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A Scarecrow of the Law
By Mary Griggs
We must not make a scarecrow of the law,
Setting it up to fear the birds of prey,
And let it keep one shape, till custom make it
Their perch and not their terror. (Measure for Measure, 2.1.1)
Andy Sachs sighed and rubbed her tired eyes. Blinking against the dryness, she propped her chin on her hand and began to reread the sample Bar Exam question.
She sighed again and glanced at the small picture of her parents set discretely beside the monitor. It was their insistence that she go to Stanford law school after graduating from Northwestern. Her parent's dismissed her lack enthusiasm for the law, although they had agreed to help to support her while she sought her dream of working as a journalist in New York. Their only stipulation was that she study and take the New York bar exam.
Working for Runway was hard enough without the added burden of having to read this crap, she thought to herself. It didn't help that after a long day of dealing with clackers who held her in just as much disdain as she did them, she had to had to spend her precious time studying about more mean people. Although law school had given her a taste of cutthroat competition, she still was shocked to her Midwestern roots at the amount of backbiting she'd seen since moving here.
She amused herself by talking out loud about an additional question five on how Lawyer could make a mint by advising Client on how to better choose friends who wouldn't screw you over at the first chance they had.
"I beg your pardon?"
Andy gasped and jumped to her feet, nearly twisting her ankles in her three-inch heels and sending her chair crashing backwards. "Miranda! What "
Her boss stood, arms akimbo in front of her desk. She was wearing the Bill Blass suit with a white coat and Andy nearly had to pinch herself to not focus on how Miranda's perfect breasts were framed by the lapels and how marvelous her legs looked in that pencil skirt.
For the past several months, after the disastrous trip to Paris for fashion week, Andy had been plagued with erotic fantasies starring her powerful and beautiful boss. She rationalized that crushing out Miranda was a way to justify to herself not leaving Miranda after what she did to Nigel. As the proverb says, "Le coeur veut ce que le coeur veut," The heart wants what the heart wants.
Taking a deep breath, she cursed again Miranda's ability to sneak up on her. Letting it out, Andy asked, "How may I help you?"
Miranda glared at her. "What exactly are you up to?"
Glancing down at the study guide on her desk and the sample exam on her monitor, Andy swallowed nervously. "I'm studying."
Trying not to cringe, she whispered, "The bar."
"The bar? I knew you were involved with some sort of cook but bartending? Surely even you can do better than that."
"No, Miranda. Not a bartending job. The New York bar. Lawyer bar not drinking bar," she babbled.
Stepping closer to Andy's desk, Miranda used one finger to flip the study guide closed. "Multistate Bar Review Preparation," she read off the cover before looking up and glaring at her assistant. "This is how you spend your evenings?"
"I've done all my work and updated your schedule for tomorrow." Andy was prepared to go on when Miranda held up her hand.
"I thought you had grand dreams of being a journalist," Miranda practically spit the last word.
Since the divorce, the press and paparazzi had been relentless. It was one of the reasons that Andy had buckled down to studying. She hated that Miranda's personal life was considered news, especially when Stephen's statements about Miranda's alleged frigidity got more press than her recent award for editing excellence.
"I um I'm keeping my options open."
"Hmm, can it be that your Ohio idealism is wearing thin?"
Andy quoted her college journalism professor, "The Fourth Estate is vital to the health of the nation and to keep in check the excesses of other three."
"Really? I thought it had eaten the rest."
Andy blushed. "Well, lately the press has been particularly voracious."
"So you are leaving us for a law career?"
"No, no Miranda. I'm not going anywhere. I just made a deal with my parents to have a fallback career."
"I see." Miranda shrugged as if it didn't matter but Andy saw her shoulders relax and the lines of tension beside Miranda's expressive mouth ease.
"Is it okay?" Andy dared to ask the question. "I mean, can I keep studying?"
"You can do anything you set your mind to but, if all your other work is done, you may use the hours as you wish." Miranda stalked into her office.
For a moment, Andy just stared after her. Leave it to Miranda to correct her grammar when conferring a favor on her. She straightened her shoulders and followed Miranda into her office. "Thank you, Miranda. Is there anything you need?"
"I was at dinner with Donatella and she mentioned some swatches she sent over."
Andy nodded and went to the credenza. She had put the samples from Donatella on Miranda's desk when they arrived but the editor had been too busy to look at them during the day. Holding them out, she said, "I really like the color."
Raising one elegant eyebrow, Miranda sniffed.
"Its pretty," Andy replied.
"I'm glad you've got other career options to fall back on. You'll go nowhere in fashion with no better discernment than pretty to describe the weft and weave of this cloth or the complementary strands of plum and verdigris. Honestly, have you learned nothing? I know you came to us as an ignorant girl but even osmosis should have given you more insight than that."
The color drained from Andy's face. She just couldn't understand Miranda's duality. As soon as Miranda showed the slightest sign of humanity or, god forbid, engaged in friendly conversation, she turned vicious and used her sharp tongue to flay the skin off the nearest person. She did it when Andy had been tricked to go upstairs during her argument with Stephen and then again after Andy saw her in her bathrobe reading the divorce petition.
She hated how it made her feel so small and stupid. She kept her eyes fixed over Miranda's right shoulder and tried not to let any tears fall.
After a short silence, Miranda huffed, "Since I'm here now there is no point in both of us waiting for the book. Go home, Andrea."
Miranda never apologized but she would sometimes seem to realize just how callous she was being and would surprise them both with impulsive acts of generosity. It was these glimpses of the woman Miranda usually kept hidden behind her acerbic tongue that kept Andy from walking out, as she had been so tempted in the car after the luncheon that broke Nigel's heart.
If only she had kept her eyes forward and focused on the fountain, she never would have seen that look in Miranda's eyes as she stood in solitary splendor on the top of the steps, surrounded by flash bulbs and the crush of reporters. Without that connection with Miranda, she never would have gone running after her and certainly wouldn't have stayed at her job as First Assistant six months past her year anniversary.
"Are you sure?" Andy offered. Her heart wasn't in it, though, and she was grateful when Miranda just waved her off.
Pivoting on her heels, Andy tried not to stumble out of Miranda's office. She could feel Miranda's eyes on her and didn't want to give her something to laugh about.
She quickly packed up all her study guides and shoved them into the bottom drawer. Now that she didn't have to hide her extracurricular activities, she no longer had to schlep the books back and forth each day.
Grabbing her coat, she glanced once more into Miranda's office and, seeing her boss staring down at her desk, she fled without another word.
Two weeks later, Andy was frantically trying to fix Miranda's schedule after an unplanned meeting with Irv had derailed the day's appointments and Miranda's good mood. She was startled by a wail from inside Miranda's office.
Jumping up, she ran in to see Jocelyn pulling at her hair. "What's wrong?"
