DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Iaido and Kendo are martial arts requiring expert instruction and guidance. Please don't Google videos and then play with a broomstick or—gods forbid!—that replica of Gabby's katana you have hanging on the wall. If your interest is sufficiently piqued, ask Google to find a good dojo in your area, and from that point on obey your sensei. The title is taken from a line in a song by Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls, "Mystery":- "The pirate gets the ship and the girl tonight..." This story would not carry the polish it now owns without, collectively, the Three Editors: La Beta ravenbull -who understands; "Second Chair" seelyfey -my fellow diet-wrecker; and to (La) law_nerd -Biscuit! My sincerest thanks to all three of you. Feedback and con crit welcome, and thanks in advance.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Ship and the Girl
By needled_ink1975


Part One

Their eyes meet, and then her assistant turns and walks away. Miranda fights a sudden and almost vicious urge, a traitorous urge, to go after her. Simply, she cannot. Never mind the photographers; she is expected at this show, they are waiting only on her arrival to begin. This is a simple fact, one that she has long been accustomed to. So she turns, and this time she does not look back.

The silence in her suite is disturbed only by the soft sounds of her own breathing. This is disquieting after the party that she so recently left. As she moves to the bedroom there is a rustling of excessively expensive fabrics, and then the snarl of the gown's descending zipper is extraordinarily loud.

She tries not to think in the shower; she blinks at water and tries to see pictures in the veining of the marble tiles, just as she used to when she was a girl, when her parents would fight. She often disassociates from pain in this manner; it's soothing and also inspiring.

When her hair is dry, and she's warm in a soft grey robe, she takes up a large sketchpad and pencils. She remembers the vague shapes and images in the marble veins. She draws rapidly, the soft 4B pencil speaking in velvet whispers to the paper. There appears a windblown tree; a small bird, which becomes a robin on a branch; a hand holding a champagne flute. She considers the last, then turns the page over and begins again on fresh white.

The hand, the glass. She minds the proportions carefully: this will be a study of a woman from the waist up. Other guidelines arrive, merely brushed graphite shadows on the paper. On to the torso- a certain dress; a particular dress. This is from memory and she frowns while she works, trying to place in her mind what is gathering shape and form on paper. The dress, the dress... Oh, but this is Chanel. She meticulously adds detail, concentrating. Occasionally she chooses a slightly harder pencil, one with a sharper point and less of a tendency to smudge. She is so fixated on what she is doing that she is only partly aware of the forming result. But then it is done.

At first she smiles; pleased. Then she sees, realizes, and her heart squeezes and betrays her.

There are no marble tiles, no clouds, there is no distant patching and patterning of trees and roofs and roads. There is no soothing distraction from the truth of capture, and although Andrea is there smiling at someone absent, frozen on paper, it is Miranda who is captured, still, by this girl's several kindnesses.

She is only aware of her tears when one splashes on the bottom edge of the sketchpad.


And there comes the sound of breaking glass: her father has thrown either a bottle or glass across the room, again. He keeps doing that, whenever her mother perhaps says something wrong. She's confused about why they fight. She tries to understand and comes back with nothing that makes sense, because she is told over and over: "When you're angry or sad, you hide it; you do not cry; you must control your emotions," and she is told as much by her father.

Something else breaks downstairs. Miranda is only five and she begins to feel afraid, because her mother is crying now. Miranda wants to think of something else, wants to do something to keep herself busy. She has a coloring book; she looks through the book, but none of the pictures in it interest her. There are two or three blank pages here at the end of the book, and she already has a blue crayon in her hand, because blue is her favorite color. With the onset of raised voices downstairs, she begins just to scribble with nothing on her mind except blue-on-white.

The noises downstairs become still, and suddenly there's a laugh. Miranda knows what comes next, and she's too little to understand how this works for them: fighting and then the making up, over and over; it happens at least twice a week. She is old enough to understand that they somehow like things just as they are.

