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.
SEQUEL: To Coffee and Brownies.
Questions and Answers
Andy answered on the third ring. Miranda, having uncharacteristically rehearsed ahead of time in her mind what she wanted to say, wasted no time in getting to the point.
"I want for us to discuss in detail the nature of our relationship before we proceed any further together," Miranda stated matter-of-factly. "Given our history and our somewhat visible social profiles -- you a journalist, I the editor-in-chief of a well-known publication, it would be prudent -- "
There was a low sputtering on the other end of the line. "Wait -- who -- Miranda?"
"-- were to -- what? ... No, it's the Queen of England." Normally it would not be necessary for Miranda to identify herself to the other party. She found it oddly aggravating that she had to do so now. "Of course it's me!"
"Oh, hi! Sorry, I just didn't recognize the number on this cel phone..." The girl sounded breathless all of a sudden. "I'm glad you called -- I mean, last night was just --"
"Yes! Yes, I am calling about last night," said Miranda, relieved at the opening to get back on track. "As I was saying --"
"Hm... this isn't really a good time. Do you think you could call back later?"
Miranda never liked being derailed while executing a previously decided-upon plan of action; however, it was very rare for her to feel at a loss for what to do, and as a result she said the first thing that came to mind.
"I see this matter is not important enough to you to make time for. Perhaps I misunderstood your intentions."
"Wait -- what?"
"You must be a very busy person. Maybe I will talk to you later when the opportunity arises."
"No! -- give me a minute --" Her voice suddenly sounded distant, directed away from the phone. There was the scrape of a chair being pushed back, the rustle of moving fabric, garbled voices, rushed footfalls; a door opened and closed, and the voices grew distant. Another door opened and closed; there was the sound of running water.
"Where are you?" demanded Miranda.
"Ladies' bathroom. What's wrong?" Andy sounded concerned. "You were talking about a misunderstanding, and intentions, and I wanted to make sure that everything was okay."
It wasn't fair that Miranda was the only one feeling ill-tempered at the moment. "So the ever-busy Andrea Sachs is suddenly free to talk now?"
"I just walked out of a meeting to talk to you." A note of impatience had crept into Andy's voice. "Miranda, what's going on?"
"It's very simple, really, but let me explain it so that even you can understand. I called you with the intention of discussing 'us' and 'our relationship,' believing that the issue might have been of some significance to you, but obviously you have other priorities. That's all."
"Other priorities?! Miranda, I was in the middle of a meeting! Did you honestly expect me to drop everything I was doing at the moment and -- oh wait, stupid question. Forget I asked."
This was familiar territory; Miranda was well-equipped to deal with snideness. She tried to regain control of the situation.
"I don't like your tone, Andrea."
"Well, excuse me, Miranda."
"I do not tolerate that sort of attitude from anyone, least of all you. If your goal is to antagonize me, you're succeeding."
"Me?! I'm not trying to -- you're the one who --" A sharp intake of breath, and a pause. "Okay, let me start over. Hi Miranda, it's good to hear from you! You said you called to talk about our relationship? That's great! I'm really glad you called to talk about us. In fact, I'd LOVE to talk about us. Just not right now, because I'm sort of in the middle of work. So, what's the problem?"
Miranda saw that there really wasn't one -- or if there was one, it had to lie with her. The truth was that Miranda had called Andy the first possible moment she could, during a rare break in her schedule, because she had sincerely regretted Andy letting her walk out of her house the previous night and couldn't wait to talk to her. Upon finding that Andy had not been as receptive as she had been hoping, Miranda had felt a strange pang of disappointment. But admitting to that somehow felt like a defeat, and Miranda always retaliated when she felt slighted.
"When I call to say I want to discuss 'us,'" Miranda snapped, "I do not mean that I want to talk about it later, or next week, or whenever you feel like it. I mean to discuss it NOW."
"Miranda, I just don't know what to --" The note of frustration in Andy's voice gave way to something akin to resignation. "You know, I really thought -- we'd be -- after last night -- something would be different."
A cold lump settled in Miranda's stomach. She was well aware of the fact that she was not a very empathic communicator; it was why she had gone to the effort of formulating her speech in advance of making the call. Her communication style had undoubtedly played no small part in ending two marriages and countless past friendships. Now, Miranda observed dispassionately, she was on the verge of sabotaging her latest romantic relationship before it had even started.
"Say something, Miranda. Anything." Andy was pleading.
I don't want to push you away. "I'm at a loss for words."
A short laugh came over the line. "That's rare, for you. And you were the one who called to talk."