"The clothes for the run through."
Andy looked at the rack of beautiful things and then at the two skinny models in just bras and panties. They were just as lost as she was. "What about them?"
"The designer is one of those "Whole Earth" types. She prides herself on designing for "Real Women" and refuses to use size zero."
Andy rolled her eyes at the excessive use of air quotes. "I'm not following, Joss. What's the problem?"
"None of these dresses is smaller than a six. We don't have a model that huge in the entire building. Miranda will be back in less than twenty minutes and won't be satisfied by everything on hangers. We've got to have a model."
Nigel walked in and swept the room with his gaze. Looking at the rack and the models, he immediately understood the issue. He shook his head at the models. "Get them out of here. It will just make it worse if she has pretty little useless necks to snap. Having snacked on them, it will just whet her appetite for more." He tapped the edge of a red folder against his lips before catching sight of Andy. "You."
Andy glanced over her shoulder to see who was behind her before looking back at him. "Me what?"
"That's my name, don't wear it out," Andy tried to joke before she realized Nigel's meaning. "Are you insane? I'm not a model."
"Today you are." Nigel snapped his fingers at Serena. "Do her makeup quickly. Focus on her eyes as we don't have time to do anything with her hair."
"Hey!" Andy tried to stop this before it went too far. "I didn't agree to this."
"You'd rather let the rest of us drown when you could save us with few simple clothes changes?" Nigel shook his head and pointed at Jocelyn. "Do you have large enough shoes?"
Jocelyn shouted at her assistants to make a run to the closet and grabbed Andy's arm. "Go strip down in the washroom. I'll hand you the first item once I see what condition your undergarments are in."
Andy held her shirt tightly closed. It was close to laundry day and she was wearing a worn and comfortable beige Playtex bra with a pair of blue boy shorts panties from Jockey. She hated to think what her coworkers were going to say when they saw what she was wearing.
"You're wearing a Kmart special, aren't you?" Emily sneered. She had been insufferable since Andy went to Paris in her place and the move to assistant manager of accessories hadn't changed her attitude. Relenting in the face of near disaster, she confessed, "I think I have a La Perla set in champagne that might be big enough to fit you."
Andy was about to retort when the temperature seemed to drop ten degrees. She and everyone else in the room turned to see Mirada in the doorway.
"I assume there is a good reason why my call just went to voicemail."
Andy took one step toward her desk before Jocelyn grabbed a hold of her arm.
"We don't have anyone else who can wear the clothes. We need Andy."
"And the new girl?"
"She's still at the vet's with Patricia," Andy answered.
Miranda hummed and cast her gaze over the occupants. "Well, then what are we waiting for?"
Everyone sprung into battle stations and Andy was dragged into Miranda's washroom and tossed a handful of fabric. She looked at it and the three other women in the small space with her. "Um, a little privacy here, guys."
Emily rolled her eyes. "Don't think for a moment that any of us trust you to dress yourself."
Growling, Andrea crossed her arms. "No way. Don't forget I'm doing you all a favor here. This is certainly beyond my job description."
"Like that has every stopped Miranda?"
"I'm not doing it for her."
"Really?" Emily smirked. "If anyone believes that, I've got a bridge in my hometown to sell."
"Quiet, Emily." Pinching the bridge of her nose, Jocelyn asked, "What do you want?"
"You will all get out. I will get dressed and then you can come back in."
"Fine." Andy kept her chin up until the last one left the small room. Once the door was closed, she stripped and put on the luxurious lingerie. She hardly had a moment to enjoy the feel of it against her skin before pulling on the blouse and skirt dress. Cracking the door, she stepped back quickly as the other women stampeded inside to fuss with the clothes and fix her hair and makeup.
Pushed back out into the office, she tried not to squirm at the thorough examination she received from Miranda. Those ice blue eyes caused distinct warmth to suffuse through Andy's body. Being the subject of Miranda's entire focus was exhilarating and Andy obeyed the commands to turn and move and change eagerly.
That is, until she was handed a backless evening gown. Swallowing thickly, Andy looked up into those eyes that haunted her whether asleep or awake. "I can't."
"I can't wear this."
"You know, I really don't like that word." Miranda leaned against the front edge of her desk and drummed her fingers on the glass. "We make choices. We do or we do not. Only quitters can't."
Andy's hands were shaking. "I'm sorry. This dress is gorgeous but I can't " she floundered for another word. "I'm not going to put it on."
"I was proud to see you stepping up for the good of the magazine but I guess you really don't have what it takes to cut it in fashion, do you? I'm very disappointed, Andrea."
Shuddering against the almost Pavlovian response she had to Miranda's pronunciation of her name and the thought that she had failed her, Andy tried again, "Miranda, please."
"Make your choice. Put on the dress or leave the building."
The coldness of her voice matched the ice now flowing in Andy's veins. Nearly hyperventilating, Andy stumbled past her coworkers and into the temporary safety of the washroom. Hanging the dress on the door, she turned and caught sight of herself in the mirror. She had that telltale rim of red around her nose that she always got before she cried. Her eyes were stinging from the effort of blinking back tears and the muscles along her jaw were bunching as she clenched her teeth.
Slowly undressing, she half turned and looked at her back. From her right shoulder and stretching beyond her view in the mirror were several raised scars from a horrific experience with a date in college who didn't react well to her saying, "No."
He had held her down and used a beer bottle he smashed to carve his mark into her skin. Luckily, her dorm mates heard her screams and they broke down the door and his jaw before the police arrived.
Usually, with advance notice and Lily's skill with an airbrush, she could cover the scar enough to wear something off the shoulder. This dress, though, was another story. It was completely backless and there was no way Andy was going to go out there with her metaphorical ass hanging out. The clackers wouldn't say anything out loud but she just knew they were already thinking about her body being size six. She hated the thought of letting them see additional imperfections.
Andy stroked her fingers down the soft material of the dress before clenching her fist. Even if it meant no more nice things and no more Miranda, she wasn't willing to go out there in it. Reaching down, she picked up her regular clothes from the floor.
Dressed again and tamping down on the queasy feeling in her gut, she yanked open the door. Not making eye contact with anyone, she tossed the dress at Jocelyn and a quick goodbye to the room.
Only slowing down for her coat, Andy went down two floors to Human Resources and gave the HR Director the bad news.
Opening the bottle of Tums she kept on hand, Jennifer Crane shook two into her palm before shaking out two more. "You're sure you're fired?"
"She gave me the ultimatum and it isn't worth either of our lives to go up there and ask her if she really meant it." Andy sighed. "I really liked this job."
"I really liked you in the job. Not only did I get all the reports on time but we've had far fewer hysterical girls in here since you became first assistant."
"Part of it was actually training the second assistant instead of just watching them with sadistic glee as they floundered. I created a binder with all the necessary information that should work for my replacement, too, so maybe things won't be too bad."