Blue-on-white. White-and-blue. This shape here looks a bit like a sailboat, and there's a bit that looks like a buoy, on the water there, like one of those with a bell on it, to warn sailors about rocks and reefs. Miranda puts her little all into adding the small details that bring a real picture out of a scribble.

In the end she spends hours and hours creating pictures from haphazard scribbles. Hours and hours pass as she escapes into a world of half-shapes that become the images that her mind sees in white-and-blue.

She tilts her head, and from her desk she regards the latest replacement with a keenly critical eye, from foot to head. Faultless in appearance, as far as the attire stretches; near-perfect figure. Petite- were it not for this, the girl would most certainly be a model. Topping off the near-perfect figure is a near-flawless face. But there are faults, imperfections, and flaws aplenty in this one, and more of those negative traits are revealed the longer she works here. Too many.

This one will not last, just as the other two did not. She will quit, as the others did, because she is not aware of the very simple attitude of her boss; if she were aware, she would look beyond her own impressions of the woman in charge to the overall picture of a highly successful magazine.

Her many triumphs and successes seem always to never be enough. Complaints are levied against Miranda's harshness and supposed cruelty; people dislike her sarcastic invective and snide remarks. These are tools. These are keys that unlock doors and vaults. Simply, these are the spurs she uses to get the very best, and when she is given the best she demands not more in general, only more of the same. Demands and then hopes for it- yes; expects as much- no, not ever.

To hope is not to expect; they do not have the same meaning. Although some might deem the two words interchangeable, Miranda knows the difference. She takes joy wherever she finds it, but never expects it, because her several lessons of great disappointment are, by now, very deeply engrained.

Miranda's personal truth is that she is by far too sensitive. As a child she couldn't bear a voice raised to her even slightly, and if she cried she was reprimanded for it. The simplest solution was, and still is, not to cry: La Priestly is the persona she began to develop and perfect before she reached puberty. As a little girl, she clung tightly to the hope of something—anything—better than whatever had upset, or frightened, hurt, or disappointed her. Hoped for it- yes; expected it- never.

Hope can get her out of bed every day for a month and more, after expectations have given her worrisome dreams fed by doubts. Hope is a simple creature with a one-track mind and tunnel vision, and at the end of the tunnel—no matter how dim—there glows a light.

And so now she only hopes that someone, somewhere, is headed towards the job currently held by a person who fits the preferred picture, but not the overall profile.

Miranda takes a moment to consider and weigh and be very, very honest: Andrea Sachs was not that person.

She is less critical of the next candidate to fill the position.

She is ten, and the smallest child in the class. Today Neil Mills was fooling around with a very big pair of scissors. He hadn't meant to really cut her braid right off, but the teacher had come into the class at that moment, when the blades were wide, when the braid was there between them, and she had shouted at Neil Mills. Startled, the boy had snapped the blades shut, and the long braid of mousey hair had fallen to the tiled floor with a soft slap.

She looks down at it, with her hand behind her head, at the nape where there had been a weight earlier: she feels the lack of the weight more than the absence of the hair.

There is silence, even the teacher is mute.

Miranda has a choice, just as her father tells her often. She has a choice between crying and showing her mettle, and so she chooses. She lies:

'I wanted shorter hair anyway. Mommy wouldn't let me get it cut.'

That voice is one belonging to someone much older. The teacher recognizes this. It is a voice that is trained and schooled in ways that are not in this teacher's purview. The woman puts a hand on Miranda's shoulder, and she's expecting to be rebuffed so she isn't offended when the girl shrugs her off and gives her a hard stare. The teacher meets it and shows this child the respect she is due; she gives Miranda a small nod.

At home Miranda's mother isn't quite sober; in fact, she's just tipsy enough, and Miranda tells the story in just the right way, and gets her mother to laugh. In turn, her mother makes sure that her father laughs about it later, but that sort of manipulation is not the kind that Miranda knows how to employ as yet. Still, she learns from them. She watches, she listens; she is mentally and emotionally precocious, and every day she puts to use, in some small way, the things she's learned by watching and listening.

