DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My greatest thanks go to associatedbears and sporkmetender. They did a remarkable job as betas for this story. All mistakes fall directly upon my shoulders.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To perks321[at]gmail.com
"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." Ernest Hemingway
The lanky redhead eyed the package labeled "FRAGILE-HANDLE WITH CARE" that lay at the center of her desk. Now, what was all this? Unless it was in the form of an e-mail or text message, she rarely received personal mail and never, never at Runway; however, that was definitely her name written on it. The return address was not one she recognized.
It couldn't have been from any of her family members. Heaven knew not one of them would be sending her anything. After her parents died when she was six, her much older brothers had bundled her off to a boarding school. They had nothing more to do with her save for the occasional obligatory visit at Christmas and, very rarely, at other school holidays. She was left alone and lonely. Once she left England, they cut off all contact with one another.
Puzzled, she looked across the wide office at her assistant. Feeling the glare, the woman gulped. "The guys from the mailroom brought it up around one o'clock while you were out."
Hearing the elevator ding its arrival, she looked up to watch as Andy ran up to her desk.
"Hey Em, Miranda wants to meet in the conference room. We have about fifteen minutes. She wants to look over some of your designs." The smile she had for her friend quickly faded. Bollocks!
Shortly after Miranda and Andrea returned from Paris, Emily's promotion to Runway's design department came through. Andy moved up from second assistant to take over as the editor's first assistant. A very persistent Andy battled her way over several months to get the aloof, angry woman to come around. What had once started as an antagonistic relationship grew into a close friendship. Of course, heartfelt apologies and bearing gifts of haute couture helped a great deal to soothe the woman.
As weeks turned into months, Andy discovered that the British woman intrigued her. She wanted to get to know her on a personal level. Her determination guided them from casual conversations at the office to movies, dinners and even the ballet that Emily so adored. The two women found that they had a lot more in common than work, including the fact that they enjoyed one another's company. They shared stories of their childhoods and daily lives, laughing at the funny moments and commiserating with each other over the sad ones. Emily admired Andy's kind heart and smiled at her bubbly laugh. Andy loved Emily's quirky sense of humor and her hysterically funny impersonations of coworkers, including Miranda.
At work, they developed their own "Miranda language" and tag-teamed in order to get all of their employer's demands met. One would text the other to warn of Miranda's comings and goings, her demands, her schedule changes. A raised eyebrow or twitch of the head indicated what mood the older woman was in at the time. It helped both of them avoid the filleting caused by her scathing remarks. At times, Miranda was quite impressed to have not one but two very efficient employees. Of course, she would never have let anyone know it.
One weekend in particular brought the two women even closer. It was the week of Christmas. Two days before the holiday, a glitch in the IT department caused a portion of valuable work to be lost. It wasn't enough to cause everyone to work overtime but it was enough to destroy Andy's hopes of flying home to be with her family. Her parents weren't happy but it gave them an excuse to fly to New York and see some of the sights.
It was late and Andy was still at her desk begging one of the IT people for help.
"Please, please can't you find that layout? That's the very last piece needed for this issue. Is there anyone you know that can help?"
"Look, I'm really sorry but a virus corrupted that particular file. The anti-viral program purged it. There was no back up. I can't retrieve it no matter what I do and believe me, I've tried everything. My neck is on the line too. I'm packing my stuff now and then I'm disappearing. Good luck."
You big rat!!!! Andy felt like crying. She put her head down on the desk, resting it on her arms. What am I going to do now? This is just great! Merry Christmas to me! Mom and Dad will be here soon and Oh God, I wonder if they'll let me move back home with them."
The telephone ringing made her lift her head. She answered without looking at the number just knowing it was Miranda calling to see if she had taken care of the impossible. Trying to calm herself, she answered.
"Hey, I've finished up and wanted to know if you'd like to come over to my place. We can have a movie night or something." It was Emily. At the sound of her friend's voice, she burst into tears.
"Andy? Andy?" Hearing nothing but crying, Emily threw the receiver back into its cradle and bolted for the elevator. By the time she made it upstairs, Andy had recovered slightly and was calling "Nerds 'R US" to see if there was anyone that could help.
As Emily approached her, she blurted, "Miranda will fire me!" Then she proceeded to tell her story.
"Hmmmmmm ..Well, I may know someone who could assist us. However, if I do this you must swear on pain of torture that you will never, never breathe a word of this to anyone. Here's a tissue. Now stop crying." Andy sniffled and nodded.
Emily placed a call and began to pace between the desks.
"Horatio, I have a situation. You've told me that you're the best prove it!" She snapped the phone shut and sat on the edge of the desk to wait.
Time seemed to slow to a crawl. Finally, the phone rang. Standing up to answer, Emily didn't say a word just nodded her head at the voice on the other end of the line.
"Excellent. I'll be in touch." She snapped the phone shut and smirked. "Open up the file labeled 'Operation Dragon' and send it to IT."