Jennifer pulled out a file. "I hope you're right. Now, let me cover the basics of COBRA and give you the standard severance package."
"Yeah. The lawyers figured it was easier to pay for at least two weeks notice per year worked than deal with unlawful termination lawsuits. I figure you for five weeks pay plus vacation."
Andy's chin trembled. That was more money than she expected but it couldn't fill the hole that leaving Runway had put in her heart.
"Have you got any plans?" Jennifer asked. "I mean, outside of publishing?"
"My parents always said I'd make a good lawyer. I guess it is time to see if they were as right about that as they were about everything else."
Andy startled back from her desk as a stack of files five inches thick landed on one of the smaller piles that was already covering the surface. Her mouth dropped open as she looked from the stack to her supervisor.
Gary Newsom was thirty-year veteran of the New York Public Defenders office. Rail thin, he seemed to live on coffee and cigarettes. Outwardly gruff and cynical, he had hired her with only her law school transcripts and bar exam results.
"Not a word, Sachs. With Caldwell taking that job in the private sector, everyone has to share her load."
"But I already have a hundred open cases."
"I can't handle what I have!" Andy was close to panicking. While most of her cases were cut and dried drug cases, she was perpetually terrified that her massive caseload would cause a miscarriage of justice.
"Look, kid. There isn't anybody in the office with less than a hundred cases and we're still not able to defend everyone who qualifies. At least you're still new enough that you don't have anything above Class C felonies."
"Oh, and three of those are up for arraignment this afternoon so get over to the Tombs ASAP. Anything you can plead out, do so and get it off your docket."
Andy snapped her mouth shut and flipped through the files as she put her suit jacket back on. Stuffing them into the Corinthian leather briefcase her parents had gifted her when she got the job as a Public Defender, she grabbed a Luna Bar from her desk drawer and headed out to find a cab.
Juggling her paperwork, briefcase and tall cup of coffee, Andy stumbled down the hallway in front of the holding cells in the basement of the courthouse. Looking up, she was shocked to see a familiar set of twins standing near the bars.
Their faces were tear stained but it was obvious from their stylish haircuts and clothes that these were most definitely the Priestly twins.
"Caroline? Cassidy? What are you doing here?"
"Do you know us? Please you have to get us out of here!"
"I used to work for your mom. I'm sure if you call her, you'll be out in no time."
"We shouldn't even be here. We didn't do anything."
Andy barely restrained herself from rolling her eyes at the oft-repeated phrase. "Look, girls, money talks down here and your mother has enough to move you to the front of the line."
"Can't you do something?"
"I work for the public defender. You two don't qualify for legal aid."
"Please, you have to do something." Carolyn reached through the bars and plucked at Andy's sleeve. "We aren't a part of this thing."
Andy looked around and saw a number of young people, most of who were in t-shirts with Occupy Wall Street slogans. "You could be rebelling."
"Why would we want to do that?" Cassidy sniffed disdainfully. "These people are revolting."
"I think that's the point," Andy dryly replied. "How did you get in here?"
"We were on our way to the Tessel museum for the watercolor exhibit when this cop just arrested us."
"Why aren't you in uniform? Last time I checked, Dalton required uniforms even on school field trips."
Caroline lowered her voice. "We skipped school to go."
"Who skips school to go to a museum?"
"They have an exhibit of British watercolorists Girtin, Cotman and Turner."
"Whatever. Did you mouth off to the cop? Why did he bring you in?"
"He knew we were skipping. He was just giving us a warning when all of these people came rushing around the building with the other cops behind them."
Caroline picked up the story. "They put us in the van with all these guys. We've told everyone we had no part but no body listened to us."
"Please, you have to help us."
Being on the receiving end of such familiar looking twin blue eyes, Andy caved. "Did you get the officer's name?"
"I'm going to file this paperwork for my clients and see if I can find him. If I can't get him to do something, you will have to call your mom, okay?"
"I'll be back as soon as I can." Shaking her head as the ease she was manipulated, Andy waited in line to file and then wandered around asking for arresting officer. She finally found him in the break room.
"Hey, can I talk to you about two kids you arrested?"
"I didn't actually arrest them. I brought them in to scare them straight."
"As much as I appreciate your efforts to reduce juvenile delinquency, did you really need to do that today?"
"Hey, I had no idea the mayor was serious about raiding the Occupy encampment." He sipped from his cup. "Look, if you'll take custody of them, I'll call the desk sergeant and get them released from the pens."
"I can't take custody."
"Then they'll have to wait until someone else shows up who can."
Andy cracked her knuckles to release some of her frustration. "Fine. I'll do it."
"Thanks. Trust me, this experience will put them back on the straight and narrow way."
"I hope you're right." Andy forced a smile to her face and returned to the basement. She got the clearance sheet from the sergeant and went down to tell the girls they were ready to be released.
Instead of being grateful, the girls burst into tears.
"You've got to get us home," Caroline cried.
"That was the plan. Why the waterworks?"
"We didn't think you were coming back and we still had our phones."
"We called mom."
Andy's pulse started to pound, "Well, call her back."
"Our phones died," Caroline wailed.
Cassidy grabbed Andy. "You can call her."
"Hell, no! There is no way I'm calling your mother."
"Give it to me and I'll call her."
"Forget about it. Your Mom will freak if she hears from me."
"She's freaking now!"
"And whose fault is that? I told you I was coming back."
"We hate it here and want to go home," Cassidy said through her tears.
"I understand that." Andy chewed on her lip. "She just doesn't need to know I'm involved. Look, there is probably no way she can get here before you two get home. Let's just get out of here and get you home so you can explain it to her there."
Caroline nodded. "Good idea. We don't want her to see us in this place."
"I don't think anyone wants to see her in this place," Andy replied. "Come on. I have your walking papers."
"Nope, just a warning. The officer wants your assurance that you'll never pull a stunt like this again."
Both girls threw their arms around her. "Thank you."
"I didn't really do anything."
"Yes, you did. We're never going to forget it."
"At least try and forget my name."
"What is your name?"
Andy looked at Caroline in shock.
"Yeah," Cassidy added. "You only told us you worked for mom."
She knew that Miranda went through a lot of assistants but she was a little stung that the girls didn't remember her, especially after the whole being told to go upstairs prank. "I was an assistant for eighteen months."
"Wow, you must have been good."
"Huh?" Andy asked, nearly stumbling down the stairs in her surprise.
"Yeah, only a rare few last past a year." Cassidy stared at her. "Did you used to have long hair?"
"Call me Andy." She never liked to hear the long form of her name from anyone by Miranda.
"You got me second place in the science fair," Caroline recalled.
"You got us the unpublished Harry Potter."
