DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: AU — What might occur in an alternative universe where Miranda Priestly's assistant is one Nate Cooper and Andrea Sachs is an aspiring chef.  The eleveth-fifteenth installments (of 15) in the first arc of an AU series I'm calling "Life is a Banquet." No writer can promise that you will always find what she or he writes entertaining, but I can promise, on my honor as an editor, that my offerings will be literate, well-punctuated, and (mostly) free of typos.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To medoramacd[at]yahoo.com

Life is a Banquet: Starters
By Medora MacD



Saturday, May 24, 2008

The rest of the week was a roller coaster. The relief provided by the results of the ELISA test and visits from the twins was offset by pain, more pain, on-again, off-again fuzziness from the concussion and the painkillers and the harsh realities of being bedridden and dependent on the kindness of strangers. She was beginning to understand why her father often looked mad enough to spit nails — and to appreciate the strength it took him not to.

The medical staff, though generally encouraging, had been frank about her condition. This wasn't something she was going to be able to "walk off." As a matter of fact, she wasn't going to be walking anywhere for a while. She'd be in a full cast for six weeks at least, probably more, given the severity of the fractures. That meant getting around in a wheelchair and being dependent on others to get in and out of the bathroom, in and out of bed, to and from meals, etc. And then hobbling around for another month or so with a walking cast and undergoing intensive rehabilitation to strengthen the bone and regain her stamina. There was no way she was going to be able to work, even part-time, until September at the very earliest.

The smartest thing to do, absolutely, would be to enter one of the nursing homes that Miranda had had Emily research. They'd be totally accessible, have trained staff, all the equipment she'd need. Most of them seemed geared to the needs of the elderly, however, and many had 400 beds or more. Basically it would be like living in a dorm. One filled with people who truly were seniors. Perfect.

She flipped through the brochures. There was one near Lily's studio in SoHo. She was leaning more toward one located in the East 70s, however. She might be able to see the girls regularly if she went into a facility near their townhouse. Having them in her life had become surprisingly important to her. It had been wrenching when Caroline had been discharged on Thursday morning, leaving her on her own in the hospital save for short after-school visits by the sisters, escorted sometimes by Roy, once by their mother.

Boy, had that been a wake-up call! Miranda had spent the entire time on her cell harranging a hapless art director who'd decorated the set of an upcoming shoot in Kelly green rather than key lime, causing civilization to teeter on its very foundations. The exchange had reminded Andy of the horror stories Nate had told her and all the times she'd asked him why he wanted to work for the Dragon Lady. How long would it take before Miranda turned that lash of a tongue on her? Probably only as long as it took Andy to disagree openly with her or cause her some minor inconvenience.

When the twins discovered how high maintenance she was going to be, they would develop buyer's remorse too. Like those kids who promise their parents that if they can have the puppy, they'll walk it at least once every single day, only to renege on the deal three days later.

Caroline and Cassidy are going to revert to their Terrible Two-ness, Miranda is going to morph back into Her High Priestliness and I'll be stuck in the basement, soaked in my own urine, and eating crusts of moldy bread thrown at me by a resentful housekeeper.

This image, so over the top, made Andy laugh. She decided to blame it on the pain meds, though now, after a week, she was down to the bare minimum.

Yeah, the smart thing would be to avoid all that drama and just go to a nursing home. The notion of staying at the townhouse was utterly ridiculous. The kids would keep bringing it up, however, and as unfeasible as she knew it to be, Andy couldn't quite bring herself to disappoint them by dismissing it out of hand.

She decided to discuss the situation with her mother during a Skype chat timed for when her father had turned in for the night. She already knew what he thought about the matter — he'd told her in a phone call the day before that she'd be nuts to get involved with "that crazy bunch" or to go anywhere but a top-notch nursing facility. Something in her mother's tone had suggested she thought otherwise, but Dad had started talking about the Cincinnati Reds and outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr., closing in on his 600th career home run and she decided to drop the subject for the moment.

