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.
It's All Relative
Even as Nigel and Emily left, Miranda and Andy immediately launched into normal conversation to ease the tension they both felt from having had such an emotionally intimate morning.
"Thank God you're here. I needed to meet them but I didn't realize I wouldn't want anyone to"
"I know, Miranda," Andy was already rustling through the bags on the floor.
"Ah, yes. Of course you do." Miranda relaxed into her bed, "How do you always know?"
"Because I " Andy stood, stopped and thought about the end of this sentence.
Because my life once revolved around knowing? Because I still think of you all the time?
She shrugged and chose the safest, 'no answer' answer, "I just do."
"Well, it's certainly a relief that someone does."
Miranda had been so intensely preoccupied with her embarrassment and so happy and anxious to see Andy that it was only now that she actually registered what the young woman was wearing. Andy watched with amusement as Miranda looked over her outfitshe'd been wondering when this assessment would take place.
Miranda took it all inan extra large light blue man's button-down over what she was fairly certain was a white Hanes men's t-shirt, a pair of worn blue jeans and then .no!
Andy choked back a laugh. "Yes, Mirandathey're Birkenstocks."
"Andrea, you do want me to get well, don't you?"
Andy ignored this little jab, crossed and sat by the bed. "They're called comfortable clothes, Miranda." She searched for an explanation. "Sort of like pajamas for the outside world. If I'm going to be schlepping around this hospital and sleeping in a chair, I need to be comfortable. And I'm sorryeven if it offends your aesthetic sensibilities, I'm gonna be."
"But those shoes!"
"These shoes are comfortable and just so you don't begin to doubt my virtuethey're my only pair of Birkis. But you know what I can do with these shoes that I can't with others? I can kick them off and pop back in that recline-a-bit and slip them back on in two seconds if you need anything. And they're comfortable. Perfect for hospitals. Trust me, sweetheart, I know more about this than you do."
This endearment slightly mollified Miranda as did the realization that the young woman's frankly feminine form and face in the slightly boyish clothes was .certainly something. She allowed, "Well, I suppose you have a point. One can't be expected to wear Valentino on an oil rig."
Andy laughed, "Is that what the hospital seems like to you? An oil rig?"
The woman waved a dismissive hand from her bed. "Of course it isbut exactly. I watched a documentary about oil production with the twins. From what I could see, it was all just people rushing around doing God knows what. Drilling and prodding and poking with strange machinery. Lights and noiseand all the time," she looked around her room with desolate eyes, "they were all aloneout at sea."
Andy's voice was soft. "You're rightit's an apt analogy. And you may feel out at sea because you've been hurt and you're recovering." She covered Miranda's hand with her own, "But you're not alone. I'm here."
Miranda gripped Andy's hand, lay back on her pillow and closed her eyes. "I know."
At that moment, the door popped open and the large and jolly nurse Andy had spoken to earlier strode in. Andy casually disengaged her hand from Miranda's as she said, "Hi Rosy.'
Miranda's voice was cool and low, "Ah yes. Rosy the Riveter."
Rosy ignored this but responded in an overly loud voice, "Ms. Priestly, this may be the last dosage of pain medication you're getting via IV. You'll be starting oral pain meds if you can tolerate them."
Miranda didn't acknowledge this and merely held out her IV hand as if she were getting a manicure and closed her eyes. As Rosy administered the medication, she caught Andy's eye and rolled her own. Andy's mouth twitched and she nodded. But then she looked at the injured woman in the bed, so disheveled, so unlike herself physically and felt a stabbing tenderness. She took Miranda's hand again and Miranda opened her eyes. Even as she did, Andy watched those blue eyes glass over a bit moreIV morphine was a powerful thing.
She spoke very softly, "See, Miranda? These meds are making you feel better already. But it's a good sign that you're going to be taking oral medicationmeans you're getting better. I think you need to get some sleep before your bath. And don't worryif you fall asleep, I'll be here. If I'm not here when you wake up, I'll just be getting coffee. I won't leave, okay?"
Miranda sighed and whispered. "Okay."
Rosy's eyebrows shot up as she watched this exchange while flushing the IV line. So, the rumor that there was a lion-tamer for this woman was true.