"Only after you sent me into a fight between your mom and Stephen." Andy hailed a cab. "I nearly got fired for that and would have lost my job if I hadn't found a copy of that manuscript."
Cassidy agreed. "Yeah, I'm sorry, too. We pulled a lot of pranks back then but you were the only one we ever used to break up one of their arguments."
"That must have been scary," Andy said as she got into the cab between the two girls.
Caroline nodded. "I hated when they fought. Sometimes he would throw things."
Grabbing their hands, she looked at both of them before asking, "Did Stephen ever hit her?"
"I don't think so."
"She never said anything."
"She wouldn't," Caroline said. "Can you imagine how much worse the press would have been?"
Andy gave directions to their home before she looked at the girls again. "You know that you shouldn't ever let anyone hit you, right?"
"Who'd ever try?"
"Hopefully, you'll always find people who will love and cherish you. If they don't and they lay a hand on you in anger, you should get out of there."
"Okay," the girls answered in unison.
About two blocks from their house, Andy's phone rang. "Hey, boss."
"What the hell have you done?"
"I've got Miranda Priestly down here accusing you of kidnapping her children."
"What?" Andy's entire body started to shake. "No, no! I'm just sharing the cab ride to make sure they get home safely."
"What are you even doing with them? You complained today about having too many cases and then go and volunteer to take on this one? For people who can afford five hundred dollar an hour attorneys?"
"She brought a lawyer down there?"
"A lawyer? No, she brought three."
"Fuck er, sorry Fargo." Andy put her hand over the speaker and looked at the girls. "I need you two to get inside and call your mom from your landline and explain what happened." When they tried to speak, she reached over Cassidy and opened the door. "Go before I end up on Federal charges."
She watched them run up the stairs and unlock the door before turning back to her phone. "Gary, the girls are getting to a phone and will be calling Miranda to assure her they're safe." She raised her voice and told the cabbie to take her back downtown to her office.
"No, don't do that," her boss said.
"Don't come back here."
"I don't understand. They're home safe."
"But you aren't. You showed poor judgment and your interference with the custodial relationship could still get you jail time if these high paid ass clowns want to make it an issue."
"What are you saying?"
"I've got no choice but to fire you."
"You can't be serious."
"I take the law very seriously."
"Sachs, you could someday become a good lawyer if you don't let your emotions get in the way."
"We'll send your final check and your personal effects to the address on file. Good luck, kid."
"But " Andy heard the end call tone. Looking at her phone she confirmed that her boss had hung up on her.
The cab traveled several more blocks before she summoned the energy to give him the order to change direction and head for her apartment. She spent the trip staring out the window and wondering how she was going to explain to her family and friends how this run in with Miranda had cost her another job. First, though, she had to explain it to her heart.
Andy plucked the Embassy issued mobile phone out of her beach bag. "Sachs, here. On the beach, on vacation, but answering her phone anyway."
"Sorry, Signorina Sachs." The lightly accented voice of the legal department secretary echoed down the line. Sofia Mancinelli was a beautiful and brilliant young woman who would have been a terrific attorney had she not obeyed her father's decree that no daughter of his would be a lawyer.
"What is up, Sofia?"
"You're in Genoa, aren't you?"
"I sure am."
"We've gotten a call from the consulate officer in Milan. Four American students were picked up in Milan and there is not anyone closer."
"I'm on vacation." Andy repeated. She could hardly believe she had been in Italy for over two years and this was her first real vacation.
She had taken the position of legal liaison with the American Embassy soon after losing her job with the public defender's office. In college, she had spent junior year abroad in Italy. While not completely fluent, help from her Dad's friends in the State Department secured her the interview and her eagerness to get as far away from New York as possible did the rest.
Anytime a United States citizen got in trouble with the local law, their small office was responsible for resolving the issue with the least international attention as possible. While dealing with privileged Americans was starting to lose its charm, negotiating the intricacies of Italian law and culture fascinated her.
The voice of the secretary broke into her thoughts. "Please, Andy. If you leave now, you could be on the next train."
"It leaves in forty-five minutes."
"Did you miss the part where I'm at the beach?"
"Even though the weather is nice for September, I know that not even crazy Americans are naked on the beach." She paused. "Although, the Carabinieri will be much easier to handle if they can see some cleavage."
"Oh, your American modesty is so amusing." There was a sound of clacking keys. "There is another train in ninety minutes. Be on that one."
"But I have to get my stuff packed."
"No, you only have to go up and smooth the path for them to pay a fine. You should be back on the beach tomorrow."
"You think it will be that easy?"
"I have already spoken to the desk clerk and he agrees that it should be a simple thing."
"All right. I guess I should get going. I'll call you from the train to get the rest of the details." Andy sighed and stood up. Brushing sand off her skin, she began collecting her towel and supplies.
She made her way back to the small apartment the Embassy kept for vacationing staff. It overlooked the beach and within walking distance of many of the city's sights. She thought she could wake up to that view every day for the rest of her life.
The thought lasted until she stepped into the shower. The water was only lukewarm and the water pressure out of the showerhead was abysmal. Italian showers were one of the reasons she had kept her hair so short. Washing long hair under a trickle was a chore and one she wasn't willing to do anymore.
Compared to the hours it used to take for it to dry, her pixie cut took no time at all these days. In fact, it was already dry by the time she finished packing a small bag with snacks and overnight wear in case Sofia was overly optimistic. Grabbing an apple off the pyramid on the kitchen table, she slung her backpack over her shoulder and headed to the train station.
Because she had an Italia Rail pass, Andy breezed past the ticket counters and right onto the waiting train. She picked up a copy of the International Herald Tribune from the dining car and found herself a seat before calling Sofia.
"Did you make the train?"
Andy pulled the phone away from her ear long enough for the blast of the train whistle to be heard. "Yes, I did."
"Excellent. Are you ready to hear about the case?"
"The Americans were protesting one of the designers use of fur by running naked through the Piazza del Duomo."
"Hoo boy! That's a new one."
"It has happened before but usually during sporting events and usually by men. Unfortunately, they streaked through the blessing of the cloth being conducted by Monsignor Bertalini. He was not amused. It is he who is insisting on indecent exposure charges and a higher fine."
"Can they pay?"
"Yes, they are from wealthy families."
"Did you run their credit reports?"
"No, I just Googled their names."
"Okay." Andy uncapped her Mont Blanc fountain pen. "Give 'em to me."
"Mindy Cabot, Karen Hollander, and Caroline and Cassidy Priestly."
"You're kidding me!"
"No, this is not a joke."
Andy looked at the splotch of blue on the page of her notebook from the pressure of her pen. "What are the odds that Miranda Priestly is also in Milan?"
"Of course, she is there. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the most famous collection of fashion magazines in the world."
"But it is Fall. I thought she only came over for the Spring show."