Amazed, she saw the file that had been lost and was supposedly unrecoverable. Sending it on its way, she texted Miranda with the news. Jumping up, she threw her arms around Emily and twirled her around the room. Emily stiffened not knowing what to do. Awkwardly, she patted the other woman's back.
"That's quite enough of that now."
With a smile as bright as the sun, Andy looked at her friend. "Wow Emily, I don't know what I'd have done without you! How in the world do you know a hacker?"
Cocking one eyebrow up looking pleased with herself, she smirked. "If I told you I'd have to kill you."
Andy laughed. "Come home with me. Mom and Dad should be there by now. I've told them all about you and they'd love to meet you."
"I don't want to intrude. You go ahead. I'll see you Monday."
"No way, you're not spending Christmas alone. You're coming with me. We'll have a great time. It's the least I can do."
"Very well, if you insist, I shall go." Andy could only laugh at the woman's demeanor.
At Andy's insistence, Emily spent the entire weekend with her and her parents. Besides the usual sightseeing, the three women dragged Andy's father to a production of The Nutcracker. He and Emily watched a college football game together and got into a heated debate over which was better, American beer or English beer.
To everyone's disappointment, the long weekend ended. Andy's mother insisted that Emily come to the airport to see them off. In the terminal, they said their goodbyes.
"Emily, it was nice meeting you. I can see why Andy speaks so highly of you." The tall man pulled her into a light hug as she blushed.
"Yes Emily, it was a pleasure. I expect you to come to Ohio with Andy the next time she visits. Now you girls take care of each other. We'll call you soon." Emily swallowed the lump in her throat as the older woman squeezed her tightly.
Staring at the box was leading nowhere. "This isn't going to open itself," she mumbled, glancing at Andy. She might as well get it over with and see what this nonsense was. They still had a few minutes before Miranda swept in spewing a litany of demands. Emily sighed and motioned for Andy to step next to her. She wasn't sure why, but she felt a little unsettled and wanted her friend to be by her side.
After carefully slicing through the tape with a letter opener, she pulled out the foam packing to reveal a carefully wrapped cup. It was a child's teacup, small, delicate and made of fine china, the white now cream-colored with age. The hand-painted picture on its front was of a young girl and boy sledding down a snowy hill in clothing from a by-gone era.
Holding the fragile object in her hands, she felt a lump form in her throat. Her vision blurred with tears. Memories swirled in her mind: the smell of roses and new mown hay, the sound of fire crackling in the hearth, but most of all, the feel of arms hugging her as she poured out her child's heart full of grief.
This small cup held so many wonderful memories in it. Her mind tumbled back to a point in time when she was ten. She was determined to make her escape and never return to that horrid school. In her child's mind, she would stow away on a ship and sail far away, never to return. She would find a place in the world where she felt welcomed and loved. It was on this journey that she found what she sought. She met the one person in her young life that gave her what she needed most; a kindly, older woman who became the bandage to bind all the wounds that she carried in her heart. She was the safe haventhe home Emily wanted and needed so badly.
Emily made her escape from school on a Friday evening after giving the head mistress a forged letter stating that her brother Michael would be coming to get her for the school holiday. She was to meet him at the train station. She had packed carefully, including a few things to snack on that she had pilfered from the school's pantry in case she got hungry.
She was walking hurriedly down a country lane with a knapsack over her shoulder. It was just beginning to get dark. The flashlight flickered off and on, eventually giving out. Darn, darn, darn! Now what am I going to do? At that moment, she tripped on a rock and fell onto the gravel, skinning her hands and knees. The girl let out a soft whimper, eyes welled-up with tears.
"What have we here? Looks like you need a bit of help. Why don't you come in for tea and a bite to eat? I'll tend to your hands and knees, too." Emily wiped the tears off her face and looked up at the woman. She had twinkling blue eyes, gray hair and a huge smile. Emily smiled back, took the extended hand and walked inside the small home.
Andy watched as a myriad of emotions played across Emily's face. Noticing the tears, she gave the woman a hug. Emily leaned into her, enjoying the closeness, and sighed.
Simultaneously, the two women looked at their watches. Emily returned the cup to its box, placing it back on the desk to the side to her computer. It would have to wait. She picked up the portfolio she was working on and scurried into the conference room with Andy to await the editor. Miranda was due in a few minutes after a meeting with Irv. She would, in all likelihood, be breathing fire and looking to lop off a head or two. Andy and Emily were determined that it would not be one of theirs.
True to form, Miranda walked in at her usual brisk pace. The younger woman held her breath as the editor picked up the portfolio. One raised eyebrow and a slight nod later released Emily from her prison of anxiety. "I want the apparel brought in."
Emily made the call down to the Closet. "Bring all the new samples up here five minutes ago," and abruptly hung up.
Two minutes later, Jocelyn emerged from the elevator followed by two interns rolling the rack of clothes into the office. Miranda pulled every piece of apparel off its hanger throwing them onto the large table as if they were only old dust rags. She touched each one looking at color, line, stitching. Left eyebrow up, down; right eyebrow up, down; lips pursed; oh god no, a frown appeared. She was not pleased.
