nice," Miranda said, smiling.
"You know, Miranda, you're beautiful when you smile."
Before the editor could respond, the car came to a stop.
"Well, this is my building," Andrea said, grabbing her purse. "I'd ask you in, but considering I've had about three hours of sleep in the past forty-eight hours, I'm afraid I wouldn't be much company."
"I understand. I'm looking forward to some rest, too."
"Okay, so, um, bye," Andrea said, opening the car door. The driver already took her suitcase from the trunk and had it waiting on the curb.
Miranda had the sudden urge to hug the young woman, but before she could do anything, Andrea was walking into her building, waving behind her in the general direction of the car.
Later that afternoon, Miranda tossed and turned as she tried to sleep. Her body was exhausted, yet her mind was running a marathon. Shortly after taking an Ambien, she was able to close her eyes and drift off to sleep.
"You need to take care of your sisters today, Ria. Your mother isn't well, and Mr. Waters and I need to go golfing with a really important client. If he signs the contract today, we'll be able to take that vacation to Paris I've been promising you, honey. I'll be home in time for supper."
It was just like any other Saturday in 1973Miriam sitting on the back porch flipping through a newspaper while reminding her sisters not to play too close to the street. She heard a car pulled up in the front driveway. There was nothing specific about that day until Cassandra Princhek's wail pierced through the air.
Ellie and Lou both came running towards Miriam on the porchthey were only nine years old.
"Mim, what's wrong with Mom?" "Mimmy, I'm scared."
"Bobbseys, don't worry, okay?" Miriam said, hugging them tightly. She held her breath as she waited for another sound. It crossed her mind that whoever pulled into the driveway may have just murdered her mother. She cursed herself for wishing that were the case.
"Nooooooooo! Noooo! No, no, nooooo!" Cassandra cried.
At that moment, Miriam knew that there were only two people in the world who could elicit such a response from her mother: father or Aunt Caroline.
"Mim, why is Mom crying?" Ellie asked. Both young girls were crying.
"Look at me," Miriam said firmly. "Whatever happens, we have each other, okay? You have to be really brave right now, okay? Go up into the treehouse until I tell you to come down."
She waited until the girls were safe, then she ventured into the house. Cassandra was sitting at the kitchen table, sobbing. A man she recognized as Mr. Waters was sitting next to her, his head in his hands.
"What happened to my father?"
"Ria, I'm so sorry. He had a heart attackhe's gone," the man said.
Miriam took a deep breath as her heart fell. Her father was her best friend in the world, and he was gone. She was alone now, just her, Ellie, and Lou.
"Mr. Waters, can you help me get my mother upstairs to bed?"
"Ria, don't you think she will want to call someone?"
"Do not call me that. My father is the only one who can call me that. And no, I will handle it. Just carry her up to bed, and then leavethat's all," she said firmly. Once he left, she went up to her mother's room and handed her two valium with a glass of water. She knew that mixing medication could be dangerous, and she wasn't sure what her mother had already taken that morning. At that moment, though, she didn't care. Her mother had already been gone for the past nine years.
She took the car keys from the counter and called her sisters down from the treehouse. "We need to go to Aunt Caroline's, Bobbseys. It's going to be okay. Just take my hands..."
She woke from her dream with tears in her eyes and immediately reached over for her phone on the nightstand.
"Hey Mom, what's up?" Caroline answered.
"Hi, Bobbsey," Miranda said.
"Uh-oh, you're crying," she said. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, Bobbsey. Why does something have to be wrong?"
"Because I know you, Mom. What'd you dream about?"
"Oh, sweetheart, I love you so much. When are you coming home next?"
"Spring semester ends the first week of May, so I have the two weeks in the middle of the month off. Soon, I promise," she said. "So, that dream?"
"The day your grandfather died," Miranda said, swallowing. She sat up in bed and blew her nose into a tissue.
"Aww, do you want to FaceTime instead?"
"No, it's okay. My flight was delayed in L.A., and I didn't get home until late this morning. I look like hell," Miranda said.
"Oh, I forgot, you were in L.A. for Uncle Nigel's funeral. How was it?"
"Nice. I'm glad I wentthere was hardly anyone there."
"Anyone I'd know from Runway?"
"No. Well, she's hardly from RunwayAndrea."
"Andy Sachs? Holy shit, did you talk to her?"
"Caroline, watch your language."
"Did you, though? I mean, what are the odds? You've both been living in New York and working in Manhattan for the past eight years and haven't seen each other once, and then all the way across the country"
"Yes, I did talk to her. We talked about Nigel a little after the service, and then"
"And then you made out with her?" Caroline teased.
"No! Good lord, Care, get your mind out of the gutter. She offered me a ride back to the airport since we were on the same flight. So, that meant we were delayed at LAX together, and then, on the plane, I switched seats with someone to sit next to her."
"And nothing. We talked. We had a lot to catch up on," Miranda said, rolling her eyes. "Oh, and I may have fainted on her at one point during the flight."
"Relax, I'm okay. It was the InderalI missed my afternoon dose and took it at midnight before getting on the plane for six hours."
"Did she catch you like prince charming?"
"No, I think I scared her. But she did insist that I lay down and put my feet up. She massaged my feet and it was really nice."
"Did it turn you on?"
"Caroline Louise Priestly! Enough of that. I'm starting to regret ever telling you my feelings about anything."
"Oh, like we couldn't figure out you had the hots for Andy on our own," she said. "Okay, I promise no more teasing. Did you, you know, tell her you like her or anything?"
"I did not, but I believe your uncle Nigel did. We exchanged phone numbers, though."
"Cool. So was there, like, flirting? Hand-holding? Hugging?"
"I don't see why you need to know that."
"I knew it! Awesome. Mom, I'm really happy for you."
Miranda sighed. "Thanks. And thank you for making me feel better after that dream. I love you, darling."
"Love you, too, Mom. I'm going to head to the library to work on my final paper for Brit Lit that's due Friday, so text me if you need anything else. Or, if there are any new developments "
"Honestly! I'm hanging up, Caroline. Love you, study hard."
"Love you, too."
Miranda chuckled as she set the phone down in her lap. She stretched her arms over her head and took a deep breath. She was still a little tired, but knew if she stayed in bed any longer, she would throw her entire sleep schedule off. As she was getting up, her phone chimed with a new message and for a split second, she hoped it was Andrea.