"I would not know the details of her personal calendar but, if you had been reading anything but those dusty law journals, you would have seen pictures of her at the shows."
Andy banged her head against the window beside her. "I crossed an ocean because of them and they're still haunting me."
"Pardon? What is that strange knocking sound?"
"Nothing. Does she know that her darlings are in an Italian jail?"
"No, none of the girls have been allowed outside contact."
"Terrific. It looks like I'll be there in another hour. Hopefully, we'll get this taken care of before she knows they're missing."
"I wish you luck and will add an additional day to your vacation for you taking on this assignment. There is no one scheduled for the apartment, so you can stay there."
"That's wonderful! Thank you."
Andy smiled and stretched out her legs. That was at least one bit of good news. Opening up the paper, she was astounded to see a profile on Miranda on the second page.
The writer began with some background on how Elias-Clark had restructured after the forced resignation of Irv Ravitz. He had been caught paying for presents for two of his mistresses out of the budgets of the magazines under his review. Miranda Priestly had been the one to uncover his perfidy and, in the restructuring of the company, had risen to become the Editor-in-Chief of all of the Runway magazines, including Italian, French, Russian, London, Teen, Men's and Alternative.
Andy spent most of the trip staring at the pictures that accompanied the article and getting progressively more nervous about the odds of her seeing her old boss. She was broken out of her musing by the pressing sensation as the high-speed train slowed as it entered Milan.
She walked slowly through the Milano Centrale train station, swiveling her head and craning her neck to see all the details of architecture. She vowed to return to the city in the future. She wanted to see more than what was on route to or from the police station.
A cab brought her directly to the main polizia di stato station at Piazza San Sepolcro. She flirted and charmed and cajoled until she finally navigated through the law enforcement bureaucracy to the officer in charge of the case. Luckily, she had been in Italy long enough to know that sometimes all of the state, city and municipal police were lumped together as polizia locale in the same building. Learning which authorities had jurisdiction and then locating the arresting officers could sometimes take days.
Once she reached the right room on the right floor and was in front of the right policeman, it took her another hour and two more coffees before she reached an agreement that could work for all the people involved. Now, she only had to get permission to see the young women and get them to make the deal.
Buying four bottles of water from the canteen, Andy followed the officer down to the lower level where the cells were located. He unlocked the door to the conference room and ushered her inside.
Andy was glad to see that the young women were not being kept in the general population and she almost laughed to see them sitting so gingerly in the white paper jumpsuits that had been issued to cover their nakedness.
"Hello, ladies," Andy said. "My name is Andy Sachs and I'm with the US Embassy."
"Hey, Caroline. Cassidy." Andy held up her hand when the girls would have come over to give her a hug. "Cool it! We don't want to give the guard any reason to restrain you."
"I can't believe you're here!"
"And I can't believe that those efforts to scare you straight didn't work."
Both Caroline and Cassidy blushed.
"So, why don't you introduce me to your cohorts in crime."
"Sure. This is Mindy and that is Karen."
"Hey." Andy distributed the water and opened up her backpack to dig out a bag of sesame sticks. She offered them across the table and smiled when the young women nearly inhaled them.
"Okay, I've got a proposal that will get you out of those lovely duds and back to your lives."
"Please do," Caroline said, plucking at the bust line of her jumpsuit. "I think I'm going to burst out of this."
Andy kept her eyes up and not on the breasts of her ex boss's daughter. "I worked out with the authorities for you to admit guilt and pay a fine."
"We can do that." All the young women nodded at Cassidy's statement.
"All right. The next bit is for you all to make an apology to the Church and give them a donation. It is less than the fine but not by much."
The girls were clearly not pleased with that condition. They looked at each other like they had sucked on a lemon.
"I know you probably think that you will be compromising your principles to apologize, however, they aren't asking for an act of contrition. All you have to do is say that you're sorry for offending them, offer a donation and you'll walk out of here."
"And if we don't?"
"Then it goes to trial. They don't have to release you on bail, so you could stay in jail until your case is heard. There are no speedy trial laws here, so you will wait until they are good and ready to give you your day in court." Andy looked around at them. "Don't think publicity will speed them along. Remember the Amanda Knox case? It took four years to come to trial." Andy tapped her fingers on the table. "Is an apology for scaring an old man who might never have seen a naked female body before worth that much of your life?"
"If you put it that way," Caroline said.
"I do." Andy looked around at them. "Do I have your agreement?"
All four girls nodded their heads.
Andy held up one finger. "There is one final condition. You all have to agree to leave Italy within the next two days."
Cassidy smiled. "Our tickets home are for tomorrow."
"Yeah, Mom got us out of school for Fashion Week but we have to be back for class on Monday."
"Did she have any idea of what you were planning to do once here?"
Caroline shook her head. "It wasn't really planned."
"It was the wine," Mindy added. "We drank a lot yesterday and got to thinking that it was better to go naked than wear fur."
"Streaking seemed like a hoot at the time."
"Who knew they would arrest us?" Cassidy asked.
"Anyone who had a brain," Andy muttered to herself. "So, it sounds like we have a deal." Andy stood up. "I'm going to escort you all upstairs. A representative of the Church will accept your apology and donation and then we'll go before the judge to enter in a plea and pay the fine."
Andy spoke quietly to the guard and he was smiling by the time he unlocked the door and ushered them up the stairs.
They were given back their fanny packs and taken into a room where three priests in black cassocks were waiting. One at a time, the young women stepped forward and gave her apology and several traveler's checks to the priests.
After Andy confirmed that they were satisfied, the priests left. Before she could take her charges to the courtroom, there was a commotion outside of the room. Her eyes met those of the twins when they recognized Miranda's distinctive voice. This was the first time Andy had ever heard her raise the volume to a shout.
Andy held up her hands in a placating gesture to the guard before pushing past him and into the lobby. She saw Miranda being held back by two officers as she shouted about her missing daughters to the desk sergeant.
"Miranda! Miranda, stop."
The distraught mother turned around. "You!" she spat.
"Yes, me. Calm down, your girls are safe. They are just in the other room."
"They are here? All this time, they've been here?"
"Since they were taken into custody for their prank, yes."
"I don't care about the prank. I want my daughters," Miranda demanded.
"They need to go before the judge, enter a plea and pay a fine. At that time, you can take them home."
"No, that isn't good enough. I want them now."
"Look, I worked a really good deal out for them to be out of here with just a little pride and cash lost. Let me finish this up and you'll get them back shortly."
"Why should I listen to you? I don't even know why you are here." Miranda drew herself up to her full height. "Why am I even talking to you?"
"Because I can get your girls out. I work for the embassy, Miranda. Please, let me do my job and we can all walk out of here." Andy looked around at the many troopers with hands on their guns. "It is really important that we dial back the energy level."
"Because foreign police forces do not respond well to threats."