"I lost my script."
Andy sighed. "Miranda... I don't understand you."
Miranda got that a lot. Her ex-husbands used to say it all the time. She never quite got why it was so hard for them to figure out what she was thinking -- it wasn't like her thought process was all that complicated. If a problem exists -- fix it; if something needs to be done -- do it; if something is needed -- demand it. This practical philosophy made her excellent at her job. It was the only philosophy she knew that worked for her.
"Can you at least tell me why you're so upset?"
"I'm not upset," Miranda lied.
She suddenly heard several loud dull thuds, coupled with a few unintelligibly muttered phrases that sounded suspiciously like "stubborn as a clam," "emotionally stunted," "unreasonable," and "defensive" among others.
"What on earth are you doing?" exclaimed Miranda.
"Oh, don't mind me. I'm just pounding my head against the wall in frustration. Ow."
"Stop being so melodramatic, Andrea."
"I can't understand what you're thinking if you won't tell me!" Andy burst out. "You're hard enough to read in person -- it's damn near impossible to read your mind over the phone." She sighed. "Can I see you tonight?"
I can't think of anything that I would want more. "I have a business dinner tonight. And what would it accomplish, anyway?"
"I don't know -- I don't know. Do you want this to work out between us or not?"
Miranda was silent.
"You know what?" came Andy's voice over the phone. "I'll take that as a yes. In my experience, you would never hesitate to say no."
Miranda made a small noise of relief. "Maybe you can read my mind after all."
Andy laughed, a genuine happy laugh that filled Miranda with pleasure. "How about tomorrow night then?"
I can't wait that long. "I can fit you in tonight after dinner, if you are free. Do you want to stop by after that?"
"I'll wait for as long as it takes." She sounded very sure of herself. "When will you be done?"
"I'm not sure yet, but I can give you a call once I have an estimate of when I'll get home." It wouldn't be soon enough.
"Sounds good. I'll just hang around till then."
"Very well then. I'll call you."
"Great! So ..."
"I'll see you tonight then."
"Okay, see you tonight."
Miranda hung up and massaged her temples. Well. It could have gone a lot worse.
Miranda left the restaurant at nine-thirty, giving Andy a call before she climbed into the car. She was mildly surprised to find Andy already perched on her front steps when she pulled up to her house. Andy scrambled to her feet as Miranda approached wordlessly and unlocked the door, allowing them both to enter the house.
They eyed each other warily in the hallway. After an awkward moment, Andy leaned forward and planted a clumsy kiss on Miranda's jawbone.
"It's good to see you," Andy said.
Suddenly awash with relief, Miranda wrapped her arm around the other woman and pulled her into a firm but fleeting embrace. Pulling away, she said, "You got here faster than I expected."
"I was waiting in a restaurant a few blocks away," Andy explained, following Miranda up the stairs. "You know, I nearly ran into Emily on my way here. I saw Roy pulling up, and I thought it was you in the car, but Emily stepped out instead! I had to hide behind a tree. I hope she didn't catch me."
It was a relief to know that Andy recognized the need for discretion, but at the same time it bothered Miranda for a reason she could not quite identify.
"Oh! What about the Book? I can wait till you're done looking over it."
"That can wait till after." Miranda hoped this wasn't going to go too late. She gestured to the shopping bag in Andy's hands. "What's that you have there? Something else you forgot to return to me last night?"
"Very funny. I got you some Chardonnay."
"Why, how thoughtful of you."
"I thought a conversation with you would go much more pleasantly with some alcohol."
"It better not be the cheap kind."
"As long as it's good enough to get you to loosen up, I don't care."
They continued to poke fun at each other, casually but cautiously, as Miranda led Andy to the study. Miranda felt like she was on auto-pilot; her small talk skills and witty comebacks, honed by hundreds of social events a year, were completely failing her tonight. All she could muster were half-baked jabs that made her wince every time one came from her mouth.
"Wait here for me," said Miranda, holding the door to the study open for Andy.
"Where are you going?"
"Just checking on the girls. To tell them I'll be busy in the study tonight." Andy looked satisfied at the answer, and Miranda made her way up the stairs to her daughters' rooms. She knocked first at Cassidy's room, heard a "come in" and opened the door. Her daughter was curled up on the bed with her head buried in a book.
"Good evening, Cassidy," Miranda smiled. The girl set the book aside as Miranda leaned down to kiss her forehead. "What are you up to?"
"Just doing some reading. How was dinner?"
"Boring as usual."
Her daughter's faced darkened. "I'm not speaking to her right now."