It was a thumbs-up sign from Cassidy. Caroline had no doubt relayed the news to her sister. She rolled her eyes and was about to set the phone down when she saw there was another message from an unknown number: "I hope you're getting some rest. Just wanted to say that I enjoyed spending time with you, even though it was under less-than-favorable circumstances. -Andrea"
Miranda smiled and typed out a reply. "Definitely could have slept longer. My bed is like heaven compared to that plane."
"Are you still in bed? Not judging. I was until Chinese takeout arrived at my door. :)" was Andrea's quick reply.
Miranda wrote back: "Yes. Too exhausted to think about food."
"Are you feeling better? You should probably eat something so you don't pass out, you know."
"Duly noted," Miranda wrote. After a few minutes, she sent another message: "Are you free for lunch at all this week? You know I've rearranged my schedule for far less significant things."
After staring at her phone for five minutes, she concluded that the young woman wouldn't be texting back. She tried not to think about it too much. Eventually, she pulled herself out of bed and made a bowl of cereal with banana, then went back upstairs to take a nice, long bath. These days, it wasn't often that her father's death came to mind. In fact, it had been years since she had that particular dream.
As much as she hated to see her daughters go off to college and leave her alone in the house, she was incredibly grateful for the relationship she had with them. For eighteen years, she fought for her girls. She was determined not to be like Cassandra. She already struggled with the death of her sister Ellie in a car crash in 1985, and she couldn't bear it if something happened to either one of her girls. In its own way, her conversation with Caroline this afternoon let her know that she was doing okay.
When she stepped out of the bath and crawled back into bed, she saw a few texts from Andrea:
"Hey, sorry, I got distracted. Lunch sounds great. I can do Tues @ 1 or Thurs anytime."
"If that doesn't work, I'm happy to cancel something less important. :)"
"Are you okay???"
Miranda sighed and typed out a reply. "Let's do Thurscan you spare 2 hrs?" and she quickly followed up with another message: "P.S. I'm going to bed. Goodnight."
This time when she fell asleep, she had the vague feeling of Andrea's arms wrapped around her shoulders, on her legs, holding her hands.
And she slept more peacefully than she had in years.
At lunch on Thursday, Andrea asked why she changed her name to Miranda Priestly. The short answer was because Diana Vreeland told her to. The long answer, which comprised almost all of their two-hour lunch date, included how Miranda went from being an apprentice at DVF to being groomed as Grace Mirabella's successor at Runway.
"So, legally, you've changed your name?" Andrea asked.
"Yes. As you know, I don't often do things halfway. My sister Lou stopped speaking to me when I did that. She was having a difficult time after losing Ellie, and I think she thought this was my way of leaving her, too."
"Do you keep in touch with her?"
"No, but it's not because I don't try. I haven't seen her in twenty yearssince my aunt's funeral, and even then she hardly spoke to me. Caroline and Cassidy have even tried writing to her, calling her, emailing, but she just won't respond," Miranda said.
"I'm sorry. I'm not even that close with my younger brother, but I can't imagine if he just refused to talk to me or kept my niece from me. Does your sister have a partner or any kids?"
Miranda shook her head. "But, enough talk of the past. Unfortunately, I have to get back to the office for a meeting. Are you available on Friday or Saturday evening?"
"Friday won't work. I'm babysitting Theodore overnight," Andrea said.
"Oh, how nice. How old is he again?"
"Four months next week."
"Ah, right. So Saturday?"
"Yes. Why don't you come over to my place? I'll make something nice for dinner and we can eat on the rooftop. It's supposed to be a cooler night. Or would you prefer to go out?"
"No," Miranda said. "Your place sounds lovely." They walked out of the restaurant and paused on the sidewalk in front of Miranda's car. "Can I drop you somewhere?"
"Nah, it's okay. I don't want you to be late for your meeting," Andrea said.
Miranda chuckled. "Let them sweat it out," she said. She opened the car door and let Andrea climb in first. "Where to?"
"How about Brooklyn Roasting Company? I have some pieces to edit, and they've got a good vibe there. Plus, I'll only be a few blocks from home."
Miranda leaned forward and gave the address to the driver, then asked him to raise the privacy screen. Once they pulled out into traffic, Miranda took off her sunglasses and reached out for Andrea's hand. The young woman looked surprised, but not displeased if her smile was anything to go by.
"Andrea," she said, "I really like thisspending time with you, having lunch, texting, everything." She looked down at her hand and took a deep breath. "I know I'm older and things are just, well, complicated, but," she paused and took another deep breath and pulled her hand away. "I don't think I could take it if you weren't serious. I mean, if you just want to be friends and that's it, I need you to tell me now."
"Miranda," she said, waiting for her to meet her eyes. "Miranda." She reached up with her index finger and softly guided the woman's head upwards. "What do I need to do to show you how serious I am?"
Miranda exhaled softly. She could hardly think straight, let alone form coherent words.
"Would it be alright if I kissed you?"
Miranda inhaled sharply and nodded. Her eyes fluttered closed as the young woman leaned forward and softly brushed her lips against hers. It was over too quick, though, and Miranda whimpered when she felt the woman pull away.
Andrea replaced her lips with her index finger and softly brushed Miranda's cheek. "I promise you a proper kiss very soon."
Miranda nodded and leaned her head back against the seat. She took Andrea's hand in hers and softly kissed her knuckles. "Saturday can't come soon enough," she whispered.
As if on cue, the car pulled to a stop in front of the coffee shop. "Thank you for lunch," Andrea said, gently squeezing her hand before exiting the car.
Just before 9:00 PM on Friday, Miranda's phone rang. She had exchanged a few texts with Andrea earlier in the day regarding their plans for tomorrow, but seeing the young woman's name on her caller ID began to make her worry. "Hello?"
"Hi, are you busy?" Andrea asked.
"Not at all. Do you need something?"
"No. Theo is finally asleep, and, well, I was wondering if you want to come over," she said. When Miranda didn't reply, she continued, "I know we have plans tomorrow, and you probably don't want to drive out to Brooklyn three days in a row, but"
"Yes. I can come over. Are you sure Emily and Serena won't mind?"
"Nope, not at all. Seriously, though, don't dress up or anything. I'm in lounge pants and a t-shirt. Oh, and I'll leave a guest parking pass with the doorman if you plan to drive."