Just as well. He was already on the prod about Nate — and he didn't even know the half of it.

She had told them that he had moved out and returned to Cleveland, but not about the grave risk he had exposed her to. That was mostly because she didn't want them to worry, but also because she knew that the minute the call ended her father would have headed north on I-71 with the intent of inflicting grievous bodily harm on Nate and that despite his Parkinson's her mother would have been hard pressed to stop him.

Stop him? Hell, she'd probably have broken land speed records while driving him there, all the while calmly discussing what to do to him after they castrated him.

She was thankful beyond belief that there was no reason — yet — for them to have to deal with this additional stress. With luck, there never would be.

When her mother came online, Andy saw that she was set up at the table in the kitchen of the old farmhouse they had lived in since Andy was a toddler. She was in the midst of reading term papers in the Brit lit class she taught at the high school, but when Andy spoke, she tucked the red pen she used for grading behind one ear and listened intently.

"It's totally ridiculous, Mom. They have no idea what's going to be involved. Hell, I don't even fully understand and I've seen you and Dad dealing with something similar for several years now. It might be different if they were relations or something, but..."

"Are you listening to yourself, Andrea Avigail Sachs? Are you?" Andrea's mom leaned in closer, her face filling the screen. "Because I think you already know what you're going to do. Otherwise you wouldn't be asking for another opinion."

"I don't know why, though! I mean, it makes absolutely no sense!"

"Most of life makes no sense, honey. Does it make sense that Americans have twice elected George W. Bush to be president?"

"Once. The first time doesn't count."

"Except to those yahoos on the Supreme Court." Katherine Sachs ran a hand through tousled shoulder-length auburn hair that was beginning to show gray at the temples. "Here's what I think: I think you need to view this as an opportunity."

"For what?"

"I don't know. To heal and get strong, catch up on your reading, play around with new recipes." She cleared her throat. "Or maybe to tackle something more substantial. Like risking personal discomfort in order to develop some relationships that really matter. Relationships that are so valuable to you that you're willing to do the hard work it takes to keep them going even when they get messy or complicated or intimate and scary."

"Ouch, Mom. Harsh much?"

"You know I'd throw myself in front of a train for you, sweetie. That doesn't mean I don't think there are things about you that could be improved, especially when it comes to letting people get close to you. I hate to kick you when you're down, but we both know that if you didn't have a full cast on your leg right now you'd be off and halfway to Hoboken before we'd be having a conversation about 'feelings.' I'm just saying that I think you know that there's something more you can do for Miranda and her girls and they for you."

"I should go for it then?"

" 'Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns! he said.' Look at it this way. You can always revert to the nursing home option if it's a total fiasco. I mean, really, you got something better to do?"

They chatted a bit more after that, but Andy had made her decision. Tomorrow she would set up a time to talk with Miranda Priestly about living in her basement — excuse me, garden level — apartment until she was healthy enough to return to work and live on her own.

When the call ended, she began reviewing what she wanted to discuss with the Queen of Fashion. "Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die," she muttered, jotting notes on the pad she kept handy. "'Into the valley of death,' eh? Well, let's hope it stops a little short of that..."



Sunday, May 25, 2008


"This is Andy."

"Andréa Sachs, I presume?"

"Andrea Sachs. Right."

"Good morning, Andréa. How may I help you?"

"Andrea, not Andréa."

"Why would anyone name a child that when they could have chosen something

with true je ne sais quoi simply by adding the accent aigu?"

"Ask my parents."

"I'll do that. In the meantime, I repeat — and you know how much I enjoy that

or should from that dreadful young man — how may I help you?"

"Can we talk?"

"Clearly we can. You are asking if you may?"

"Okay, may we?"

"About what in particular?"

"About your proposal."

"I'm due at brunch in fifteen minutes, but certainly, go ahead."

"No, in person."

"This is in person."

"Face to face."

"If you insist. I'll be tied up until two at least."

"At your convenience."

"Three thirty?"

