DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a gift for Peetsden, my beta reader who has carried me through each one of these stories. Thank you. :o)
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To brithna[at]gmail.com

By Brithna


The office was quiet this afternoon. Actually the entire floor was quiet and…empty. Jocelyn, of all people, had finally earned her stripes and was headed off to Runway London so everyone, except Miranda of course, was out for a celebratory lunch in her honor. As usual when it came to things such as these, Nigel did his best to beg Miranda to come along; but as usual, Miranda declined. It was enough that she was paying for entire affair, wasn't it? Honestly, she was happy to be left alone. Quiet time in this office was a rare thing to be had in the middle of the day so she was going to make the most of it and get through as much work as possible. Getting home at a decent hour tonight sounded like the best idea she'd had all week long.

With her mission set, Miranda put her head down and got to work. In thirty minutes half her desk was clear and things were looking up. The sooner she could get out of here the better. This week had been hard and frankly she was tired of looking at these four walls. Frankly…she was tired of this entire building. The town car. The meetings. The run-throughs…all of it. Miranda's single hope for the weekend was that it stretched on forever. But it wouldn't and she would be right back here tomorrow. So much for living on hope. Hoping never seemed to pan out when it came to things like this. Not these days.

And so much for getting everything done and off of her desk because here was something else to do. A rack of clothing from her last meeting was still in her office up against the wall. Well, she wasn't waiting on someone else to put them up.

Dragging the rack down the hall and into The Closet, Miranda stopped in the doorway. A quiet closet certainly was something to stand around and admire. Total silence. It gave her an odd feeling. Something she couldn't describe. Whatever it was, it was heavy. Very heavy. Miranda pushed that away though and concentrated on putting the clothes back where they belonged; one piece at a time. "So much couture, so little time." She whispered more to herself than to the room or some invisible being as she made her way down the aisles.

Not many people would believe that Miranda would stoop so low as to do this task herself but it was a common thing to find Miranda in situations like this, especially late at night. Seeing and touching everything that wasn't deemed 'good enough' by her subordinates had saved numerous issues in the past. Save for Nigel, Miranda could not trust them to always see the world through her eyes. Why they couldn't was unfathomable but it was just the simple truth. No one could do what she did.

"No one…" She whispered to herself again and as the words left her, Miranda had to quickly reach out and grip the now empty rack for support. That heavy feeling, that she couldn't describe, was back with a vengeance. Her heart was pounding. Literally pounding against her chest and for a moment she panicked. This was certainly different…new…and it hurt.

Pushing the rack through the aisle, Miranda sought out the safety of a chair that was against the back wall of the closet. Just before her knees gave out, Miranda reached the chair and fell into it. "My God…what is this?" A sweat was breaking out onto her forehead now. Miranda Priestly did not sweat. Well that wasn't exactly true but in this office, in this world, Miranda Priestly did not sweat.

Desperate for anything that would make this stop or at least relieve the pain a little; Miranda leaned forward in the chair, rubbing her chest. This had to stop…right now. It had to stop…but it wasn't…

While she remained in this position, Miranda continued to rub her chest and suddenly, an image of her father just popped into her mind like it was absolutely nothing. Just out of the blue.

Miranda had not thought about her father Charles in quite some time. He had been gone for so long…would he have been proud of her? Would he be proud of her now? After everything she had done, after everything she had accomplished, after she had literally changed the world of fashion. Would he be proud? Probably. Yes. Yes, he would be proud. After all, this is what he wanted for her. The best. The top…a crown of glory. And she had all of that. She had everything.

A searing pain shot through her, making her breathe in deep through her nose and sit up against the back of the chair.

Charles, having been the Editor of The Daily News was a formidable figure both in New York and at home. He was strict, unforgiving, and a workaholic. And when Miranda had come down stairs one night at the tender age of sixteen to declare that she was dropping out of high-school; his only response was to look up from his paper-work and say "Fine, Miriam. Be ready to go to the office by seven. Do not be late. That's all." Not another word was ever said about high-school despite her mother's misgivings and from then on it was work, all work, all the time.