Their spats usually blew over without incident, but Miranda decided to mediate this one. "What happened?"
"She called me FAT because I ate more brownies than she did last night, but I'm not! I did extra curl ups and swam a couple of extra laps around the pool to make up for it, but she keeps saying that it'll take me one week to work off every brownie that I ate!"
"Oh, Caroline's just being silly. They were low-fat," said Miranda absently, patting her daughter on the head. Tons of child rearing books had still left her unprepared to deal with her children's self esteem issues, considering how those books kept conflicting with Miranda's own notions of body image. She still hadn't quite figured that one out yet. "If you're worried, you can keep to a diet of liquid nutrition for a couple of days. I did warn you not to eat too many, though."
"But Mo-om! They were so good! And since neither of you would eat them, I didn't want them to be wasted -- what about all those starving children in Africa?"
It was fate's way of punishing her -- her beloved little girl was going to grow up to be a bleeding heart liberal. Fondly planting one last kiss on Cassidy's head, Miranda promised to give a stern talking-to to Caroline, and mentioned by the way don't bother Mommy tonight because she was going to be busy in the study.
"I heard what you said to her," said Caroline the moment Miranda entered her room. "You know she's not going to be able to work it off in less than a week."
"Be nice to your sister," said Miranda. "It's not how much you weigh that matters, it's how well you hide your figure."
Caroline rolled her eyes. "Whatever."
"Now why would you go say something like that anyway, when it's hardly true?" 'Fat' was the worst insult that could be uttered in this family as a result of the mother's line of work -- one could think of it as the ultimate insult before physical violence broke out.
Caroline belligerently kept her eyes on the wall in front of her. "She started it."
"Darling ... that's not a reason."
"I don't want to talk about it."
"I can't help you two if you won't tell me," said Miranda. It felt impossible to communicate with ten-year-olds sometimes. Miranda couldn't even remember what it was like to be ten.
"I'm going to bed. Have a good night." The girl stood up to peck Miranda on the cheek, then pushed her out of her room. "No bothering you in your study tonight, right?"
"Apologize to your sister tomorrow," reminded Miranda as Caroline closed the door. She really did need to spend more time with them. Miranda could never understand the logic behind any of their disagreements. They always fought over the most trivial things.
Heading back down to the study, she found Andy settled in one of the armchairs drinking what was presumably a glass of Chardonnay. Another glass rested on the coffee table in front of her.
"I see you found the wine glasses," said Miranda, taking the one intended for her and easing into the couch, which was next to the coffee table at a right angle to the armchair Andy was seated in. "This is passable."
"I'm relieved. Drink up, drink up."
They sat in companionable silence for a while.
"So," said Andy. "You wanted to talk about us."
"So," repeated Andy. "Why aren't you saying anything?"
"What? Oh." Miranda looked up distractedly. "I was simply ... that is to say ..." Maybe the truth was in order. "You look good tonight."
Andy cleared her throat, flushing. "Uh, thanks. So what were you in such a hurry to tell me this afternoon again?"
"You and me. Together." Miranda tore her eyes from Andy's neckline with some effort. "The idea is ... not altogether unpleasant. Quite attractive, in fact."
Andy grinned. "We're on the same page there."
"However ..." Miranda tapped her glass thoughtfully. "There are certain obstacles to a relationship between us that I wanted to address before we go too far -- to see if it is possible to work around them, or avoid them entirely, and to decide whether or not such obstacles would offset any benefits of pursuing a relationship. The costs versus the gains, as it were."
"What is this, a business proposition?" Andy raised an eyebrow. "Miranda, you can be so weird."
"One obvious issue is our personality differences."
"So you're aware of your glowing disposition. Self awareness is the first step. We're making progress already."
Miranda shot her a glance. Andy waggled her tongue in response. Miranda decided to move on.
"Secondly, as you know, both of us have somewhat visible profiles in this city due to our jobs -- I more so than you, naturally --"
"Oh, of course..."
"-- but still, enough such that a public relationship between the two of us could possibly be detrimental to both our careers."
"Really? I don't see how."
"How could you not see how?"
The two women looked at each other uncomprehendingly. The mood that had seemed comfortable just a moment ago suddenly felt strained.
"It doesn't really matter what people think, does it?" Andy shifted uncomfortably in her seat under Miranda's blunt stare. "This is New York! Women go jogging in public showing their breasts here -- no one would even blink at the sight of two women being intimate in the middle of the street."
Miranda couldn't tell if Andy was being intentionally obtuse or not.
"It's more complicated than you think it is."