Miranda looked around the room and opened her mouth.
"I have this well in hand, Miranda," Andy spoke before she could say anything else. "Trust me to handle this."
Miranda stared at her and whatever she saw allowed her shoulders to settle. "I don't know why, after everything you've done, that I should trust you but I do."
The flare of anger nearly blinded Andy for a moment. Through gritted teeth she said, "I have never worked against you. I've done everything in my power to support you and keep your children from harm." She lowered her voice and said, "You have my word that this will all be over soon."
Closing her eyes, Miranda took several deep breaths. Andy could see her lips move as she counted backwards from ten.
"All right," Miranda eventually said. "I will accept your word."
"What can I do to help?"
"Please go down to the cashier."
"Where will you be?"
"I will be escorting them to the judge."
"I want to be with them."
"You will do them more good by paying the fine and bringing the receipt to the courtroom." Andy stepped closer to her former boss. "It will all be okay. Just hang in there." She waited for Miranda's nod. "Now, I'm going to go over to get them. You cannot, absolutely cannot, approach them. Will you promise me to stay here?"
Miranda closed her eyes before she nodded again.
"I'm sorry, Miranda, but I need to hear you say that you will not move from this spot until we have passed by."
Miranda glared at her but Andy matched her look for look.
"Every minute you delay, is a minute longer your daughters and their friends are in custody."
"Fine. I promise. Are you happy now?"
"Absolutely ecstatic. Thank you."
Andy couldn't repress her grin. She went back to the conference room and faced four scared, young women who peppered her with questions. "Hold on, hold on. We just had a little excitement but I think everything settled down now."
"What happened?" Caroline asked.
At the same time, Cassidy asked, "Is Mom here?"
"Yes, she came looking for you and is going to pay your fine while you speak to the judge." Andy looked at Caroline and Cassidy's friends. "She is going to pay everyone's fine, so don't worry about that.
"Thank goodness. I don't have any more travelers checks," Mindy said.
"Good thing you had as many as you did and were smart enough to wear fanny packs for your run into notoriety." Andy rubbed her hands together. "Okay, as we leave this room, you can wave at your Mom but don't speak or try to go over to her. The guard is not going to restrain you but if any of the police officers think you're going to go off script, they won't hesitate to put you in cuffs the hard way. Does everyone understand?"
Getting their agreement was easier than getting Miranda's. After a short conversation with the guard, Andy led the way to the court office. She kept her back to the young women so she could plausibly deny knowing anything they did on the walk.
She left them sitting on the stone benches outside of the office and went in to use more of her charm and skill to getting the women's case handled quickly. Sofia was right as usual. Everyone wanted this case to go away as quickly as possibly.
Once they were brought into the chamber, Andy helped them enter pleas and translated a warning from the judge if they ever pulled a stunt like that again. They looked sufficiently cowed and the judge was satisfied with levying a fine.
When Miranda appeared with the receipt, the young women were free to go. As soon as they were released, Miranda pulled her daughters into a tight hug. Looking over their shoulder, she mouthed, "Thank you," to Andy.
Andy blinked tears from her eyes at the sight of a loving, caring Miranda. Glancing at the other two young women who were near tears themselves, she opened her arms for them to get a hug, too.
After a brief time, Miranda straightened up and swept the small group with her gaze. "Enough of that. Come with me. I have a car waiting."
Andy acted as escort to get them out of the building. She couldn't help but smile as she watched the four young women eagerly slide in to Miranda's waiting car. She knew they could hardly wait to shower off the day's adventures and get dressed in something other than paper jumpsuits. She only hoped that the experience would teach them to be a little wiser about when they pulled off their clothes in the future.
With her usual outward serenity, Miranda followed them into the car. Looking up at Andy she asked, "Would you like a lift somewhere?"
"No, thank you, I've got a train to catch and that is in the opposite direction." Andy leaned down to look once more at the jailbirds. "Now, you guys still need to leave the country within forty-eight hours. Use your already purchased tickets to get home and put this whole experience behind you."
The rest of the women all agreed emphatically with Caroline.
"I don't ever want to meet any of you in a police station or court again."
"Me, either." Caroline breathed.
"Thank you, Andy."
"You're very welcome, Cassidy." Andy smiled at her. "I'm serious about staying out of trouble, though!"
Looking into Miranda's eyes, she winked. "That goes for you, too, Miranda."
"Honestly, Andrea. You should know that it is trouble that should stay out of my way."
Laughing in delight at Miranda's banter, Andy slammed the door closed and rapped her knuckles twice on the roof of the car. Watching it merge into traffic, Andy tried to ignore the pang in her chest as it disappeared from view.
Tossing her bag over her shoulder, she headed to the train station. With luck, she would be able to grab dinner before the next train would leave to take her back to her vacation and to her lonely life without any Priestly's in it.
The next day, Andy was too restless to lie out on the beach, so she spent the day walking around Genoa's old town and harbor. Her camera's memory was full and her feet were aching by the time she headed back to her temporary apartment to change clothes for dinner. She walked right by the car idling on the sidewalk next to the building as she fished out her key from her backpack.
Andy froze at the sound of her name from that familiar voice. For the longest moment, she was incapable of moving at all.
"I know I've accused you in the past of moving at a glacial pace but this is ridiculous. Turn and face me, you silly girl."
Automatically, Andy obeyed the softly spoken order. She pivoted to see Miranda standing before her in casual clothes. "I thought you were flying back to the States today."
"I made sure the girls boarded and then changed my reservation." Miranda looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable. "I made it an open return."
Andy couldn't stop the delighted grin from lighting up her face. "That's a little presumptuous, wouldn't you say?"
"None of that cheek. You and I need talk."
Andy nodded. "I know. I didn't think it was possible, though. How did you find me?"
"I had a lovely conversation with the Ambassador. It seems he attended several of the same Balls last time he was in New York. He had a number of nice things to say about you but I really don't want to repeat them out here in the street." Miranda stepped closer. "Why don't you invite me in?"
"Have you eaten dinner?"
"Bring your bag up and we'll both change for dinner. I have a list of restaurants that my colleagues recommended. You can choose."
Miranda barely hesitated in giving the order for her driver to take her luggage upstairs and to take the rest of the evening off.
Andy led the way to the small apartment. "Did you need a shower? I think I walked ten miles today and need to wash the city off my skin."
"No, you go ahead."
"Okay. You can change through there." Andy pointed at the second bedroom as she walked past it into the bathroom.
Once there, she took a moment to stare at herself in the mirror. She was not the same woman who had made such a momentous decision facing another bathroom mirror five years before. Not just older, Andy was wiser and more confident.
Having Miranda this close, however, was badly damaging her calm. She couldn't pretend that being near Miranda didn't affect physically and emotionally but, maybe with a shower and some fresh underwear, she could make it through the evening without embarrassing herself.