The lady next door was kind enough to neaten Miranda's accidental bob, and it really doesn't look bad at all. She had lied yesterday, about wanting shorter hair, but the mirror tells Miranda that she wants to keep this short style; it suits her shape of face. At school all the girls agree, but Neil Mills has the audacity to rag on her and tell her that she looks goofy. It's a show for his buddies, to prove how tough he is, and so there must be some reason. And why should he need to prove it, Miranda thinks. When the answer comes to her she looks him in the eye, and her smile is probably as cold as her mother's is when her father decides to go out with his friends.

'Neil, I bet anything you like that I could get your daddy to give you another ass-tanning. One short phone-call- whadya say, boys? Wanna dare me to do it?'

Dares are a big deal in the fifth grade, and Miranda already has a reputation for being the girl to dare, because she'll do it and never renege. As Miranda guessed that he would, Neil panics. He apologizes even before he can think of how that will look to his friends, and now he becomes the object of ridicule. She might hang around and watch his belittling, but she doesn't. She walks away as if her triumph means nothing.

She watches; she listens; she learns, but no-one notices because she makes sure to pretend indifference. As the years pass, she learns how to make indifference comes across as an iciness, which is more useful: ice cuts.

Today she is awful. She cannot sleep on planes, and in order to be back today, she boarded a flight that landed at JFK at around seven a.m. She hasn't slept in more than thirty-six hours. Every word is double-edged sarcasm; every look is a withering glare. Her only compliments- if they can be called that, go to the crew who slaves from three p.m onwards every day to prepare the Book for her perusal. While she was in Milan they had double work, having to scan everything and send it to Miranda. She hasn't a single complaint to issue to them, and therefore, Serena is the only Runway employee who needn't cringe in fear at the slightest thought of Miranda. Everyone else does their best to just stay out of her way. Their only consolation is that tomorrow is Saturday, a half-day.


Erica was Andy's replacement, the one who lasted; the other three each held that desk for no more than a month, one of them getting the hell out after just three days. Erica is now first assistant, but today she'd kill to be researching ice worms in Alaska, or perhaps it would be better to tease piranhas in Argentina, while wearing a skimpy bikini. She'd die sooner, she's sure. The job a million girls would often kill not to have.

'Miranda?' says Erica, pen and notebook at the ready.

'Point first, if you like your job you had better not wear that blouse again- I have no idea what Anna Sui was thinking, regarding that print: it's sickening.'

Erica knows better than to say even "Yes, Miranda"; she merely nods. Then comes the quiet word-perfect dictation of a very long list. Erica scribbles like her hand is possessed by a demon. It's nearing the end of the workday for other people, but Erica and the second assistant Jennifer are bound to end their day no earlier than seven. Jennifer's too new to entrust with the Book as yet. It's after seven when Miranda leaves, and Erica sends Jennifer home. The wait for the Book is long tonight. Erica spent more than an hour away having dinner, from eight till just after nine, and by the time she delivers the Book and dry-cleaning it's close to eleven p.m.


She hates these calls into the small parlor where Miranda waits for and presumably reviews the Book. She's glad that she has on her coat over the objectionable Anna Sui blouse. Erica tells herself that she needs to hang in for just another year, and straightens her back as she walks with purpose and a good act of confidence into the parlor.

'Miranda, good evening,' she says politely and professionally, before she hands over the Book.

'I won't be in tomorrow. I want you to collect the Book at eight a.m; it will be where you usually leave it. You need not stay at the office- leave that to Jennifer, and tell her she is to remain until one p.m, earliest. She'll have to stay longer if the Philip Lim samples don't arrive on time. Tell her to write down the time that they're delivered. Whenever I'm away, people get slack. We should have had those samples today.'

'I'll see to it,' Erica says, and doesn't bother to mention the massive and almost immovable traffic jams experienced in the City today, for various reasons. The subway wasn't jammed, and Miranda will most likely say something about alternatives being available to anyone who seeks them out. And she's right. Erica learned fast that very often Miranda is right. 'Is there anything else?'

'That's all,' Miranda says, shaking her head.

