DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To xenabard[at]hotmail.com.
Into the Fire
Andy barely controlled her breathing as the fire trucks raced past the town car. Ever since she turned eighteen she had volunteered at the fire department in Cincinnati. She had not neglected the duty when she was on break from her college classes either so, even now, after a few years of not answering the sirens, she felt the urge to do so. Shaking off the feeling, Andy gripped the Book a little tighter as she leaned back, closed her eyes, and waited for the car to pull up in front of the townhouse.
Roy's soft curse caused Andy's eyes to fly open and she gasped, "Oh no!"
The firetrucks were completely blocking the street and both driver and passenger could see that it was in fact Miranda's townhouse that was ablaze. Andy exited the vehicle quickly, running out of her heels in her haste to get down the street. She never looked back, the pair of Manolo Blahnik's forgotten in the face of much more important possible losses. One fireman stopped her before she got too close to the townhouse.
"Whoa there... You can't go any closer..."
"I have to!" Andy struggled in the beefy arms, unable to free herself. "That's my boss's house!"
"Don't worry," he reassured her. "We pulled the lady out already. Found her in the bedroom." He pointed to the ambulance and let Andy go.
Andy dashed to the emergency vehicle and swallowed hard at the sight of Miranda, lying unconscious on the gurney, a smear of soot across her cheek. The editor was still wearing the power suit she'd had on this afternoon for a meeting with Irv and Andy thought, She must have been napping before the Book arrived. Andy heard an EMT say 'smoke inhalation'. An oxygen mask covered the editor's nose and mouth but even though the often hard, blue eyes were closed, the rise and fall of the older woman's chest reassured Andy that her impossible boss was at least alive. Andy was a little surprised at the relief that thought brought her, but not really terribly shocked. She'd grown fond of her impossibly, impossible boss and she smiled mirthlessly at herself for the 'fond' thought. It was more than that and Andy knew it. It just wasn't very often she could admit to the word 'love', even in her own head. As she looked around the scene, her smile quickly faded. Something was wrong, she realized, something very, very important. "Where are the girls?"
Grabbing the closest fireman, Andy demanded. "What happened to the children??"
The fireman broke Andy's hold on him and shook his head, "No kids, lady... only her." He indicated Miranda, "The rest of the house is clean..."
"No...." Andy shook her head, "No... the girls will be there. This isn't their weekend with their dad." She knew for a fact Miranda was taking them to the theater tomorrow; she'd scheduled it herself. "They're there!"
"Lady... I'm telling you... there isn't anyone else in that house." He pushed her back as gently as he could. "You need to move back now. The house is a loss."
Andy shook her head, but the fireman had already turned his attention back to the house. A loss, she thought, That means they're just going to let it burn and try to keep it from spreading to the rest of the block. But the girls are in there!! Glancing back at the gurney, Andy's heart clenched at the sight of Miranda so helpless. She'll die without her girls.
Remembering one particularly large fire they'd battled in Cincinnati, Andy recalled that they had found the kids in that fire hiding in their bedroom closets. Somehow, Andy knew the same thing had happened here. They're hiding. Again grabbing the fireman by the front of his jacket, Andy tried to get him to listen. "They're hiding... the kids are in there... hiding!"
The fireman was losing patience with this nearly hysterical woman. "I'm telling you, Lady, there isn't anyone else in there. We looked everywhere... their closets, the trunks at the foot of their beds, laundry hampers...everywhere."
Andy looked at the burning house and released her hold on the man, her shoulders slumping in defeat. They're in there... I know they are... Moving away, Andy stopped short as busy firefighters dodged around her. Everyone was so busy in the chaos, no one was paying attention to her. Sneaking a jacket, an oxygen tank and a mask from the extras on the big truck, Andy put on the jacket and strapped the heavy tank to her back. It was awkward, but she'd had more than enough experience wearing the equipment in Cincinnati to adjust for the weight on her back. She glanced over at the ambulance, the sight of Miranda still so helpless was all it took to convince her that she was doing the right thing. Andy knew that losing the girls would break Miranda in a way she doubted could ever be fixed. Andy headed toward the front door of the townhouse. Thinking about nothing except how much Miranda loved her girls, Andy was determined to find them. Sliding the mask over her face, Andy walked through the front door, straight into Hell.
The fire roared its dominance over the house and Andy watched it lick the ceiling for a moment before moving down the hall from the foyer. The heat was extraordinary and Andy worried that the girls wouldn't have any protection against it. The only consolation she had, was that fire safety assignment she had done for the girls. She hoped they had actually paid attention to it before they'd turned it in. Wrapping wet blankets around them would help, for a while. She just hoped she could find them before that measure became useless.