Dozens of telephone calls made and received; memos dictated and sent out; meetings scheduled, rescheduled, or cancelled. There were several rapid trips out of the office to feed Miranda's caffeine addiction. Andrea was on her cell phone frantically making the calls that would result in the changes Miranda demanded. An hour passed when Miranda said, "That's all." The fashion editor was furious as she stormed out of her office, the two women trailing hot behind her very expensive heels.
"Why must I deal with such incompetence? These samples are atrocious. I expect something completely new by the time I get to James' studio. Emily, bring the portfolio."
Seconds behind Emily, the clothing rack came barreling through the conference room doorway. One wheel caught in the carpet and slammed the rack into her desk. The small box sitting on the edge of the desk teetered and fell.
Hearing the noise, Emily turned and made a grab for the package but missed. The cup flew out hitting a nearby file cabinet before coming to rest on the floor. It was shattered, and with it, Emily's heart. "You incompetent buffoons; you, you graceless cows!" she hissed at the interns between clinched teeth.
"Andrea, bring the Book no later than 8:30. I do not expect excuses from the photography department. Emily, what are you doing? You know how I love to wait." Miranda continued oblivious to the drama unfolding behind her. She was already in the elevator by the time she finished speaking. She glared icily at the woman following her as the doors closed. Emily gulped and ran to the next elevator, calling Roy to meet them downstairs. She hurried to Miranda's office, grabbed the woman's coat and purse and ran down the stairwell.
Instantly upon entering the car, Miranda barraged Emily with demands before she could quite catch her breath. The younger woman wrote furiously as Roy maneuvered through late afternoon traffic.
Looking through the list, Emily noted that she would not have time to return to Runway before the cleaning crew came into the office. She stifled a sigh and surreptitiously wiped tears from her eyes. It's only a damned cup. It's foolish to be so maudlin, she thought to herself.
Andrea settled on her knees beside Emily's desk. She picked up every shard of the cup that she could find, placing them back into the box. Returning to her own office, she sat at her computer and carried out Miranda's edicts. It was getting late before she was able to scan the Internet looking for any place that she could bring the cup for repair. She found an antique shop specializing in porcelain and china. Luckily, it was quite near the Elias-Clarke building. She crossed her fingers and made the call, praying that the store was still open so late.
At 9PM, Emily dragged herself back home. She'd finally finished dealing with James Holt. Sad and disappointed, she dug through old photograph albums. Finding the ones she wanted, she sat on the couch with a cup of tea. The earliest, mostly school portraits, showed an unremarkable, sad little girl. Later ones revealed an extraordinarily changed child. This one had a brilliant smile and shining blue eyes.
One in particular was of her and an older woman. They were standing side by side, leaning into each other. Emily's arms wrapped around the woman's waist while her arm rested on the girl's shoulders. She gently touched the old photograph with her fingertip. "Miss Rose Mummy," was all she murmured. Tears slid down her cheeks.
A gentle tapping at her door stirred her from her reverie. Opening it, she found Andrea standing on the other side. She stepped back, allowing her friend to enter.
"Um, hey Em I came by to check on you." Andy felt tightness in her chest as she looked at her friend's tear-stained face. "Look, I saw what happened earlier. I'm really sorry "
"Oh, I'm fine. You know stiff upper lip and all that." She waved dismissively and led the way to the couch.
"Here Emily, I know it isn't perfect but I think they did a really good job."
Sitting together closely their hips and thighs touching, Andy held out a package. Fresh tears fell as Emily reached to take it. Inside the box, she found the teacup, cracks barely noticeable.
"This was in the box too," Andy said as she handed the other woman a small envelope. Emily opened it with shaking hands.
My dearest Emily,
I know you are quite surprised to receive this small gift. I will be gone by the time this gets to you. My solicitors will carry out my wishes. You will be hearing from them in the near future.
I wanted you to have this small token of my affection before you learned of my death. I always intended for you to have it. I planned to give the teacup to you on your next visit here. I remember how you loved to sit and drink your tea from it.
Perhaps you will not think me too selfish for not informing you of my illness sooner. It has all happened so quickly that I have barely had time to prepare myself.
You are, and have always been, the joy of my life. You may not have been born of my body, but you are my child in every way. A selfish part of me has always wished that I could have been your mother in reality. I am blessed to have you in my life. I am so very proud of you and the beautiful woman you have become.
Remember my beautiful daughter to follow your heart. It will always lead you home.
I will love you always.
Andy leaned in and pulled the sobbing Emily to her. She nuzzled the woman's hair and inhaled deeply, blinking back tears of her own. Andy began placing gentle kisses on Emily's brow, humming softly. Slowly, the woman in her arms quieted, and the crying stopped. They sat together for hours relishing the closeness.
Emily sat up to face the one who held her. She leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss upon beautiful lips soft lips that pressed back. Everything clicked into place like tumblers in a lock. She need not be alone or lonely anymore. Here in Andy's warm arms, she was home.
Return to The Devil Wears Prada Fiction
Return to Main Page