"Okay, I'll see you soon," Miranda said, hanging up the phone. She looked down at herself and shook her head. She was still wearing her Dolce & Gabanna suit that she never bothered to change out of. She threw on a pair of loose-fit linen pants, a camisole, and a drapey cardigan, slipped on her Birkenstocks, and headed downstairs. Not wanting to arrive empty-handedbut also aware that it wouldn't be appropriate to bring wine while Andrea is babysittingMiranda found a fresh pint of berry lavender ice cream in the freezer and popped it into a ziploc, then into her Birkin.
At this time of night, the trip to Brooklyn took around fifteen minutes. On the bright side, it was manageable and convenient; on the down side, it only took fifteen minutes, and she didn't have time to sort out her thoughts before she was at the young woman's door. Knowing there was an infant sleeping inside, she sent Andrea a text message letting her know she was outside.
"Hi," Andrea said, opening the door and smiling brightly. "Thanks for not knocking." She led Miranda into her apartment and quietly shut the door behind her. "I promise I'll straighten up before tomorrow."
"Oh, don't worry," Miranda said. "Here, before I forget, I brought some ice cream."
"Great, thanks. I'll pop it back in the freezer and we can have it later," Andrea said. "Can I get you something to drinkwater, tea, wine?"
Miranda shook her head. "A glass of water is fine." She watched as the young woman poured a glass of Pellegrino. Did she buy that just for her, or did she start drinking it herself, Miranda wondered. She followed Andrea into the living room where Netflix was paused on the television. A floor lamp in the corner was turned on low, and a wireless baby monitor was sitting on the end table.
Andrea sat in the middle of the couch and pressed a few buttons on the remote to resume the show. "I'm re-watching The X-Files. Great show, have you seen it?"
"Mm, yesa few episodes," Miranda said, sitting next to her. She really hadn't seen any episodes, nor was she paying attention to the one on the screen at the moment. She wanted Andrea to kiss her again, and couldn't stop thinking of how best to convey that.
After a few minutes, Andrea took Miranda's wrist and held it firmly. "Calm down," she whispered, leaning over. "I'm not going to attack you."
Miranda softly bit her lower lip and blushed. It was true. She was nervousfidgety, even. She came over in such a rush, she didn't even have time to decide whether or not she was ready to be intimate with another woman, and, yet, here she was.
Andrea reached for her glass of water and set it on a coaster on the coffee table. "Come here," she said, taking both her hands and scooting over towards the corner of the couch. She leaned back into the sofa and tugged the older woman against her.
"Oh, Andrea, this is uncomf"
"Wait. Will you just, like, attempt to get comfortable? Wrap your arm around me or something?" she said, somewhat impatiently.
Miranda began to roll her eyes, then stopped herself. It didn't matter, though. Andrea noticed right away and sat up. "What?" Miranda huffed.
Andrea shook her head and smiled. "You." She took the woman's hands and held them tightly, returning to her former position and resting her head on Miranda's shoulder. "I wish you would relax," she said. "Or, wait, do you not want to be here?"
This time, Miranda didn't hide her eye-roll. "Oh, don't be absurd," she said, softly wrapping her arm around the young woman's waist. "I want to be here," she whispered, burying her face into her neck. Andrea smelled of amber, vanilla, and jasmine, and she couldn't help but inhale deeply. "I want to be here," she repeated, her lips hovering over the delicate skin behind Andrea's ear.
Andrea gently tilted her head and slipped her finger beneath Miranda's chin, guiding her until their lips met. Andrea kissed her softly once again, savoring everything about it. After a short while, Miranda moaned into the young woman's mouth, causing her to groan in response and deepen the kiss, pressing Miranda into the couch cushions.
Miranda slid along the sofa until she was lying on her back. Andrea was devouring her, and she absolutely loved it. Never in fifty-seven years could she remember feeling this good. Never did she melt like this at the touch of someone's lips.
When Andrea broke the kiss, her lips went straight for Miranda's neck, that soft porcelain skin she'd dreamt about for yearsever since she wore that off-the-shoulder Valentino dress
Miranda wrapped her arms around the young woman's shoulders as she quietly whisperedboth to Andrea and herselfhow good this felt. Miranda's hands traveled down Andrea's sides, sliding past her hips and gently caressing her upper thighs, urging her for more.
Andrea responded in kind, kissing her lips and practically sucking the woman's tongue from her mouth. Miranda groaned and arched up off the couch, her hands firmly grasping the woman's legs at the back of her thighs. "Oh, Andrea," she gasped.
Just then, they heard a baby crying on the monitor, and it wasn't the maybe-he'll-go-back-to-sleep kind of cry.
Andrea sat up, then gave Miranda a quick kiss on the lips before running down the hallway to her office, where she had a portable crib setup. A few minutes later, she emerged from his room and Miranda was sitting at one of the kitchen stools, drinking a glass of water.
"Hold on, buddy," Andrea said, gently bouncing him as she tried to get his bottle prepared.
"Give him here," Miranda said, standing next to her with her arms out. Andrea carefully handed the baby over, and Miranda began walking around the apartment, bouncing him and whispering to him until he stopped crying. When Andrea finished warming his bottle, Miranda held her hand out and fed Theodore his bottle.
Andrea could hardly believe how calm Theo was in her arms. "How do you do that?"
"Did you forget? I had two of themat once."
Andrea smiled. "I couldn't get him to stop screaming earlier. I"
"Shh," Miranda whispered, setting the bottle down on the table. "Where's his crib?"
Andrea led her to the crib in her office where Miranda tucked him back in for the night. After closing the office door, Andrea paused outside her bedroom. "Did you want to stay tonight?" she blurted out. "I mean, so you don't have to drive home so late."
Miranda looked at her wide-eyed, softly shaking her head in the negative. "We have time," she said. "In fact, I think I'm going to head home nowit's almost one."
Andrea nodded and walked her to the door. "Dinner at seven tomorrow?"
"Perfect," Miranda said. "Thank you for having me over tonightI really enjoyed it," she added.
Andrea leaned in and gently kissed her cheek. "Goodnight. Text me when you get home."
Miranda nodded, and after stealing another kiss, she was out the door.
The following evening, Miranda was sitting back in a lounge chair, spinning the stem of her wine glass between her fingers. It had only been a weekseven days since Nigel's funeral, when Andrea came back into her life. It caught her by surprise, but that was probably a good thing. Otherwise, she would most certainly not have been sitting on the rooftop with the young woman, gazing out into the night sky.