Her first instinct was to go upstairs and check the girls' rooms but the fireman had been so adamant about having checked everywhere she realized that course of action would be pointless. Plus the safety protocols from the school assignment clearly stated to go as low as possible. She thought, The girls will be downstairs. Peering through the thick smoke as best she could Andy somberly added a word to her last thought ...somewhere. Trying her best to avoid the burning spots on the floor, Andy slowly made her way through the thick smoke and down the hall. Leaning over to get lower to the ground, all the interaction she'd ever seen between Miranda and the girls flashed through Andy's mind. The affectionate "Bobbsey" nicknames, the tears in Miranda's eyes when she had spoken of the effect the divorce might have on her children, the softened voice Miranda always used when speaking with her girls... the impossible tasks Andy had been given on their behalf.
Moving carefully through the smoke and flames, Andy chuckled, I can't believe I managed to get that Harry Potter manuscript for them. She gasped, Harry Potter!! Of course! Sliding her hand along the mould work, Andy found the panel she was looking for and pushed it. She'd accidentally opened it once before while delivering the Book. She hated her clumsiness most of the time, but at this moment it was paying off with interest. The click of the magnetic latch was lost in the roaring of the fire, but Andy pulled the panel open. The panel that hid the cupboard under the stairs, just like where Harry Potter's muggle family made him live before he went to Hogwarts. Relief flooded through her as two sets of frightened eyes looked back at her from under wet blanket hoods. She removed the mask and motioned for the children to come out of their hiding spot, "Girls! C'mon... we've got to get out of here."
With one arm around each child's waist, Andy half-carried, the girls out of the house quickly, holding them up just enough so that their feet didn't touch the burning floor. She was grateful for their arms twining around her neck to assist that process. They weren't large girls, but they were tall and with two of them it wasn't exactly an easy task. As soon as she cleared the smoke, Andy's gaze went unerringly to the ambulance and saw that Miranda had regained consciousness. It was taking three large people to hold Miranda back and Andy heard a sound that she never, ever, wanted to hear again. Miranda's voice, unusually loud, ringing out through the chaos, desperate and pleading. "My girls!!"
Speaking as loud as she could, Andy carried the girls as quickly as possible toward the ambulance. "I've got them.... Miranda... I've got them."
Shocked blue eyes turned toward the reassuring voice, "Andrea?" Then the soot covered burdens took shape and Miranda gasped, "Girls!!"
Andy released her hold and watched, tears barely held in check, as Cassidy and Caroline climbed onto the gurney with their mother in a joyous reunion. The EMT's gave the trio a moment to reunite. Andy smiled at the scene as she shrugged off the heavy equipment then the annoying fireman blocked her vision.
"You're one stubborn gal..." He smiled at her and looked down her long frame, eyes widening as he got to the end of his perusal. "Come with me." Leaning down, he picked her up, cradling her in his arms as he carried her the rest of the way to the ambulance, yelling, "I need a gurney!"
"Put me down!!" Andy struggled against the treatment but the man held her tightly.
"You don't want me to do that."
"Yes, I do!"
They were next to the hastily set up bed on wheels,which was very close to the one Miranda and the girls now occupied. The fireman smiled kindly and agreed, "Okay... just stop struggling for a minute." He let her down, slowly, and as soon as he released his hold, grabbed her again when she began to fall. "I gotcha..." He eased her onto the gurney and nodded, "Here ya go... Hero."
Andy blinked and tried to clear her vision of the tears that had sprung to her eyes. The pain when he had put her down had been excruciating. Looking down her legs she saw the reddened and blistered skin on her feet. "Oh, right.... my shoes." She looked back down the street to where she'd initially lost them and almost couldn't believe she'd been stupid enough to run into a burning house barefoot. Hissing as the paramedic gave her a shot in the arm, Andy watched as he gently lifted her foot to slather some numbing gel on it and bandage it up before moving on to the other. Andy's forehead wrinkled at an unfamiliar sensation. She looked down at her forearm to see an elegant hand resting there. Following the arm up to grateful blue eyes, Andy smiled. Trying to focus, as the pain meds they'd shot her with kicked in. All Andy could think of at the moment was how beautiful Miranda was.
"Andrea," Miranda removed her hand from her assistant's arm, squeezing her children tightly to her. "Thank you."
Nodding, Andy reached up and gently wiped the smear of soot off Miranda's cheek, then Andy closed her eyes and lay back on the cushioned surface. Only one response was possible from her now pleasantly drugged brain, "You're welcome, Miranda. Always."
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