Before Rosy even finished the flush, Miranda was sleeping soundly. Andy stood and covered Miranda with a blanket, then signed for Rosy to follow her out.
"Thanks, Rosythink we can let her sleep a while before that bath?"
"Sureshe needs it. Just call for Wanda when she wakes up."
"And, uhm, they're going to want her to get up and walk a bit, aren't they?"
Rosy nodded, "YepPT's coming around three."
Andy lowered her voice, "I really, really think you should let me walk her around. She's not going to take well to a stranger touching her to support hereven a physical therapist."
Andy saw Rosy was about to argue and continued, "I have lots of experience with thismy mother's taller and heavier than Miranda and I've walked her miles in hospitals. PT can come and check to see that I know what I'm doingbut I'm telling you, it will worth this hospital's while to let me help Miranda."
Rosy looked at her for a few moments, "I know she's bad but how bad can she be?"
The younger woman snorted a laugh, "Oneyou really don't want to know. Twoshe's not bad at allshe's just Miranda. Seriously. Let me help her. We'll all be happier."
Rosy shrugged. "It'll have to go through PT but I'll tell them, okay?"
Serena was an oddity at Runway. A woman beautiful enough to be a model but a woman who would not model. She enjoyed fashion from the art production side. Even Miranda had casually asked her once whether she'd ever considered .
No, she hadn't. She would not be a model. A model, like a make of car? No. Never.
But she enjoyed the fact that she had the attention of the super-model-maker of the universe. And she did. Miranda always, always looked at her withwhat? It wasn't lust or appreciation or anything like itjust interest in an untapped resource she would never have.
Serena smiled at that thought. Then frowned. She'd been flying back from a visit to her family in Brazil when she'd heard Miranda had been shot. She had the utmost respect for Miranda and was grateful she would recover but her mind had crystallized around Emily and she needed to see her.
Emily heard the pounding on her door as she towel-dried her hair. She'd taken another shower after her hospital visitshe couldn't get clean enough after seeing the violence of the day before. She was, uncharacteristically, dressed in a T-shirt and boxers an old and long forgotten boyfriend had left behind. No makeup.
Who the hell? She looked through the .oh shite. Serena.
Emily suddenly felt like a dog needing to run around the room and find a safe, quiet spot. The pounding on the door continued. Bloody hell. The neighbors had ears, too, so she opened the door. Serena looked, as always, brilliantly gorgeous.
Emily stepped back and Serena walked in. Although they were office friends, neither had ever visited each other. Emily was a bit stunned that Serena even knew where she lived and watched as the taller woman, oddly, turned and locked her door as if she'd been there a thousand times.
She turned to Emily and looked her over. "Thank God you're alright."
Emily felt a flush in her skin. Of course she didshe felt utterly naked without her makeup. Without a conscious thought, her hands fluttered up to her face to try to shield herself from scrutiny. With this movement, Serena took in the bruised hands and elbows. Serena gasped and gently touched her hands, her elbows.
They never touched each other except when they bumped each others' shoulders in the hall, laughing over some office fiasco or fashion horror. There were words in Portuguese Emily didn't understand. What did she mean? Emily looked up into Serena's eyes and saw only concern and sympathy.
"Serena, I know I must look a frightI just got out of"
"You are more beautiful than I've ever seen you."
"It's kind of you to lie but"
Whatever Emily had been about to say was quashed by Serena's hug.
Ah. A hug. She closed her eyes and took a breath. Serena smelled like .Emily almost laughed when she realized that Serena just smelled like a human female. She didn't even smell like soap. What sort of person worked at a fashion magazine and didn't wear fragrance? Serena, evidently.
As Serena released her, she said, "You must tell me everythingover a late lunch."
Serena smiled. "Lunch. Yes. Food we put in our mouths during the middle of the day. I know you haven't had it. And we can eat at leisure since we're not at work. We celebrate your being alive, Emily."
Emily wilted a bit and acknowledged, "I am starving."
"We all arepart of the job description. Get dressed. I'm doing your makeup."
"Your makeupI will apply it."
Emily was nonplussed. "Hmmmm, okay. Right. Why?"