"See you then."

That went well, Andy thought. If by "well" you meant "painfully." The frigid reception she'd just received did not bode well for the conversation she needed to have with Miranda. She'd been a) schooled on phone etiquette, b) informed that her name lacked refinement, c) had her grammar critiqued, and d) generally been made to feel like she was wasting the woman's precious time. All in less than thirty seconds. The woman had a real gift. Still, Miranda had agreed to come to the hospital after Sunday brunch. She only hoped that when they got together, she'd be able to form sentences that were more than three words long.

"Hey, Squid Kid. Wazzup?"

"Andy! Don't let anyone hear you call me that. I'll be stuck with it forever!

Say, did you just phone Mom?"

"Yep, that was me."

"Shouldn't that be 'that was I'?"

"Right, that was I."

"Was she crabby when you talked?"

"Yep, pretty darn bi…picky."

"Sorry about that. Cut her some slack, will you?"

"Cut her slack why?"

"Sprinkler malfunction at the printers. The June issue of the magazine

got totally soaked."

"MAJOR snafu. Got it."

"When are you getting together today?"

"Sometime after brunch today."

"Are you going to talk to her about living here while you recover?"

"I hope to, yeah."

"Why do you want to talk to her anyway?"

"Why? Establishing ground rules."

"Mom makes her own rules. And they change from minute to minute.

Well, you can try. Just try to keep them simple, have good reasons for them,

and be firm. But not too firm, if you know what I mean."

"Rational. Firm. Can do."

"Just go along with whatever she says, okay? Then do what you want.

If you disagree with her openly you're doomed."

"Never disagree? Hell no!"

"And watch your language! She's got a real thing about swearing."

"'No effin' swearing.' Right."

"Please, Andy. I'm serious. This is really important."

"I'll try my best."

"We'll keep our fingers crossed. Miss you."

"Miss you too. Bye."

That was very ... instructive. The twins were so eager to have her move in that they were calling to coach her on how to act and what to say. Well, Caroline was, to be precise. That didn't make the set-up any more sensible, but ... it was nice to know someone cared that much.

Mom will be pleased too. Not only did I manage to extend my utterances to four words apiece, but if things work out I'll be surrounded on a daily basis by people who feel compelled to correct my grammar. Perfect. Just perfect.



Sunday, May 25, 2008

Andy hoped she looked more adult and self-assured than she felt. She'd had the aide wash her hair and help her put on the closest thing she had to a power suit — a white chef's jacket. Not the one from the birthday party, which had been stained beyond salvaging by the blood from her scalp wound, but a soft one that was a little worn but still in fairly good repair. The room had been tidied up too, the Get Well cards and plants arranged nicely along the windowsill. She had to smile, looking at them. Instead of flowers, the staff at Verdi had come bearing pots of herbs — rosemary, thyme, parsley, cilantro, basil, dill, oregano, sage — and warnings not to let her culinary skills atrophy along with her leg.

A knock drew her eyes to the door. Show time! Miranda was wearing a blouse and blazer over jeans, miracle of miracles. Nothing as plebeian as Levis, of course. Andy couldn't tell Calvin Klein from Ralph Lauren, but she could tell that the outfit Miranda had on probably cost as much as everything in her own wardrobe put together. The woman looked damn fine, she had to admit, but ...

The clearing of a throat brought her back to the business at hand. Miranda had seated herself in the visitor's chair beside the bed and was looking at her imperiously.

"Thank you for coming, Miranda. I know it's a busy time for you. But I have a better understanding of my situation now and I promised I would respond as soon as possible to your invitation to live in your home while I recuperate. I assume the offer's still open?"

Miranda responded with a get-on-with-it flip of her hand, and Andy continued.

"Here's what I've learned. This is do-able — barely — according to the experts, but will require retrofitting that you may not be eager to have done. The physical therapist who visited the house on Thursday prepared a list of modifications that would be needed. You'll find it in this folder, along with some preliminary bids I got on what each portion would cost." Andy put the folder down quietly on the tray table when Miranda made no move to reach for it.