It was a balmy night. The temperature was still in the upper eighties, and the sun had already set. At least there was a breeze. Miranda wore a strapless chiffon maxi dress with a pair of wedge sandals that were resting on the ground next to the chair.
"This view is what really sold me on the place," Andrea said. She poured the rest of the wine into Miranda's glass and set the bottle on the ground between them. They'd consumed two bottles in just over two hours, and Andrea was feeling sufficiently tipsy.
"New York looks beautiful from here," Miranda said.
"You look beautiful from here."
Miranda turned her head and smiled coyly. Her face was already flusheda combination of heat and the wine.
"Come sit with me," she said, patting the space next to her on the chair.
Miranda joined her on the oversized chaise and they sat in silence for a while, enjoying the nearness. When Miranda finished her wine, Andrea took the glass and set it on the ground along with her own.
"Would it be alright if I"
Miranda nodded eagerly before she could even finish her question.
At first, the kisses were soft and gentle. Andrea could feel Miranda's lips curling up at the corners, evidence that she was smiling into the kiss. When she needed some air, she began trailing her lips down the older woman's neck and across her shoulders, searching for that spot that would make Miranda's head spin.
It was December 1994. Miranda took one, two, three shots of vodka while James was lighting some candles and dimming the lights in their room. He was a good manalmost too good. He deserved a pliable wife on his wedding night.
Miranda's eyes fluttered open when Andrea's lips were suddenly on hers. She was kissing her with a hunger that matched her own. She had never been with a woman like this, but it felt so good, so right.
Andrea reached down and tugged Miranda's dress up, slipping her hand underneath and sliding her palm up her thigh.
She was on her back in her white corset and garter belt. James's hand stroked her thigh, and she opened her legs for him. He didn't want to use protection tonight. They agreed that a baby would be welcome, but not necessary. Really, she just wanted any child of hers to have a good father, like her own. James would be a good father. He was able to support himself, and he required very little of her. He was a suitable husband.
Miranda moaned and arched her back as Andrea brushed her thumb over her hardened nipple. Her right hand was still under her dress, cupping her ass, while her left hand had pushed down the top of her dress and was cupping her breast, gently kneading. The young woman dragged her tongue over her nipple, then gently blew on it, sending a shiver through Miranda's body.
Stephen was not a suitable husband. Marrying him had been a mistake, and she handled it poorlyletting him embarrass her like that, allowing him to threaten to release those nude photographs if she didn't agree to ten years alimony. Thank god they settled on seven. Those photos were a mistake, too. He only wanted her for the money. He never loved her.
Andrea gently brushed her cheek and kissed her. She pulled back and looked into her eyes. "Hey, where'd you go?" she asked quietly.
Miranda blinked a few times, then pushed Andrea off her as she pulled up her dress. She felt panic rising in her throat and she needed to get away. She stood unceremoniously from the chair and ran to the door leading back to Andrea's apartment.
"Miranda?" she called as she, too, stood from the chair.
"Stopdon'tdon't follow me," Miranda said. She grabbed her purse from the kitchen counter and then went into the bathroom and locked the door. She was shaking, and she could hardly open her bottle of Xanax. Finally, she managed to swallow one. She splashed some cold water on her face, then sat on the closed toilet lid and hung her head down between her knees, trying to control her breathing. Deep breath in, deep breath out. Repeat.
She tried texting her daughters, but they didn't respond. She needed to talk this out. Why was this happening? Was it because she was nervous about sex with a woman? No, that couldn't be it. Because she didn't trust Andrea? No, well, she wanted to. She wanted to trust her, but really, what did she even know about the woman? She was a fucking journalist. She could be writing an expose, the unauthorized biography of the real Miranda Priestly. "Fuck," Miranda hissed.
After a few minutes, she could feel her heart slowing down. Her medication was kicking in. She slowly lifted her head and looked at herself in the mirror. What was she going to say to Andrea? She couldn't just leavethat wouldn't help matters. She needed to find a way to protect herself before she ended up in the same situation she was with Stephen. She didn't really know the new editor-in-chief at The Mirror, so she couldn't use her job as leverage. Not that she wanted to, really. Part of her thought she could even love Andrea. That didn't matter now. She shook her head and straightened out her hair. She would make up some excuse to leave tonight, then have her lawyer draw up some sort of confidentiality agreement covering everything in the past eight days and any days in the future. There would be legal ramifications if Andrea so much as whispered any of the personal details Miranda shared with her.
There was a knock at the door. "Is everything okay?" Andrea asked, her voice laced with concern.
"Uh, just give me a second," Miranda said. She took a deep breath and reapplied her lip gloss. Her lips were swollen. For a second, she thought it funny that kissing worked better than Botox. She unlocked the door and walked out into the kitchen, where Andrea was standing, holding her wedges in her hand.
"I need to leave," she said, looking at the ground. "Thank you for dinner." She reached out for her shoes and quickly put them on as she made her way to the door.
"Wait" Andrea said, following her. "What happened? Are you okay? Did I say something to upset you?"
"I'm sorryI have to go," Miranda said, quickly letting herself out and practically running down the hall to the elevator.
Andrea decided she needed to follow Miranda. She already ran away from Miranda once and it took them eight years to find their way back. She wasn't going to let Miranda get away that easy tonight.
Thirty minutes later, she was walking up the steps of the townhouse. Her hand hovered over the doorbell, but she decided against it. Andrea didn't want to make Miranda feel uncomfortable. She pulled out her phone and called Miranda, but the call went to voicemail. She tried sending a text message: "I'm on your front porch." Miranda wasn't responding. She tried calling her one more time, and this time, she answered.
"Andrea, what on earth are you doing? What do you want from me?"
"Nothing!" Andrea shouted back into the phone. "Wait, no. That's not true. I want you to stop talking to me like I'm your fucking assistant. I want you to explain why you ran away from me tonight. I want you to tell me what's going on inside your head. I want I want you, Miranda."
There was silence on the other end of the line. After a minute, Andrea looked down at her phone to make sure she was still connected.
"I'm still here," she said quietly. It sounded as if she had been crying. "I'm sorry that you came all this way. I can't let you inside."
"I don't want to come insideI just want to talk to you. Will you come sit on the porch with me?" Andrea asked.
"Give me a second," she said, ending the call. She unlocked the front door and stepped outside, sitting on the cool concrete. She had a pashmina wrapped around her shoulders, and she clutched it tightly. "My lawyer will be contacting you in the morning. I need you to sign a nondisclosure agreement."