Serena stepped closer and answered firmly in a tone that would not be contradicted, "Because I want to."
Emily looked up into the gorgeous face in front of her and thought a host of things. Right. Sappho alert? Kitten with whip? Oh dear. She voiced none of them.
"Okay," Emily answered, simply.
"Good. Change and I'll help you."
After Emily had changed into an outfit she felt vaguely matched Serena's effortless casual chic, she dried her hair and called her friend into the bathroom.
Serena motioned for Emily to sit on the closed toilet as she looked over the woman's rather extensive collection of makeup and said. "Good. This will do."
It was more than a bit strange, Emily thought, as Serena worked over her face without speaking, to have one's work friend invade one's apartment and bathroom and grab one's chin. Although she hadn't seen the results, Emily could feel that Serena was very experienced.
"I didn't know you did makeup, Serenaexcept for your own."
"Oh yes, if I know exactly what's where, I can put my makeup on in the darkI could put your makeup on in the dark. Sistersthree sisters. We all practiced on each other for years."
Before Emily thought about how the question would sound, she asked "Are they all as attractive as you are?"
She winced internally but Serena only half smiled, then snorted "I'm the ugly one in the family."
"Mother of God," Emily whispered.
Serena took this for the compliment it was and winked at Emily. It only took her a few more minutes, then she stopped and surveyed her work. "There. Very good. Look at yourself."
Emily stood and stepped to her bathroom mirror, with Serena looking over her shoulder. The Englishwoman was stunned. Serena had tastefully accentuated all of her features but, by her own standards, had used an inconceivably minimal amount of makeup. She stared at herselfshe looked vibrant and youthful yet sophisticated and incredibly pretty.
Serena saw this reaction sweep over Emily's face and placed her hands on her shoulders, explaining, "Your style is your own, Emily, and you should wear the makeup you want. I just wanted to show you that, with a canvas that is as naturally beautiful as yours, a painter needs very little to finish the painting."
Emily's shy smile masked an enormous amount of pleasure. "I don't know if I could do this, though, Serena. This isn't how I see myself."
Serena tapped her on the shoulders and laughed, "I could show you sometime. Invite me over for dinner and we could play makeup." Emily was overwhelmedtwo meals?
"Now, Emilylet's get to lunch. Do you like Ethiopian?"
Emily followed her out of the bathroom, "Of course but Serenathe carbs! We'll explode."
Serena turned and said in a low voice, "No. We will not. We'll be eating just enough for our mutual pleasure."
Even to Emily's disbelieving ears this sounded like an unequivocal come-on. She then did something she was prone to, that had caused her hideous problems with Miranda forevershe blurted out the first thing that came to her head. "Are you hitting on me, Serena?"
Serena regarded her with bemused patience, as if they were talking about something so obvious it needn't be discussed. "Of course I am. Do you mind?"
Emily flushed as she thought about it. Smart, tall, gorgeous yet undeniably female creature with very similar interests and a sense of humor. Hmmm. Her English resolve returned. "Well noI don't suppose I do."
Serena crossed toward the door, "Good. I've been hitting on you for nearly a year, by the way. This shooting incident made me decide I must take the bull by .the udders. Is that how to say it?"
Emily almost choked on her suppressed laughter but only said, "By the hornsbut the sentiment is the same. But more apt in this situation, actually." As she grabbed her bag, she decided that the last 24 hours had been the most curious of her entire lifetime.
Miranda had slept fitfully and for only about an hour. As she woke, she was gratified to see Andy sitting in the recline-a-bit and working what looked like a puzzle book. Even Miranda's slight stirring in the bed drew Andy's eyes toward her and the girl looked at her with concern and tenderness.
"Hi, sweetheartthat wasn't much of a nap."
Miranda suddenly decided that she'd never seen eyes as beautiful as this young woman's.
"I think I'm tired of being in bedthis isn't my usual schedule, as you know."
Andy put her puzzle book down and smiled as she stood, "I know that better than most of the people in the entire world. How about a bed-bath? Get cleaned up, sit up in this recline-a-bit and you'll feel tons better."
Miranda sniffed. "I suppose that might be nice."