"She does not recommend that I move in until they're sure there are no problems with the pins they put in place and they can regularize all my 'plumbing' issues. Another week or so. By then, they'll have trained me how to get myself in and out of a wheelchair, toilet myself, etc."

The pursing of Miranda's lips suggested she was not at all comfortable with the discussion of waste elimination. Tough shit, thought Andy. If you can't deal with this kind of nitty gritty stuff, the last part of this conversation is going to be damned distressing to you. Or very, very short. Having dealt firsthand with issues like this while caring for her grandmother and helping her mother cope with her father's illness, she wasn't squeamish about basic bodily functions. Everybody poops, Miranda. Deal with it.

"I won't be self-sufficient to any significant extent until after the plaster comes off and is replaced by a walking cast. Early July, if I'm very, very lucky. I'll need aides to help with dressing and showering, getting to Dr. Jordan's office for follow-up care, getting to physical therapy. That won't be cheap."

"It will be more convenient to install the equipment you need and arrange for the doctor and the P.T. to come to you," said Miranda, making her first contribution to the discussion.

"Then be sure to arrange for a psychologist to drop by regularly too," Andy replied, as evenly as she could. "Because if a handful of people and the interior walls of your house are the only things I see for the next three months, I'll go fuckin... er, nuckin' futz."

So much for not disagreeing, she thought. And not using profanity. Sorry, Caro.

She put what she hoped was a reasonable expression on her face. It had to be more reasonable than the one she was seeing on the woman in the armchair.

"I'm used to lots of physical activity, Miranda, and lots of people contact. I'm not talking about running with the bulls at Pamplona or the brides at Filene's Basement. But I will go stir crazy if I stay cooped up. I'd be better off going to that rehab and nursing facility on East 79th where there'd be scores of interesting folks to interact with, albeit old ones."

"But my girls want you with us. They're willing to help. As is Consuelo."

"I want to spend time with the girls too. But they aren't LPNs and neither is Consuelo. It's not reasonable to expect them to have the training or time to meet the needs I'm going to have. If this is going to work, you'll need to arrange for professional aides to assist me in the morning — from 6:30 a.m., say, to noon every day and again at bedtime. Around 10? I'll try to arrange P.T. early in the day. I'll need to shower afterwards, eat, and probably crash. The hospital has provided a list of agencies with certified aides. You're welcome to interview them, if you wish, but I'll want to make the final decision, since it's my carcass they'll be schlepping around."

"That will be satisfactory."

"What will?"

"All of it. Everything you mentioned. Very well organized. Is that all?"

"No, actually. I've looked over the papers you had your lawyers draw up specifying all that you intend to do for me. They're fine, by the way, but ... but there's something missing."

She saw Miranda's look turn cynical and she bristled. "No, God damn it. Nothing like that. It's just that there's nothing in there about ..."

"About what?"

"About what I need to do in exchange." She had taken Miranda aback, she saw. She tried not to be too pleased about that. "This is too one-sided. You wouldn't give a cleaning lady access to your children and your home without investigating her thoroughly and making sure she had the proper documentation."

She waited until Miranda nodded, stiffly, in agreement.

"I tried to decide, then, what you'd need to have from me. In the folder you'll find a photocopy of my passport as well as my résumé. I'm twenty-eight, an only child, born and raised in Cincinnati by a lawyer and a high school English teacher. Class valedictorian and co-captain of the volleyball team."

"I see." Miranda gave a tiny sniff. "A regular Girl Scout."

"No, ma'am. Sorry. I mean, no, Miranda."

"Not a Girl Scout? You astound me."

"Not a regular one. A Gold Award Girl Scout. The equivalent of an Eagle Scout."

"Of course."

"And a lifeguard. And Red Cross-certified in first aid and water safety instruction."

"Humph. Continue."