"An NDA. It prevents"
"I know what a nondisclosure agreement is," Andrea interrupted. "I just don't understand where this is coming from. Dodo you seriously think I'm going to sell your story?"
"I have no idea. I need to protect myself regardless. It was imprudent of me to divulge so much without some sort of agreement. I hope you won't mind me predating it eight days."
Andrea closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Miranda didn't trust her. Now it made sense. She was blind to James's indiscretions, and entirely too trusting of Stephen, who took her for a considerable settlement. She was simply protecting herself, her fortune.
"I'll sign it."
"You will? Just like that?" Miranda asked, turning to look at the young woman.
Andrea nodded. "Whatever you need. I'm not going anywhere."
Tears streamed down the older woman's cheeks and she nodded. Telling Andrea that she didn't trust her hurt more than she could have imagined.
At this point, Andrea, too, was crying. She reached out and set her hand on top of Miranda's. "I want to spend the next eight years with you, not missing you," she said. "Please give this a chance."
Miranda turned her hand over and gently squeezed the young woman's hand. "Okay," she said.
On Monday morning, Andrea woke to a text message telling her to check her email. The first was the nondisclosure agreement, and the second was a photo of her and Miranda in tears, holding hands on the steps of the town house. There was a link to Page Six, where she saw the photo with a blurb beneath it: Miranda Priestly spotted Saturday night, mourning the death of her dear friend Nigel Kipling with former Runway colleague, now Mirror editor, Andy Sachs. Priestly and Sachs were both in attendance at Kipling's service in Los Angeles last week.
She replied to the text message: "Thanks. I'll get the NDA back to you soon. Have a good day at work! -A" Strangely, she received no response.
The following day, Andrea signed the agreement, scanned it, and emailed it back to Miranda's lawyer. She tried calling her that evening, but the phone just went to voicemail. For the next few days, she tried calling and texting Miranda, but there was no response. Finally, she decided to take action.
Miranda was restless all week. She wasn't expecting to miss the young woman's presence like she did, but after asking her to sign that agreement, she just couldn't face her.
Monday evening, a full week after emailing the young woman the agreement, Miranda was in the car, riding home after a grueling day at the office. At the moment, she was on the phone with James, discussing whether they would make Cassidy pay for summer housing at Georgetown.
"James, I think we really need to teach her to manage her expenses," Miranda said, stepping out of the car in front of the townhouse. She walked across the sidewalk and began to climb the stairs. "And it would only be" she stopped when she saw Andrea sitting on the top step.
"What are you doing here?" she whispered, covering the mouthpiece on her phone.
"We haven't talked in a week. I just kind of missed you," she said, shrugging. "If you're busy, I can leave."
"Yes, yes, I'm sorry. I'm here," Miranda said back into the phone.
"It would be what?" James asked.
Miranda bit her lip and nodded for Andrea to follow her inside.
"Sorry, I was just walking into the house," she said, continuing her conversation with her ex-husband. "It would only be two months for CassidyJune and July. Have you seen their debit card statement lately? Nearly two-thirds of their spending is coming from D.C.," she said. She set her bag down on the kitchen counter, and pulled a bottle of white wine from the refrigerator. She held it up, and when Andrea nodded, she proceeded to pour two glasses. "Look, just think about it, please? It's not like we're going to let her go starving and homelessit's just a little lesson. Login to their account tonight and look for yourself. I've gotta go," she said, hanging up.
"So, this was unexpected," Miranda said, handing Andrea a glass of wine.
Andrea sighed and set the glass down on the counter. "Look, I know you were ignoring me all week. It's okay if you changed your mind about us, but just f-y-i, it's common courtesy to communicate that," Andrea said, walking back towards the door.
"Wait," Miranda said, taking her wine glass and running after her. She caught up with her in the foyer. "No, I haven't changed my mind." She handed her the glass, and this time, Andrea took it. "Come, sit. We'll talk," she said, leading the young woman into the living room.
Andrea sat on the couch with Miranda, leaving a comfortable distance between them. "So, Cassidy likes to spend money?" she asked.
Miranda shook her head and sighed. "Andrea, I thought for sure you'd change your mind about us after signing the nondisclosure. This is too complicatedI'm too complicated. No one wants this. Why are you here? Did you think we would just, I don't know, pick up where we left off?" she asked.
"Actually, yes, I did think that," Andrea said with a smile.
Miranda nearly choked on her wine. "You're serious, aren't you?" she asked, wiping the dribble from her chin.
Miranda closed her eyes and took a deep breath. This was what she wanted. She no longer needed to worry about the young woman publishing an expose, so what exactly was holding her back?
"Miranda?" Andrea asked after a few minutes of silence. "What are you thinking about?"
She sighed. "You. I was thinking about how wonderful it felt laying next to you up on your roof, and how it's a miracle that I apparently have not screwed it all up."
"Nope, you didn't," Andrea said, setting her wine glass down on the table and reaching for Miranda's hand. "You didn't screw anything up. I was a little disappointed that you didn't trust me with your privacy, but I understand the need to protect yourself," she said.
"Would you lik" Miranda began.
"Have you eaten" Andrea paused. "You first."
Miranda blushed furiously. "I was asking if you'd like to come upstairs. You were presumably asking about dinner, which, no, I have not had," she said.
Andrea squeezed Miranda's hand. "How about we order something, and head upstairs while we wait for it to be delivered? Then you can fill me in on everything I missed this past week," she said, kissing her softly on the cheek.
Miranda whimpered. "Or, we could just skip dinner and stay right here," she whispered.
"You always have the best ideas," Andrea said, playfully pinning Miranda to the couch as she began nuzzling her neck.
Miranda tossed her head back and laughed as she wrapped her arms around the young woman.
For several weeks, they continued to see each other in the evenings and on weekends, always sharing text messages, emails, or phone calls everyday. To Andrea, it was like dating her best friend. They were well past the awkward getting-to-know each other phase, and the whole relationship just sort of seemed effortless.
Caroline came home from school the third week of May. Cassidy wouldn't be coming home until the end of July, so Miranda and Caroline planned to go visit her in D.C. the following weekend. For the first week Caroline was back, Miranda tried to spend as much time as possible with her daughter, especially since it was so rare that she had time with only one of them.
"Mom, why haven't I seen Andy all week? Are you fighting?" Caroline asked as they walked through an art gallery in Brooklyn.