But besides Charles' stanch work ethic…he had imparted something else to Miranda. The knowledge of when to hang it all up and walk away. Of course for years she never believed he was serious and chalked it up to him just rambling on in his way. The older he got, the more he loved to hear himself talk. Yet, years later she would learn he was indeed serious.

Out of the blue he simply called her up and said "Well this is it my girl. I'm hanging it up. Come to the house on Sunday, we're having a dinner. That's all." And that was it. He was done. So what he had told her all those years ago… "Miriam, when you're angry, frustrated, and you just flat out don't want to get out of bed in the morning…it's time to hang it up."…was true. Or at least it was for him.

Her father had gone on to live twenty more years and died peacefully doing exactly what he'd always wanted to do on a weekend but never had the time all those years ago: bird watching. It baffled Miranda to know that this man, this huge figure of a man…had only ever wanted to watch birds and catalog his findings in an old leather journal. At least he had gotten what he wanted in the end. Twenty years of freedom to watch his birds and to take her mother to dinner every Wednesday night.

Without realizing it, the pain in Miranda's chest had lessened quite a bit and her breathing was as close to normal as it could be under the circumstances. She felt lighter. Settled.

She really should get up from here and get back to work. This was probably just a panic attack rearing its ugly head in a very nasty fashion. Those, honestly, were not uncommon for Miranda. This was merely the worst one so far…so far. When would the next one come? There had been talk of going to see a doctor, of anti-anxiety pills, of a little time off; but Miranda had scorned all those ideas. Miranda Priestly did not need a doctor, pills, or a little time off. No…she needed none of that.

Besides, there was all this to do. Miranda looked around the room, this massive closet and surveyed the work, the life she had made. She certainly couldn't say that it wasn't beautiful…so colorful. But it was only like that now, in this quiet room when she was alone. Once everyone returned from this glorious lunch, once the pace quickened again and the seriousness of it all came rushing back at her…it would lose its beauty, lose its color and became a burden. And a heavy one at that.

The thought of this burden made her close her eyes for a while. "I wonder what they would do…if I left." She said aloud. "I wonder what would happen." The thought of it surprised her a little. The answer was only one word: nothing. Nothing would happen. They would carry on, find a new editor; probably Nigel. That would be the best move. The board would see that easily enough. She could visualize so clearly Nigel stepping up, taking the helm, steering the ship. It would be easy for him. He would excel…achieve victory. "It would be fine." She exhaled. "It would be fine. It would survive…there would be no bloodshed."

At these last words Miranda opened her eyes and scanned the room again. It was still empty and there was still silence. She was still alone. Yet, perhaps not. Her father's voice seemed to float above her and slowly cover her. "It's time to hang it up, my girl." He said in his usual deep, firm voice. There was a slight hint of mischief in it though and a happiness that made her smile.

He was right.

Leaving the chair, Miranda stood up straight and all memory of her previous pain and panic were gone. With a lightness that she hadn't felt in…well…she couldn't remember how long, she turned off the light and shut the door to The Closet, knowing that she would never go in there again…and she was totally okay with that.

A round through her office didn't take long. She only needed three things. Two small picture frames and her personal laptop. If she thought of something else later on, Nigel could bring it over. Before leaving, Miranda looked back one last time then shut the light off and closed the door. Emily would see this and naturally assume Miranda was done for the day. She would be correct in her observation but slightly off in the time length.

In the elevator Miranda remembered that she'd forgotten to call Roy. That was fine though. A cab, for once, would do. A large tip would make her journey home a short one. There was a security guard at the door as usual, she briskly instructed him to hail a cab for her knowing that it wouldn't take but a small amount of time. Miranda hardly stood there thirty seconds yet before she entered…there was a small sound behind her, barely audible. She turned and surveyed the steps and the front of the building but saw nothing at first. Not caring for the cab drivers impatience Miranda remained where she was and looked again as she heard the small sound once more. It was like a song. Finally she saw it and inhaled sharply.