After a quick rinse, Andy wrapped a towel around herself and dashed quickly to her bedroom. She forced herself not to second guess her clothes choices and went out to find Miranda with the restaurant suggestions in her hand.
Miranda looked her up and down and nodded once. "We'll go to the Boccadasse neighborhood. I've heard of two of the places on this list and we can see their menus and decide from that."
"Sounds good. Shall I call for a taxi?"
"Yes. Sorry I sent the car away."
"Don't worry about it." Andy touched Miranda's shoulder as she walked by. "I'm used to cabbing or footing it everywhere."
After making the call, Andy turned to see Miranda watching her. "What?"
"You speak Italian beautifully."
"Thank you. It is a lovely language."
"Made lovelier by the speaker."
Andy blushed and busied herself looking for her keys. "Thank you for saying so. Shall we wait downstairs? It should only be a moment."
Miranda agreed and, by the time they reached the street, the cab was pulling up. It was just a short drive to the historical waterside district. Mindful that the driver might speak English, they were quiet for the trip.
Both restaurants looked good but only one specialized in locally sourced seafood. Andy couldn't wait to try the crab ravioli and, as the place also purported to serve a steak that would satisfy the most discerning eater, Miranda looked to be happy as well.
Andy tapped her finger on the posted dinner hours. "The dining room doesn't open for a couple of hours. Why don't we go to a enoteche for an aperitivo?"
"That sounds divine. I have wanted to try some of the area's wines."
They were forced to walk close together on the narrow sidewalk. Andy pointed out a couple of the sights she had explored earlier in the day and shared some of the history she had learned.
"You seem quite comfortable here," Miranda said.
"I am. I've always loved traveling and seeing new things and trying exotic foods."
"Do you intend to stay here?"
"I'm only in Genoa for three, no make that four more days."
"I'll go back to Rome."
"Are you happy there?"
"Not really. It is just another big city with all the crowds and traffic and pollution of New York without the comforts of home." Andy opened the door of the wine bar for Miranda and trailed behind her into brightly lit space.
After a brief conversation with the sommelier, Miranda tasted three wines before settling on a bottle of Sangiovese. The waiter delivered a small plate of nibbles and quickly made himself scarce. Andy smiled to herself at the sight of Miranda terrorizing the service staff.
"What's that look for?"
Andy wasn't about to confess how much she enjoyed watching Miranda be Miranda. Instead, she said, "I have to admit, I was shocked to see you again."
"Is that good or bad?"
"Definitely good. I've missed you. Even when all you do is cause havoc in my life, I miss you."
"I will admit that our past few interactions have not been ideal but you know how I am where my girls are concerned."
"Don't remind me. I'm still scarred from the Hurricane Incident."
Miranda expertly swirled her glass and held it up to the light to view the liquid streak down. "I'm not going to apologize for what I've had to do to get where I am."
"I don't expect you to and wouldn't believe you if you did." Andy was adamant. "I just hope that we can change our dynamic. That we can maybe even become friends."
"You have heard the word before, haven't you?"
"You are quite the cheeky thing these days." Miranda toyed with the bruchette. "You're not afraid of me."
"In my travels I've had scarier things than you for breakfast." At Miranda's glare, Andy shrugged. "Besides, I don't think you want me to fear you."
"When did you stop?"
"After Paris. I had plenty of alone time after my boyfriend left me. He had moved out of our apartment and the city before my flight landed in New York."
"He just left?"
"Unlike Stephen, he didn't even send a fax. Just left a note on the kitchen counter with half of the rent." Andy huffed angrily at the memory and swigged her wine. "We had been having problems for a while. He had issues with my job, the hours, the calls. Well, you know."
"It used to piss me off because, in his mind, his long hours were all necessary while mine were just to piss him off."
"Fairly typical but that doesn't lesson the pain."
"I think he was also a little jealous of you."
"Yeah, he once told me that my taking your calls at all hours were a sign that we were in a relationship."
"An intense relationship based on your employment situation. Grant you, a little more intense than with my other assistants. It is rare that I would rely on anyone as I relied on you."
"So I was special?"
"You know you were." Miranda poured out the last of the bottle. "That is why it hurt so bad when you left."
"You fired me," Andy reminded her.
Miranda set her glass down with force on the table. "Why didn't you try on the gown?"
Andy stared down at the dark ruby liquid in her glass. "I have scars, Miranda." Andy looked up. "I'm not ashamed of them but I get to be the one who chooses when anyone else sees them."
"I didn't know that. I'm sorry."
Smiling, Andy said, "Would it have changed anything? Considering there was no-one else who could fit in the dress, I bet you still would have demanded I try it on."
"Am I really that insensitive?"
"You're that driven to perfection."
Miranda raised an eyebrow. "You aren't saying that like you think it is a bad thing."
"Because it isn't. You couldn't do what you do without that drive. You wouldn't be you and I wouldn't have it any other way."
"That hardly seems like the sort of thing someone would say to someone who has fired them."
"Or gotten them fired."
"Yes, about that. I was just venting. I never expected you to lose your job."
"I didn't lose the job because you yelled. I lost it because I knew your kids didn't qualify for aid and I helped them anyway."
"I would have paid for your time."
Andy shrugged. "Water under the bridge."
"Is it really?"
"Miranda, I could spend my life blaming you for everything that is wrong with my life or I could be realistic that your interference might have been for the best."
"You and I both know I wasn't cut out for fashion. I also wasn't cut out for journalism."
Miranda reached across the table and rested her hand on Andy's arm. "I didn't black list you."
"That is good to know but, honestly? I never thought you did."
"Then why didn't you become a reporter?"
"How do you know I didn't? I could have tried and failed."
"No, Andrea. You are too good of a writer to have failed."
"How do you know about my writing?"
"I read those articles you submitted with your resume."
"You did?" Andy saw a pink blush on Miranda's cheeks. "When did you read them?"
Miranda tightened her lips.
"C'mon, tell me."
"If you must know, I read them after we returned from Paris." Miranda looked down at the pristine white tablecloth. "I wanted to understand you a little better. You almost quit that day and I wanted to know why you stayed."
"Were you trying to get me to leave? I'm mean that speech in the car was almost custom designed to push me into a downward spiral of existential angst." Andy shook her head and refocused on her point. "When I thought of how the press was treating you, the last thing I wanted was to be a part of that."
"There are other kinds of journalism than what Page Six peddles. There are many honorable reporters, investigating important things."
Andy scowled at the memory of some of the reports about Miranda that made it into the gossip rags. "I saw how easy the story could be twisted and how instead of making the news, the newsmakers became the story." She shrugged and pulled off a piece of focaccia. After chewing and swallowing, she continued, "Anyway, when I left Runway, I got my feet wet at a job that would have taken my soul in another year." Andy sighed. "I had a law degree put no practical legal experience at all and had a case load of fifty dumped on me my first week. The day your kids got picked up, I had almost a hundred fifty open cases."