"Darling, we're fine. I told her I wanted to spend this week with you because I've missed you so much," she said, hugging her shoulders.
"Mom, come on. I'm literally home all summer. I'm not going back for, like, three months! You have plenty of time to hang out with me," Caroline said. "Wait, doesn't Andy live here in Brooklyn? Can we go visit her?"
Miranda shook her head. "Yes, she's just off Kent St., but she's babysitting tonight. Every Friday night, in fact," she explained.
"Well, can we at least stop and say hello? I haven't seen her in years, Mom!"
She checked her watch. It was only half past seven, so Theodore would surely still be awake. "Fine, but we are only staying for a few minutes," she said, leading her daughter out of the gallery.
At Andrea's building, the doorman greeted them with a smile. "Good evening, Ms. Miranda. Andy didn't tell me you were coming by tonight," he said.
"Hi, Joseph. She doesn't know I'm coming. This is my daughter Caroline and we were in the neighborhood, so we thought we'd surprise her," Miranda said.
"Ah, I see. Caroline, a pleasure to meet you. You ladies have a good night!" he called after them as they made their way to the elevator.
"So," Caroline said, "you must come here a lot."
Miranda smiled and pushed the button for Andrea's floor. "Remember, this was your idea."
When Andrea heard a knock at her door, she figured that Emily had forgotten something. "It's open!" she called.
Miranda opened the door and walked inside, smiling as she watched the young woman changing Theo's diaper on the ottoman. "Hello, Andrea."
Andrea's eyes widened. "Miranda? Caroline? Hey, what are you guys doing here?" She quickly pulled Theo's shorts back on and picked him up.
"Hey Andy," Caroline said. "It was my idea. We were at this new gallery around the corner and Mom said you lived here, so I wanted to come say hi."
"Hi," Andrea said, reaching over and hugging the young girl. "Wow, you are totally all grown up. I think your hair was in pigtails the last time I saw you." Caroline blushed. "Your mom tells me you're studying lit at Yalehow's that going?"
"Oh, it's good. First year was a lot of pre-reqs, so I haven't had a lot of classes in my major just yet. But, I know you're busy tonight, so maybe we can chat later. You went to Northwestern, right?" she said.
"Yes, ma'am. For sure let's talk more later. Hey, can you hold him for a second? I've gotta finish unpacking his stuff."
"Sure," she said, taking the infant from Andrea's arms.
Andrea turned to Miranda. "I thought you were Emilyshe was late bringing him over, and she literally just left." She carried Theo's diaper bag into the kitchen and pulled out a few bottles of milk to put in the fridge.
"We must have just missed each other," Miranda said. "How are you doing? How's your ankle?"
Andrea held out her ankle, which was wrapped in a bandage. It was discolored, and looked painful.
"Oh god, that looks much worse than the photo you sent. Did you decide whether you were going to sue the driver?" Miranda asked.
"Not yet. I mean as long as it heals and I don't have to miss work or get surgery or anything, it's fine. It was an honest accident," she said, returning to the living room. She turned to Caroline who looked confused. "I used a car service for a reception on Monday night, and the driver shut the door on my foot."
"Ouch," Caroline said. "I take it you missed the reception?"
"Yes, thank god," Andrea said. "I had him drive me straight to the emergency room at that point, and he was kind enough to wait for me and drive me homeno charge."
"I don't know why you didn't just call me," Miranda said, shaking her head.
"I didn't want to interrupt your time with Caroline. It's fine," she said, kissing her softly on the cheek.
Miranda stiffened and Caroline grinned. "Hey Mom, Andy, I have an idea," she said. "How about if I stay and watch little Theo while you two hang out at the townhouse and do whatever it is you do when you're alone?"
"I think that sounds like a great idea, actually," Andrea said.
"Well, yes, I suppose Caroline, do you even know what to do with a baby?"
The nineteen-year-old rolled her eyes. "Yes, Mom. I'm not an idiot. Andy can just show me where she keeps everything and what Theo's schedule is, and then we're set."
"Perfect," Andrea said. Miranda took Theo while she showed Caroline around her apartment. She pulled out some loungewear for her to change into later if she wanted, and then showed her how to work the monitor. While she was in her room, she also grabbed a few things to toss into her bag. "He's a pretty good sleeper, but obviously, try not to make too much noise," Andrea added.
"And if you need anything at all, darling, please call us. We'll both keep our phones on." She looked over at Andrea, then continued, "We'll be over in the morning before Emily and Serena come to get him."
"Help yourself to anything you need. Mi casa es su casa."
"Gracias," Caroline said, hugging Andy, then hugging her mom. "Love you, Mom. Have a good nightboth of you."
There was a good amount of traffic on the way back to the townhouse, but neither of them really noticed. They couldn't keep their hands off each other in the backseat of the cab. When they finally arrived, the driver honked the horn, at which point they parted and Miranda slipped him some cash. Miranda climbed the steps and opened the front door, and Andrea followed her inside. She walked over to the side table with the flowers to set down her keys, but Andrea pressed her up against the closet door, and the keys fell straight to the hardwood floor.
"Ooh!" she gasped breathlessly.
"Did you want to grab dinner?" Andrea asked as she nuzzled her neck. "Or," she said, licking the skin behind her ear, "should we open a bottle of wine?"
"No," Miranda said, "let's go upstairs."
Andrea stepped away and followed Miranda up the stairs into her bedroom. Since they started seeing each other, Andrea decided to let the older woman set the pace, and she couldn't help but notice that Miranda had been avoiding taking things to the bedroom. Tonight, though, something must have changed. Andrea pulled the bedroom door shut. "Miranda, we don't have to rush things," she said.
"I know," Miranda said, taking her hands and leading her towards the bed. "But believe me, this mattress is infinitely more comfortable than any couch or backseat."
Andrea smiled and wrapped her arms around the woman from behind. She leaned her head backwards onto Andrea's shoulder, and the young woman began unbuttoning her vest. "You know," Andrea said, "I have been meaning to tell you how amazing you look in this outfit."
Miranda glanced over at the mirror. She was wearing a fitted white crew neck tee, a teal and white pinstripe vest, and loose, wide leg chambray pants. "Mmm, you should have seen the looks on their faces when I walked in this morning. I finally had Alicia send out a memo that we would be doing 'Casual Fridays' for the remainder of the summer," she said. She turned around and wrapped her arms around Andrea's neck. "But enough talking," she said, kissing her and raking her nails along her ribcage.