What could this tiny thing, an Eastern Phoebe to be exact, be doing in the very belly of Manhattan? This was certainly no place for such a bird…so small and delicate. Central Park, yes. Manhattan, no. How odd. The tiny bird called out again from its place atop the ledge of the doorway to the building and puffed out its little white chest. She seemed to be saying, "I'm invincible! Try and tell me otherwise!" Miranda would be the last person to contradict her proud declaration. To be such a beautiful thing, in this place, it would have to be. The bird called out again and ruffled the sleek gray feathers of its tail. Miranda smiled.

It was time to go.

Leaving the little bird with its regal stance and puffed up chest Miranda headed home. The cab driver, God bless him, was not in the mood to talk and Miranda made her journey in silence. There was much to do, so many people to contact, but that could all wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow she would stand tall and regal. She would not relent in her position, no matter how the powers that be railed against her decision. Like the little bird outside the Elias-Clarke building, Miranda would be invincible to the very last minute of her very last hour.

The ride took even less time than she imagined it would and before she realized it, Miranda was standing in the foyer. The coat closet was forgotten and Miranda took a seat on the third step soaking up the feeling…the finality of her choice. This was the first time she had entered this home with no work to follow her upstairs. It felt good and she wondered if her father had felt the same way. Probably so.

Soft footsteps caught her attention and she looked up…there was nothing better than this. This beautiful face belonging to her wife of nearly seven years.

"Miranda?" Andrea's voice was worried and she had the face to match. Of course she would be worried. It was only one o'clock in the afternoon.

Miranda smiled. "Hello, darling."

"Are you alright?" Andrea came forward and knelt in front of her. "Has something happened?"

"No…nothing has happened." Miranda reached out for the younger woman's hands. "I am done…"

Andrea said nothing; she merely leaned back a little and looked at Miranda with a shocked expression.

"I'm done." Miranda repeated. "Hanging it up…as Father would say."

Again there was that shocked expression but this time Andrea found her words. "Hanging it up?" She let go of Miranda's hands and cupped her chin. "Really? Are you sure you're alright?"

Miranda chuckled and leaned into Andrea's left hand, kissing it. "I am alright…and I am ready. Really."

"Well then…" Andrea paused and rose to her feet, taking Miranda's hands back. "I'll call Leslie. She can come over in the morning. It will be a busy day you know…I'll call Emily too just to let her know she doesn't need to bother with The Book tonight. She can give it to Nigel…is that good?"

"That's good. It will be his now anyway." Miranda stood and stretched, suddenly sleepy.

"You're tired. Let me have your coat." Andrea pulled her back down to the foyer and Miranda removed her coat and left her bag on the front table. They shared a tight hug and a long kiss before Andrea pulled away and looked her deep in the eye. "You're sure?"

"Yes, darling." She yawned. "Hanging it up…"

"What will you do?" Andrea asked as she led Miranda up the stairs and toward their bedroom.

"I don't know." Miranda chuckled lightly. "Bird watching…isn't that what everyone does when they retire?"

"You bet." Andrea laughed and pushed Miranda down onto the bed. "You'll be great at it. You're great at anything you do."

Miranda slipped off her shoes. "I hope…we shall see. Darling, I think I might rest for a bit."

"I know. Why do you think I brought you in here…you're so silly sometimes." Andrea pushed her down toward the pillows and Miranda went quite willingly. "I love you, Miranda." She kissed her lips and forehead then smoothed back Miranda's hair. "Everything will be fine…bird watching and all."

"I know." Miranda whispered and kissed her back. "I've seen one already." Her words were already fading as sleep overtook her. "An Eastern Phoebe…beautiful."

That was the last thing Miranda said as Andrea turned off the lamp and pulled a quilt over her. Everything would be alright. All Miranda would need was her father's journal to guide her. In it she would discover the beauty she missed so much…she was sure of it.

The End

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