"All in a days work for a public defender. However, there aren't enough lawyers nor enough funds to represent all who qualify." Andy shook her head. "It's a job that needs doing but I wasn't the best one to do it."
"You always had a big heart."
"And it was taking a beating," Andy whispered. "I had to lose that job to find myself."
"How did you end up here?"
"A law school buddy told me about the position and less than two months later, I had an expense paid ticket to Italy and a job that barely has me working full-time but pays me as if I were." Andy laughed and set her glass down on the marble topped table. "I should be thanking you."
"Who's stopping you?"
She mock punched Miranda's shoulder. "Perhaps I don't want to make your ego any bigger."
"Instead of abusing me, why don't you get the waiter cowering over in the corner to bring us the check. I think we need something more substantial in our stomachs if we are to continue to our conversation."
"Yes, Miranda," Andy replied in her best servile tone. She laughed at Miranda's eye roll and beckoned for the bill.
It was a quick walk back to the restaurant and they ordered the dishes that they had identified earlier. In the lull after the waiter left, Miranda spoke, "You never finished your thought about no longer being afraid of me."
"Does it bother you?"
"I guess I'm most comfortable with my interactions being controlled." Miranda smiled. "By me."
"Intimidation is easier than intimacy."
Andy hesitated a moment before blurting, "I think of you as a scarecrow."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Not like the Wizard of Oz with no brain! A real one."
"I think you had better explain your meaning."
Andy smiled at Miranda's frown. "The point of the scarecrow is to scare birds, right? Any of them just flying by would be warned off. But after a while, those that persist realize that it won't really harm them."
"So familiarity breeds contempt."
Andy wagged her finger at Miranda. "Now you're putting words in my mouth. I would have said to know you was to love you."
"Honestly, Andrea. You are delusional."
"Why do you think you inspire such loyalty? That list of yours you used against Irv was not filled with haters. Think of all your long time employees. They work those incredible hours and bleed for you on the page not just because they respect your vision but because they love you."
"And all those people I fire? Are you going to tell me that all the bodies I've left in my wake are part of my adoring masses?"
"Of course not. They add to your mystique. Contrary to popular belief, however, you're not a capricious bitch. You lay out your expectations and anyone or anything that can't live up to them is culled."
"Quite a lot of farming references, Andrea. Your roots are showing."
Andy refused to react to the put down. "I know my saying these things is making you uncomfortable and that your usual modis operandi is to attack when you feel vulnerable. Please, Miranda, know that I would never do anything to harm you."
"I am realizing that." Miranda chewed her last bite of steak and put her silverware down. "The girls called all these reconnections kismet."
Andy leaned closer to better see Miranda's face. "You spoke to them about this " she waved her hand between them.
For a moment it looked like Miranda wouldn't answer. She finally admitted, "They spoke to me." She folded and refolded her napkin. "After we got back to the hotel and they burned those awful things, they came to my room. They talked about how they had tricked you to come upstairs back when you were an assistant and begged you to do something, against all the arguments you made, to get them out of that holding cell."
"I couldn't leave them there."
"I know that now." Miranda handed her credit card to the waiter. "All these years, I've tried to pretend I didn't like you, that I didn't find myself remembering your smile and your eyes and how you looked in those designer clothes. I made up reasons to keep those feelings in check and time and time again, you blow through all my walls like they are tissue paper."
"Is that a bad thing?"
"It could be if you break my heart."
Andy sat back. "I have that power?"
"Yes. Yes you do." Miranda signed the receipt with a flourish and gathered her things. She was out the door in a flash.
Andy had to scramble to catch up with her. They walked in silence to the end of the path overlooking the harbor.
Holding onto the railing with both hands, Miranda spoke in a near whisper. "The girls recognized what I did not, could not. I I have feelings for you. That scares me."
"I have feelings for you, too, Miranda." Andy slid her hand over and squeezed Miranda's. "I've dreamed of you so many times. I've dreamed of being able to do this," Andy said as she tugged Miranda away from the railing and into her arms.
In the moonlight shining down on them, they came together for the first time. Andy was slightly taller in her heels and she enfolded Miranda in a gentle embrace, her sheltering arms offering the promise to protect Miranda and her heart.
Andy lost track of how long they stood there. When she pulled back to look into Miranda's face, she saw the older woman's lips were parted as if to speak. Andy leaned forward and took the words from Miranda's mouth with her tongue.
Together, they held an entire conversation in their kiss.
"Take me back to your place, Andrea," Miranda eventually whispered against her lips. "I have so much more I want to say."
"Yes, Miranda," Andy bubbled with joy. "Always yes."
They had spent the rest of their evening just kissing and cuddling on the sofa. Andy couldn't recall ever having a more sensual experience in her life. Waking up with Miranda in her arms was something she knew she would never tire of.
After breakfast of fresh fruit and jam on toast, Andy convinced Miranda to join her for a couple of hours at the beach. The older woman insisted on renting an umbrella and lounge chair but, after Miranda changed, Andy didn't mind the additional fuss. Seeing Miranda in a gorgeous gold one-piece bathing suit short-circuited her brain.
They set up away from the other tourists in near silence, enjoying the accidental and not so accidental touches. Andy lay on her back on her towel and let the sun warm her skin while Miranda focused on reading emails off her tablet.
After a while, Andy rolled over and rested her cheek against her crossed arms. She watched Miranda work for a bit and then asked, "How you are able to have this time with me? At Runway, it was full court press after fashion week."
Miranda set down her iPad. "As you probably know my job description has changed. In my new capacity, I oversee without having direct editing responsibilities."
"That's why you could bring the girls with you."
"Yes, I've tried to do what I can to give them more time and attention. Now they are in college with their own lives, it is harder." Miranda stared into the distance. "I have a freedom now that I've never had before."
"What are you going to do with it?"
"To start, I think I'll sit on a Mediterranean beach with the most marvelous view."
Andy blushed at the look in Miranda's eyes. "Thank you. I'm glad you're here."
"Perhaps we can spend more time together." Miranda glanced over at Andy. "Instead of video conferences, I could come to Europe more regularly to oversee the editorial content of the magazines. There are also the Spring and Fall shows in London, Paris, and Milan."
Andy rolled over onto her side and propped her head onto her hand. She smiled to think of Miranda rearranging her life to accommodate hers. "My contract was for three years and ends on December 31st. I've been thinking about coming home."
"It is where the heart is. Mine is with you."
Miranda's radiant smile was all the confirmation she needed that her heart was not alone. Reaching out, their hands met in the middle, bridging their differences. Andy knew it wouldn't be easy but, together, they could do anything.
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