Andrea groaned and tossed the vest aside. They spent the next few minutes fumbling with each other's clothing, and finally, Miranda pushed her back onto the bed. The young woman slid back and tugged the editor with her, and for a while they just enjoyed the nearness.
"Darling, you have no idea how much I missed seeing you this week," Miranda said while Andrea stopped to catch her breath. The young woman's head was resting on her shoulder, and her arm was draped across Miranda's abdomen.
"Mmm, I missed you, too," Andrea said, hugging her gently, then trailing her hand downwards and slipping her fingertips underneath the elastic of Miranda's underwear.
Miranda took several deep breaths, but once Andrea's hand ventured further, she sat up with a gasp. "II'm sorry, I need to get up."
"What?" Andrea asked. Her arm was still firmly wrapped around the older woman's waist.
"II get panic attacks. Please, let me up."
Andrea lifted her arm, and took both of Miranda's hands softly. "Look at me. Look at my eyes," she said calmly. "Good, now we can go get your medication or whatever in just a second, but just try to take a few deep breaths with me, okay?"
Miranda closed her eyes and nodded.
"No, keep your eyes open. Look at me. Okay, deep breath in, and exhale. In, and exhale. Now, Caroline is at my place tonight, babysitting Theodore. They're going to be best friends by the end of the night. Emily is still struggling to lose the baby weight, which is just ridiculous. She's gorgeous and looks great. Next weekend, you're going to D.C. to see Cassidy, and you're going to tell her about the new limit on her debit card, right?" Miranda nodded and tried to take deep breaths along with Andrea. "How are you doing now?"
"I'mI'm okay. That helped."
Andrea smiled and laid on the bed next to her, their hands still linked. "Is this what happened a few weeks ago, on my patio?"
"Can you tell me more about it? I don't remember hearing anything about this back when I worked for you."
"Why would you have known? It's been going on for as long as I can remember. It wasn't until after Caroline and Cassidy were born that I finally started taking medication. I take a beta-blocker every day, and then supplement that with Xanax as needed. ThatXanaxis what I would have taken just now."
"If you don't mind me asking," Andrea said, "does this always happen when you're, you know, intimate?"
Miranda pursed her lips. "I guess so."
"What does it feel like? I mean, how can you tell the difference between panic and arousal?"
Miranda blushed and turned to look the other way. "I don't know," she said.
"Do you trust me?"
Miranda turned and nodded. "Yes, of course."
"Will you take a bath with me? I promise my hands will behave. It will just be relaxing, and my ankle is kind of sore," Andrea said. That last bit wasn't entirely true, but Andrea guessed Miranda wouldn't question her.
"Okay, sure. A bath sounds nice. I'll start the water," Miranda said, crawling out of bed and heading into the bathroom. She quickly stepped out of her bra and underwear and wrapped her silk robe around herself before starting the bathwater.
A few minutes later, Andrea entered the bathroom. She walked up next to Miranda and kissed her on the cheek. "You sure this is okay?"
"Well, since I'm taller, I guess I will get in first," she said, slipping out of her underwear and getting into the bathtub.
Miranda turned the main bathroom lights off and left only the ambient lighting on that circled the room. After setting two large towels on the floor next to the bamboo bathmat, she took a deep breath, slipped out of her own robe, and then stepped in. She could feel Andrea's breasts against her back as she leaned against her. It was the first time they had both been completely naked next to each other.
Once Andrea felt the older woman relax into her, she softly kissed the top of her head. "I'm going to put my hands on your arms, and you can pull them to wherever it feels comfortable, okay?"
Miranda nodded and wrapped Andrea's hands around her waist. She turned a little to her side, and laid her head against the young woman's shoulder, twisting her neck and looking up at her. "Thank you for not being scared away by my trust issues," she said.
Andrea pressed a gentle kiss to her temple. "We all have 'trust issues'there's no way to guarantee that someone won't lie to you or disappoint you or hurt you in some way. We're human. 'Trust' means deciding that you're willing to work for something because you want it. Because you want it to work out. Of course it's a risk, but that is what makes it worthwhile. 'Love' is a risk. You have to want it," she said.
Miranda was quiet for a minute, then she turned around. With her right hand, she brushed Andrea's cheek. "I do want it. I want this. II love you."
Andrea responded by crushing her lips against the woman's. They kissed for a while, until Miranda smiled and laid her head against the younger woman's chest, softly tracing circles against her skin.
"The water is getting coolwe should get out," Andrea said. She gently pushed the other woman forward so she could get out. After wrapping a towel around herself, she held out her hand to help Miranda from the tub, wrapping her, too, in a towel.
"How is your ankle?" Miranda asked.
"Feels much better," she said with a smile.
"Andrea," she said, reaching down and taking the young woman's hand. "Will you make love to me?"
Andrea nodded as she took her hand and led her back into the bedroom. She turned down the covers on the bed and took Miranda's towel as she crawled onto the mattress. Stepping out of her own towel, she climbed in after the woman and began kissing her and letting her hands roam across her smooth, soft, perfect skin.
"Talk to me," she said as she palmed Miranda's breasts, laving at her hardened nipples. "Tell me what feels good."
"Thisthis feelsgood," Miranda stammered. "It'sohhmy heart is racing."
"Hey," Andrea said, softly brushing her cheek with her right hand. "Look at me, open your eyes." The woman's eyes fluttered open. "Still okay?"
Miranda nodded. Andrea kissed her softly as she slid her hand down Miranda's body, cupping her sex.
"Oh, god!" Miranda cried, throwing her head back into the pillow. The younger woman slid down her body and before she realized it, she was choking out her orgasm, making noises she didn't even think she was capable of.
Andrea curled up against Miranda, gently kissing her shoulder. "Miranda Priestly, I love you."
Miranda started crying and turned towards the young woman, softly weeping into her neck.
"Hey," Andrea said sweetly, "you okay?"
"I don't know what's come over meI can't help it," she said.
Andrea wrapped her arms around her and held her close, gently rubbing her back. Just as she was about to kiss Miranda, the phone rang. Andrea leaned over and saw Caroline's name flashing on the caller ID and handed it to Miranda, who wiped her eyes before answering. "Hello, sweetie is everything okay?"
"Hi Mom, I'm really sorry to interrupt you, but I think Theo is sick. He has a fever and won't stop crying," she said.