"I promise it will be. After the bath, though, I have to warn youyou're going to have to do physical therapy, okay?"
"Nonsense! For what?"
Andy had anticipated this, sat down and spoke more quietly. "Not in the usual senseyou just have to sit up for a while and then probably take a turn around the nurses' station. They just need to keep you off your back in bedthat's one way to get pneumonia when you're in the hospital, especially after surgery. And you'll build your strength really quickly. They're backing off the pain meds but you need to get up and you might be a bit weak because of them. Sothe physical therapist "
Andy watched as Miranda bristled but, before she could complain, she said shyly "I told them I could do itI meanI can walk you around if you want. I know how to andI mean, just if you want and don't mind and"
"Yes, Andrea, that would be acceptable. Only you."
Andy smiled in relief, then girded her loins for something that might be taken the wrong way. "Miranda, I'm going to send Wanda in to help you and I want to ask you to please, please, please do something for me."
Miranda stared, "Please three times? What on Earth could make you"
"Be nice to her."
Miranda rose a little in the bed and answered, "I'm always"
Andy plowed forward, "No. No, you are not, Miranda. You are rarely nice. But I'm begging you to be nice. She's a very sweet and good woman. If you want to treat a nurse with a professional salary the way you treat other professionals, I may not agree with you, but I won't ask otherwise. But a good nurse tech gives comfort and compassion at an hourly rate you would be scandalized by. This woman is lovely and competent. Please be nice. If you care for me at all, Miranda, you will."
Andy had no idea how that last sentence had attached itself to her harangue, but oddly, it seemed to do the trick.
Miranda stared at her for a few full moments and then said, "As you say. Send Mother Theresa in. I'll act accordingly."
Andy stood, utterly relieved, then kissed Miranda briskly on the cheek. "Thank you, sweetheart."
Miranda's face didn't change and she waved her hand, but Andy's long months in the trenches of Runway told her Miranda was not altogether unpleased.
Wanda turned out to be a robust but beautiful Mexican woman with a winning smile.
As she prepared Miranda for what the editor was sure was going to be the most humiliating experience of her life, she found that the tech's way of going about this bed-bath was so matter-of-fact, congenially warm and unusually comforting that she found herself relaxing. It was like a massage from a professional.
There could be no other reason that a perfect stranger could help her gradually unclothe and bathe herself. This an was accomplishing the impossible.
As Wanda assisted her with regions she was too sore to take care of, Miranda asked, "Do you like your job, Wanda?"
Wanda's English was excellent, with a trace of her Spanish. "Si. Ms. MirandaI wished to be a nurse as a girl in Mexico. But my parents were poorI could not get the education. When I married my husband in America, I got my certificate. I get to help sick people and make them feel better. It's a very good job."
"You are very good at it. But call me Miranda, please."
"Oh thank you, Ms. Miranda, but I could not. Ms. Andy tells me you have children the ages of my little Juan Carlothey are 11?"
"Twin girls. Caroline and Cassidy."
"Two blessings. We wished for more children but cannot have them. Our Juan Carlo is our one blessing."
"I'm glad you have him, Wanda."
"He is a good boyvery smartvery smart. We have big hopes for him."
Miranda nodded as she wincedthe region Wanda was working toward should be embarrassing. Oddly enough, Wanda just kept talking as if she were tenderly washing a car and Miranda found she just could not feel embarrassed. The woman's touch was so gentle, professional and kind that all thoughts of humiliation fled. Her Andrea had been rightthis was a special and good woman.
"Our Juan Carlo tests atwhat do you saythe genius? We are very proud."
"You must be. Any parents would be."
As Wanda gently helped Miranda wash areas no one had since she was a toddler, she listened to Wanda's voice. "We are worried that his school cannot do enough for him."
Miranda ignored the indignity to listen, "What school does he attend?"
As Wanda finished and told Miranda, the editor almost groaned. A P.S.? In one of the worst neighborhoods in the city?
"You are clean now, Ms. Miranda. But we must do your hair. This shampoo cap will surprise, I tell you. I'll microwave it now."
Ridiculous!, Miranda thought. A genius at that school?