"I deferred entry to Northwestern for a year in order to take advantage of a Rotary exchange scholarship in Peru. I became interested in cooking there and proficient in Spanish. At Northwestern, I majored in biological sciences, with a concentration in plant biology, and minored in Asian studies. I took time off to take care of my grandmother during the last year of her life. After graduating magna cum laude in 2004 I moved to Manhattan. I studied for two years at the Institute of Culinary Education. After which I was hired to be the mid-day fish chef at Verdi, a restaurant on Lexington and 92nd Street."

None of this seemed to be news to Miranda, she noticed. Not surprising. One of those $200-an-hour lawyers of hers had probably arranged for a background check after suggesting to Miranda that this whole getting-a-compound-fracture-and-a-concussion thing could just be some elaborate ploy on Andy's part to get close to Miranda Priestly and all that she held valuable. She was glad she'd decided to put things on the record anyway.

Time to get into the really tough stuff. She rubbed her forehead with both hands, then reached for another set of printouts. "My apologies. This is going to look like a grade school presentation, I know, but I was afraid that if I didn't put it down in writing, I'd ... I mean, you can be ..."

"A royal bitch?"

"Not where I was going with that, no." Though I reserve the right to go there later if your attitude gets any pissier. "I was going to say 'intimidating.' And I can be a real chickenshit sometimes. So I made some cue cards to make sure I touch all the bases."

"Really." Miranda sat back in the chair, interlaced her fingers and crossed her legs at the ankle. "Proceed."



"This first one's fairly obvious."

The card Andy showed Miranda had on it a picture of three familiar monkeys.

"I tried to imagine what I'd want in your position. The next document you'll find in the folder is a signed Non-Disclosure Agreement. Not because that kind of thing is foremost in my mind, but because it was easiest to put my hands on. Emily got me a copy of the one you have employees sign at Runway and I modified it slightly. It basically says that I won't say anything to anybody about anything that I see or hear while I'm a guest in your home. Or have seen or heard to date. Except under legal compulsion. Or while talking with my mom and dad. Whom I'll also swear to secrecy."

After a beat or two, Miranda gave a slight nod, directing her to continue.

"Next, I considered all the ways that I could potentially piss ... aggravate you." She showed Miranda a card that had one simple word on it.


"I hereby promise to respect your authority as head of the household I will be living in. I promise to respect your role as Caroline and Cassidy's mother. I promise to respect your privacy, your property, your rules. I won't do anything illegal in your home, won't smoke, won't drink to excess, won't make a mess. I'll work hard to get healthy, back on my own two feet and out of your hair as soon as possible. I'm happy to say that according to Dr. Jordan there's nothing in that regard that time, sweat, and a few tears can't cure."

A curious expression crossed Miranda's face then, something that looked like ... relief? It was too fleeting to tell.

"I'll also try to clean up my language, at least when you and the girls are present. I'm not making any promises for what might happen during rehab sessions or immediately after them."

"That would be appreciated greatly."

Andy stared at the slogan on the next card, wishing she'd come up with a more elegant way to phrase things. Then again perhaps a touch of levity is just what is needed now. No guts, no glory, Sachs. Finally, she held it up.



Miranda blinked, unsure of how to react, Andy thought.

"I decided next to consider all the ways you guys could piss ... could rub me the wrong way." She cleared her throat. "The statement's childish, but I am not. I am an adult. An independent woman — like you — who has her own career, own friends, own interests, own idiosyncracies, own wardrobe. Having lived for a while with a fashionista, I know these things can become matters of contention. Within the bounds of what I just promised, about being respectful and working to get healthy, I want to be able to wear what I want, eat what I want, weigh what I want, think what I want, say what I want."

Miranda seemed to be taking that one under advisement. Andy forged ahead.

"The reason I'm giving any consideration to this proposal in the first place is that I want to be near the girls, who, for some reason that I cannot begin to explain even to myself, have become really important to me. I'm sure there will be times I'll regret such closeness. When they'll be brats or worse and I will wish them — or me — in Timbuktu."