"It's true some people out there aren't that comfortable with the idea," Andy allowed, "but as long as you and I aren't among those people, it's fine. Plus, I don't think it would impact our careers in any huge way."
Miranda continued to stare at Andy as if seeing her for the first time. "Another issue is your youth."
"You mean my age? Oh please. Look at Calista Flockhart and Harrison Ford -- Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment -- oh and speaking of her, her and Michael Douglas. AND, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore."
"I wasn't referring to the age difference -- although, that's another issue. I was referring to your college-age liberal idealism and lack of worldly experience. You have no grasp on what reality is like."
Andy looked bewildered. "Okay then, enlighten me, because I really can't think of how this would affect my career in any way." She stiffened. "Or is it just your career that you're worried about?"
Miranda forced herself to remain calm. "They tried to take Runway from me, just because I was too --" She stopped herself before she could continue THAT train of thought. "-- because they wanted to cut their costs by bringing in someone younger. Imagine what they could do to me if they found out I was cavorting around with a woman half my age. Have you any idea what that says about me -- about my judgment?"
"No, I can't imagine," Andy frowned. "An accomplished, career-oriented adult woman, engaging in a consensual, romantic relationship with another career-oriented adult woman -- how is that anything to be ashamed of?"
"Lord, you are so young." The girl was brimming with such pure optimism that it actually hurt Miranda to look at her. "Stop being so naive. Be honest -- if we were to officially be in a relationship, right now, would you be ready to tell the world?"
"Sure, why not?" said Andy. "Why wouldn't I?"
"Then tell me why you hid from Emily earlier when you saw her outside my house," said Miranda.
"What about your colleagues at work? Your friends? Your ex-boyfriend? Or even your parents? Would you be comfortable telling them that the person you're seeing right now gave birth to her children while you were still in middle school? Have you even stopped to think about this?"
"Yes, I have! A -- a little." Andy faltered. "I don't think it's as bad as you're making it out to be," she said defensively. "Not all people are that narrow-minded."
"But you still hid from Emily," Miranda pointed out.
"Yes -- but that was just because -- argh, you're not being fair," Andy growled. "Fine, I'll admit that it's not easy to just tell the world about us. But you were making this about our careers, and I'm not convinced our careers have anything to do with anything."
She looked Miranda straight in the eye. "YOU be honest now -- the idea of us together bothers you more than anyone else in the world, doesn't it?"
Miranda was speechless. Not for the first time, she wondered how she, the terror-inspiring editor-in-chief of Runway, kept being caught off guard by this insolent upstart of a girl.
"I guess that's a yes," said Andy quietly. "But you know what, that's fine. I understand. You're in the fashion industry -- image means everything. I was naive to think otherwise." She stood up and began pacing around the room.
"Are you leaving?"
Miranda thought wildly that if Andy so much as made a move for the exit, she might actually tackle the girl to the ground and pummel her into submission. There was no way she was going to let Andy walk out of her life again.
She suddenly thought of her daughters in their separate rooms, angry at each other for some trivial reason that probably didn't even exist anymore. Was that what she and Andy looked like, from the outside? Two people arguing over something that didn't make any sense?
"I'm not going anywhere until I work this out," said Andy, stopping short. "Oh my God. It is impossible to have a conversation with you."
"If you would just listen to what I'm saying --"
Andy clutched at her head and howled. "I am listening! But you keep confusing me with all these random issues that you bring up."
Miranda thought she had gone quite mad.
"You know what, I'm asking the questions now," said Andy suddenly. "You always go off on some crazy tangent, and then we disagree with each other, and it's like you're intentionally prolonging the argument just to avoid getting to the real heart of the matter."
Miranda felt impatience bubble up to her skin. "Andrea, the nerve -- how dare you suggest --"
Andy practically jumped on Miranda and smothered Miranda's mouth with her own.
"What are you -- mmph --"
Miranda was torn between fighting her off and enjoying the feeling of her muffled protests against Andy's lips; she ineffectively tried to do both.
"No. More. Talking." Andy's kisses were insistent and quite convincing. Eventually she backed off, satisfied that Miranda had gotten the message. Miranda watched dazedly as Andy slid sideways onto the couch next to her and met her gaze intently.
"The way I see it, the biggest obstacle to a relationship with you is your tendency to insult the person you're speaking to for no good reason. And you instinctively bite the head off anyone that disagrees with you."
Just as Miranda opened her mouth to protest, Andy reached out and firmly placed her hand over it.