After Wanda had shampooed her hair with the curiously effective shampoo-cap, Miranda used her blow-dryer to style it. She needed no mirror for this. She used the mirror on her portable bedside table to do her makeup. Wanda helped her into her silken pajamas, robe and into the recline-a-bit.
"Ms. Mirandayou look like a different person."
"It's my job to look like thisand Wanda?"
"You will be here tomorrow?"
"You must be, Wanda. I have plans."
"Si." Wanda was a bit confused but responded to Miranda's command tone. "Si, Ms. Miranda."
Andy stood outside the door as Wanda left the room and looked for signs of stress in Wanda's face. There were none. Wanda made a strange snorting sound, "Ah, Ms. Andyas you said. A very sweet ladyso very sweet. These nurses know nothingthey talk nothing but dirt. I'll be back tomorrow."
Andy almost dissolved in relief and only said, "Gracias, Wanda. You don't know how helpful you've been."
As Andy entered the room, she found Miranda Priestly looking as amazing as usual.
"Yow! Now, that's my Miranda."
Miranda made no discernible sign that this pleased her but, somehow, Andy knew that it had.
Andy took the visitor's chair and moved it to sit in front of Miranda. "How you feeling? You look fantastic."
Miranda sat up a bit, winced and admitted, "Much better, I think. You know, I really do need to speak to Emily and Nigel but, of course I want to see the girls and John." She hesitated, "I don't know that I have the energy to do both."
Andy looked her overthe woman still looked pale, despite all her glamour. "How about thiswhy don't you call the girls and John and tell them to come over in the afternoon tomorrow and call Em and Nigel and ask them for a short meeting later today. Anything you can't handle in a really short meeting?"
Andy knew this business meeting would be more for Miranda's peace of mind than for any actual work getting done. But this would keep her from fretting, which was as healthful as anything. Beside that, she knew that acting healthy for one's family could be far more draining than anything on Earth. She'd seen that with her mom.
Miranda considered this for a few moments and said, "Yes. I think you're correct, Andrea."
Andy handed her the cell phone.
The calls were made.
Forty-five minutes later, Andy was coming back from the cafeteria with an extra-large bottle of apple juice for Miranda. Sucking tiny straws from square boxes were not her ex-boss' style. As she rounded the corner, she saw Miranda's room door was open. Because of her experience, she could hear Miranda's voice even if it were as quiet as a mouse coughing in a coal chute.
"I don't care what you want. Don't you have someone to harpoon with a needle or an enema? And youPT boyleave. Just leave."
Andy walked in with the apple juice and a smile. No need to escalate, she told herself. "Hi guys, what's up?"
One look at Miranda's preternaturally, insanely calm face and Andy realized the room was at Defcon 5. Total nuclear Priestly winter. Holy shit.
She sprang into action. "Okay, Rosy? PT man? Leave. Just leave."
"Who the hellwait a minute," PT man said.
Andy cornered them and hissed, "If you want to work in this hospital or on the entire East Coast at any time in your foreseeable futures, you'd better leave. Right. This. Second."
They scurried out of the room as Andy closed the door and turned a perfectly calm face toward Miranda, who was volcanic, furious.
"You shouldn't have left me. You always leave me."
What was the answer to that?
"I'm sorry. I just went to get you juice. But I'm here. I always will be."
She hesitated, then did the only thing that could express her feelings. She knelt before Miranda and put her head in her lap. "I'm sorry."
Miranda looked down at the dark head in her lap and her fury vaporized. She ran her fingers through Andy's hair. Such soft hair, such a sweet girl. Minutes ran by.
"No. I'm the one who should be sorry, Andy."
Andy looked up and smiled, "You called me Andy, again."
Miranda's face was normal, calm again, "If you can call me sweetheart, I suppose I could call you Andy when we're alone."
"Ah. Andy. A term of endearment."
"Call it what you will. I'm sorry. And never repeat this."
Andy crossed her chest, "Take it to the grave."
"Andywill you help me?"
Andy looked up into Miranda's troubled eyes. "Has that ever really even been a question, from the moment you snared me?" She laughed happily.
Miranda had the grace to blush.
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