"They've been on their best behavior with you so far," Miranda said. "When that ends, it's bound to be ... dramatic."

"Exactly. I need to be able to close myself off. To be private. To sit alone in my room and sulk or watch crappy TV shows or rant in my journal about how effing long everything is taking and how much it hurts."

She took a deep breath.

"I also need to pull my own weight."

Miranda cocked an eyebrow, waiting.

"I need to contribute to the household in some way. I won't be able to do a lot at first — pal around with the girls maybe or tutor them in something. Eventually, I'll be able to help in the kitchen, maybe even do some cooking. I figure I could work up to around 30 hours a week or so — P.T.'s going to eat up a couple of hours every day — but ..."

"That really won't be necessary, Andréa."

"It is, Miranda. It really is. I won't be a sponge. I can't be. Bubbe Avigail would rise from the grave and smite me with a loaf of challah if I accepted your charity without doing something in return."

"It's not charity, Andréa. It's a ..." Miranda paused as if hoping to find a better way to end her sentence. Her mouth twisted. "It's a … mitzvah."

Whoa! Not a word I would have said she was familiar with, thought Andy. Though not exactly one unfamiliar to anyone living in New York, given its large Jewish population. Is she using it because she picked up on the fact that Grandma was Jewish or ...

The discomfort on Miranda's face — With how revealing the term was? With the whole idea of doing a kindness to someone? — impelled Andy to move on, past the response, to her need.

"Be that as it may, I need you to put me to work. Let me be useful. But you can't treat me like one of the servants."

"And how is that?" Miranda asked, frost creeping back into her tone.

"I mean, not the way that some people treat their servants. Um. Or so I've heard. You know, like in Upstairs, Downstairs. Or Remains of the Day?" At Miranda's inquiring glance, she colored slightly. "Mom teaches British literature, what can I say?"

"How then shall I treat you?" Miranda asked drily.

"Like a relative who's come to stay for a while? The kind of person the apartment was originally designed to accommodate?"

"Like my none-too-soon-to-be-ex-mother-in-law perhaps? You want me to administer a slow-acting poison that will make you pray for death, then chop your body into small bits and fertilize the garden with them? Very well. That can be arranged."

"That kind of a relationship, huh?" Andy laughed, enjoying the repartee and the fact that Miranda seemed to be doing so too. "How about a distant cousin who's fallen on hard times instead?"

"Jane Eyre, rescued from the moor by the parson and cared for by him and his sisters, who unbeknownst to any of them are her only living relatives?"

"Good one! But a modern version of that. Where Jane has permission to 'take liberties.' You know, have divergent opinions and freely express them. Do things without asking first. Go places as I'm able. Hug the kids when they need it." She steeled herself. "And slap them upside the head when they need that. Metaphorically speaking, of course."

"You want the right to discipline my children?" She fixed Andy with a cold stare that eventually turned speculative. "You think you can?"

"I don't know. I just know I need to be in a position to try to. They could be impossible otherwise."

"I need to think about that. I have to admit that the idea of having another person to be a 'bad cop' is not without its ... attractions."

Whew. Andy hadn't been sure that hurdle was one they were going to be able to clear.

Which only left ...

She looked at the final card. Maybe she should just end on that relatively positive note instead of raising this issue, which had reared its ugly head only as she was refining her presentation. She could do much of what she wanted to do on the sly, after all, without having to get up in Miranda's face about it, something that promised to be extremely uncomfortable. If not fatal.

Yeah, that was probably the best way to go. It flew in the face of what she'd promised earlier about respecting Miranda's role as the twins' mother, but this, she had decided after much agonizing, simply wasn't a thing she could look the other way on ...

"Don't fold now, Andréa." Miranda's expression was ... challenging. But not wholly unkind. She should have known. Miranda wasn't the type to let anyone off the hook.

Andy held up the final card.




Andy held up the final card.