The phone was close enough so Andrea heard the conversation. "Emily told me he was starting to teethe," she whispered. "There's some children's Tylenol in his diaper bag."
"Sweetie, he's probably just teething. Can you give him some Tylenol? Andrea says it's in the diaper bag. Or, even try filling a bottle with ice water and let him chew on that."
"I'm really nervous. I don't want anything to happen to him. I'm sorryI know I'm probably catching you at a really bad time, but can you please come over?" Caroline begged.
Andrea took the phone from Miranda's hand. "Hey Caro, don't worry about it. How about you give him the Tylenol, and a bottle of ice water like your mom said? He doesn't need to drink it, but he should like chewing on the cold nipple. Then, if he doesn't calm down, we'll be right over."
Miranda took the phone back. "Sweetie, it will be fine. His gums are just sore. Call us back if you can't get him to sleep, though."
"Okay, Mom, thanks. Again, sorry to interrupt."
"Don't worry about it. Hopefully I won't talk to you until morning," she said, ending the call.
"Don't apologize," Andrea said, pressing her finger to the woman's lips. "It's life. Stuff happens. Let's just get some sleep," she said, kissing the woman gently.
"Are you sure?"
Andrea nodded. "Next time," she said. "Right now, I just want to go to sleep so I can wakeup with you in my arms."
Later that week, Miranda received an upsetting voicemail. It was Thursday afternoon and she was leaving the office a little early so that she could pack a few things. She and Caroline were planning to drive to Washington D.C. to see Cassidy that weekend, and they were leaving first thing Friday morning.
"New York Mirror, Andy Sachs speaking."
"Andrea, it's me. Can I come upstairs?"
"Hi, sure. I'll meet you at the desk," Andrea said. She quickly hung up the phone and sprinted down two flights of stairs to the reception area. Miranda swore she would never step foot in The Mirror's offices again after seeing her picture in the paper last week, so Andrea was already curious about this unexpected visit.
"Thanks, Jane, she's with me," Andrea said, taking Miranda's arm and leading her into an elevator. "What's wrong?" she asked as soon as they were alone.
"Why does something have to be wrong?"
"One, you're trembling. Two, you're here. Three, you're supposed to be packing for your weekend. Shall I continue?" The elevator opened to the third floor, and Andrea let the woman back to her office, closing the door. "What is it?"
"There's been a change of plans," Miranda said, her voice quivering as she took a seat. "I need to fly to Houston tomorrow morning, andand" Before she could finish, she began gasping for air.
Andrea turned and reached into the garbage can for her paper lunch bag, which she had thankfully just disposed of minutes before Miranda's call. "Here," she said, handing it to the other woman. She knelt next to her and gently massaged her back. "Slow, deep breaths," Andrea said. While the woman tried to catch her breath, she tried to figure out why she might have this unplanned trip to Houston, and why it might be so upsetting. Recalling that Miranda's mother was originally from Houston, she reasoned that it must have something to do with Miranda's sister Louise.
"Good, good," Andrea said, gently brushing her cheek. "Whatever you need," she said.
"She's deadmy sister."
Andrea gasped. She wasn't expecting that. "Oh no. Miranda, I'm so sorry," she said, hugging her tightly.
"Me too. I didn't even know she had moved. She was staying with some distant cousins on my mother's side, I guess. ShesheI have to go settle her estate."
"So soon? When did she die?"
"Three weeks ago. The state will take her possessions on Saturday if I don't go there"
"I'm coming with you," Andrea said.
Miranda looked up at the young woman through her damp eyelashes. "You are?"
"Yes," Andrea said, softly wiping the tears from the woman's eyes. "I won't let you go by yourself. It's me or Caroline."
Miranda shook her head. "I don't want the girls to knownot yet."
"Okay, then it's me."
"What shall I tell Caroline? We were supposed to visit Georgetown this weekend."
"Tell her I had a family emergency and you're coming with me. Let her go see Cassidy by herselfshe is nineteen years old."
Miranda took a deep breath and rested her head on Andrea's shoulder. "Thank you," she said, frowning. "There should be some sort of requirement for spreading deaths out more than this."
Andrea bit her lip and took Miranda's hand. "What can I do for you?"
"Take me home."
Their time in Texas was brief, and Andrea didn't get to meet any of Miranda's cousinsnot that she wanted to, but she couldn't deny her curiosity. Louise Princhek was a very wealthy woman when she died, and since there was no beneficiary listed on any of her accounts, Miranda was able to step in as next of kin, her closest living blood relative. Her financial adviser arranged for two trust funds to be setup for Caroline and Cassidy when they reached the age of twenty-four. At least she had a few years to decide how to tell them.
Louise died of complications following a triple-valve bypass surgery. She was cremated and laid to rest in a nearby cemetery, next to Cassandra and Ellen. Andrea stood several feet away while Miranda knelt at her mother's grave, brushing the dirt off the stone.
"She loved freesias," Miranda said. "For Aunt Caroline, it was peonies, but my mothershe always had her beloved freesias growing out back, or bunches from the flower shop indoors. I remember my father saying that if he could find a freesia plant that would successfully grow in New York's climate, my mother would have been a different person." Her fingertips gently brushed the pink-and-white funnel-shaped flowers. "I planted these thirty-three years ago."
Andrea sat on the ground next to her and hugged her. "I didn't know either of them," she said, "but if I could talk to them right now, I would thank them both for making you the magnificent creature you are. I would thank them for challenging you, for shaping you, for loving you in their own special way. And I would tell them how proud they should bethat their daughter, sister, has worked so hard and achieved so much. How they should be proud of what a wonderful mother she is, and of the beautiful girls she raised."
She leaned over and kissed Miranda on the cheek. "I'll wait for you in the car. Take your time," she said as she stood and headed back to the road.
When Miranda returned to the backseat of their hired car, she curled up on the backseat and laid her head in Andrea's lap like a child. The young woman leaned over and pressed a soft kiss against her head while she stroked her arm. Before today, there were times when she caught herself questioning the validity of their relationship. Andrea's youth and innocence was, at times, so strong, that it made her feel old and jaded by comparison. But today, something shifted in the atmosphere.
Today, as she sat on the cool grass, mourning the lives of her mother and younger sisters, Andrea spoke with such maturity and wisdom that she wouldn't have believed it if she weren't there herself. This innocent young woman was proof that age is, in fact, only a number. Happiness, peace, and love were all within her reach.
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