"Shh -- zip. No talking. You won't admit it, but I've been going over the conversations we've had in my head all day, and I'm pretty sure I'm right."
Miranda was surprised to feel sweat against her skin from Andy's palm. It was trembling lightly -- was it from nervousness? It wasn't showing at all. The girl had developed quite a poker face.
Andy didn't remove her hand. "You want us to be together, right?"
Miranda nodded mutely.
"But at the same time, the idea bothers you."
Miranda nodded again.
"Because we're both female."
Miranda shook her head, shrugged, nodded her head once, then shook her head again.
"Because I'm young enough to be your daughter."
"You're worried what people will think."
"You don't want anyone to find out about us."
When Miranda didn't move, Andy clarified. "You don't want the whole world to know."
"Is this all that's bothering you?"
Miranda shook her head. Andy removed her hand.
"Okay, tell me what the problem is. But try to keep it simple."
Miranda looked at her wordlessly for a long time. This girl had, for a while, been a ready and dependable and constant presence by her side; she had unwittingly been witness to some of Miranda's most vulnerable moments, and had not judged or pitied or shared the information, and for that Miranda had been grateful.
Then one day, Miranda had turned around and found her gone. In that moment, Miranda had realized how much the girl had become a part of her life, how much Miranda had come rely on her, that Andy had taken a piece of Miranda with her when she had left. And now that Andy was back in her life, Miranda's greatest fear was that she was going to push her away again, just by being Miranda Priestly.
"Do you expect me to read your mind?" Andy said.
Miranda's mouth quirked. "It would be helpful, yes."
"You're impossible." Andy threw her hands into the air. "Well -- whatever's bothering you -- we'll figure it out when it comes up. But for now, all that other stuff -- I'm not worried about it at all."
She counted off on her fingers.
"The fact that we're both women -- this is all pretty new to me, but I think I had a crush on my English teacher in middle school, so it's not a complete surprise this happened. I admit I am a bit worried by my lack of, you know, actual experience with a woman though. Does it bother you that I don't have any?"
Miranda looked at Andy levelly.
"No. Does it bother you that I don't either?"
"Not at all," said Andy, looking relieved. "Well, it can't be that difficult, but, ah, we'll worry about that when we get to it. The age difference -- you're the sexiest fifty-year-old that I've ever met -- well, sexiest woman above thirty -- or really, of all the women I know."
She reached over and took Miranda's hand, planting a kiss in the middle of Miranda's palm.
"If you're afraid of people finding out -- we don't have to tell anyone until you want to."
Watching Andy's face, several memories floated to the surface of Miranda's mind. Once, she'd been about to step into her car, barking off a bunch of orders, and Andy had been right at her elbow, having already anticipated everything she'd needed; Miranda recalled the unexpected but pleasant realization that Andy was ready to start bringing the Book to her house.
Before that, there was the time that she had walked into her office to find Andy having undergone a complete makeover -- it had been the first time Miranda had realized that Andy possessed, against all expectations, very shapely legs. And much before that, there was the fateful morning that Miranda had arrived at work and Emily had presented to her, for the second assistant vacancy, a job candidate with hopeless fashion sense, limp brown hair, round intelligent eyes, and a warm, promising smile.
"Looks like you have it all figured out," said Miranda finally.
Andy smiled, stroking the inside of Miranda's wrist.
"Good. Problems all solved. Then I have no more questions for you. You got any for me?"
"What on earth do you see in me?" Miranda said bluntly.
"Besides your winning personality and your lovely sense of humour?" Andy pretended to think. "Well, your skin is gorgeous. And I do like your ass."
It was criminal the way that Miranda was letting herself blush. "Be serious, Andrea."
"I found out tonight that you're surprisingly insecure about yourself. It's oddly attractive."
Miranda glared. "And you're awfully sure of yourself all of a sudden."
Andy looked unexpectedly shy.
"Knowing how you feel about me -- after all this time -- it makes me feel like I can do anything. And after living through last night, I don't think anything in the world can scare me anymore." She grinned, as if remembering something. "Oh, the couple of drinks I had before I came here helped too."
Miranda let Andy run her hands along her arms, up her neck, along her sides. She hadn't felt this way in years; she felt as if she were sixteen again. This was really quite pathetic -- she was a grown woman, their roles should have been reversed -- Miranda should be the one taking charge, while Andy should be the one feeling helpless and runny inside --
"Are you about to kiss me?" said Andy breathlessly.
Miranda nodded, leaning forward and doing just that.
Much later, Andy whispered, "Are we about to have sex?"
Miranda didn't bother to reply. No words were needed.
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