Miranda leaned forward, her eyes narrowing. "What, pray tell, does that mean? I'll tell you now, I don't react well to ultimatums."

"It's not that. It's more of a request for your trust. Before that, though, I have to ask for your forgiveness. If I can't get both of those, well, there's not much more to talk about. In fact, you may never want to speak to me again."

She took a breath. "Last fall I convinced Nate to let me deliver the Book to your house in his stead one night. He was deathly ill, had been throwing up for the better part of an hour ... which doesn't signify one way or another, I suppose. The point is I entered your home uninvited, put the Book on the table, and left as soon as I could. I wanted you to know because ..."

"When was this?" Miranda interrupted, her voice growing even softer, if that were possible, and more frosty.

"The Friday before Thanksgiving. You know, just before you decided to take Caroline and Cassidy with you to L.A. for the de la Renta shoot?" Andy wondered if Miranda would make the connection ...

The answer to that would be "Hell, yes," judging from the rabid look that had just appeared on Miranda's face. She suppressed a shiver and pressed on.

"I wanted you to know because I need to apologize for the intrusion."


"And because something I overheard that night has led me to believe that Caroline might possibly have some … eating issues?"

Before her eyes, Miranda Priestly transformed into the Ice Queen. She was vibrating with rage and just seconds away, it was clear, from tearing Andy limb from casted limb.

Andy rushed ahead, hoping to get in her explanation before Miranda exploded.

"I have not spoken of this to another person and I will not, Miranda. Ever. I am mentioning it now because I can't move into your home without telling you what I think I know ... and insisting on doing what I can to help."

The frozen silence that greeted this pronouncement was almost as terrifying as Miranda's rage.

"I can do this, Miranda. I can help. Healthy food, healthy appetites, it's what I do. I also feel partially responsible. Not for what has happened, but what might. Caroline has just had an eating-related brush with death. What if that further complicates her relationship with food?" She saw Miranda wince. "That thought scares the hell out of me and I've only known her for a week. You must be paralyzed."

"I can't be." Miranda's voice was filled with dogged determination and not a little weariness. She closed her eyes, and her perfect posture sagged ever so slightly.

"No," Andy said. "I guess you can't. All the more reason to enlist me in helping her deal with this. I'll do it any way you like — with her knowledge, without it, as her friend and confidante, as yours, as both — but I have to do this. I can't move into your home and not do everything I can to make sure she's okay. Cassidy, too, for that matter. If you decide you can't trust me with that, that's fine ... but that's it. That's the dealbreaker."

Miranda opened her eyes, pinned Andy with her stare. "You're asking for a lot, Andréa Sachs. More than you know. Cassidy has demons too. Just different ones. And I'm impossible to spend any amount of time with. Just ask my ex-husbands. Are you sure you want to get involved in ... all this?"

"Absotively, posolutely.

There was a long silence. Then,

"I'll think about it. And I'll talk to the girls' therapist. Can I tell you Tuesday what I've decided?"

"You can," said Andy. And then with a twinkle in her eye, knowing such opportunities would be very rare and very far between, "And you may."

She froze when the editor rounded on her and said, "Just as you may find yourself being served nothing but Spam and Tater Tot Casserole and mushy green beans morning, noon, and night as long as you're in residence here."

The expression on Miranda's face did not suggest that she was joking in the slightest.

"Truce!" Andy responded, signaling a time-out with her hands. Which she noticed, to her chagrin, were trembling slightly.

Miranda kept her implacable glare fixed upon her, waiting...

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship, thought Andy. She sobered as she considered the enormity of all the tasks she was taking on. Or one of the biggest freaking mistakes of my life.

She gave Miranda a slight nod, conceding this particular contest, and watched her pick up the folder and walk away. It was her imagination, no doubt, but the editor seemed to have a bit more snap in her step.

The thrill of victory, no doubt.

She sank back into the bed. She'd never been so exhausted in all her life. She'd better get all the rest she could. One way or another, it looked like she was in for a bumpy ride.

The End

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