The next morning Miranda is seated at her kitchen table when she hears her front door open and close, open and close. A glance at the wall clock: precisely eight a.m. Miranda dwells for a few seconds on Erica's exceptional punctuality, which is acceptable, certainly, but then she is also like a machine in many respects, not all of them good. Politely put, Erica lacks imagination and as such she will be of little value to a magazine built on the imaginative efforts of so many very creative people. So Miranda will send Erica off one day with a glowing letter of recommendation, and with a look that will leave the girl in no doubt that she should not ask about another position at Runway. Then again... Yes. Miranda is almost positive that Erica Whitly will probably grab her letter of recommendation and head very quickly in the direction of away. The only reason she's lasted so long is due to a stubborn streak ten miles wide. Miranda smirks: lack of imagination or no, Erica is Miranda's favorite sort of person, all never-give-in, all I-will-so-succeed, just-see-if-I-don't. Emily is like that; Andrea is like that, too, but Andrea Sachs is wiser, Miranda knows, than both Emily and Erica combined.

It's no good to insist on success as defined by others; no-one succeeds who gives up their dreams and aspirations. Miranda believes in dreams. Dreams have propelled her into this life she is living, and the dreams of others make her own success a possibility: fashion, all manner of art owes its very fabric to dreams. She is not nearly so trite, so cold and hard as some prefer to believe, and because of her understanding of the importance of dreams, she chose not to make life difficult for Andrea Sachs.

She is thirteen. While home is a place and a situation she is coming to hate more and more, when her parents don't fetch her at weekends, her boarding school dormitory is rather a lonely place. To make it worse, it's bucketing down with rain today.

There's a knock at the door at the end of the long room, and Miranda lifts her head from reading a novel. Mrs. Kepler is one of the younger teachers; Miranda and other choir members sang at her recent wedding.

'I thought you might want to look at these,' Mrs. Kepler says and offers three magazines. 'Miz Stanton showed me the drawings you did- costume design for the ninth grade play: lovely. This is a bit different, but also not.'

'Thank you,' Miranda mumbles, her eyes already pretty much glued to something fantastic by Dior, vaunted on the cover of a magazine called Runway. Already her fingers itch for a pencil, and before she can control them, her eyes shift to the desk beside her bed.

'Go for it,' Mrs. Kepler says in a playful stage whisper. She adds with a smile, 'But perhaps you should flip through those to see what else Dior and others have on offer, hmm?'

'Okay. Thanks, Missus Kepler.'

'Welcome,' she says with a nod and walks away. Were Miranda any other child, Janet Kepler would have tacked on "honey"; she would also have asked "Are you okay?", but no-one takes that approach with Miranda. Her strength of character never comes across as willfulness, nor is she ever insolent, and that earns her a good deal of respect from most of the faculty. At the door Mrs. Kepler pauses, and says, 'History test tomorrow- don't forget.'

'No, ma'am, I won't forget. Thank you.'

And it's a good thing that Miranda put in a lot of revision work yesterday, because she doesn't find time today to even think about her history books. When six p.m comes along, and her dorm-mates are trickling in to make the seven-thirty cut-off, Miranda's bed is littered with sketches, and a couple have slipped to the floor. Most are copies of photographs in the magazines, but a few are original. One of the girls picks up a piece of paper off the floor.

'Wow,' she says quite seriously. 'My mom would kill for a dress like this...'

Other girls gather round to look at the sketch, but Miranda is so engrossed in capturing the movement of a piece by Chanel that she doesn't notice any of the favorable comments expressed.

For the first time in her life, she knows what she wants. Most of the garments she has looked at today are perfect, but some don't quite reach that mark. It's not a completely personal assessment. She has redesigned those pieces, so that lines and forms move more fluidly. As an artist she can tell at a glance when a color or shade is just plain wrong for the model wearing it. These are purely technical points which have little bearing on her personal judgment. She is sure, completely certain, that her take on these points is correct. Most importantly she has found an answer to her question, one which also happens to be her father's dismissive judgment: "What point in art?"

Fashion is art. Fashion is the art of the everyday woman. Style is the personal application of the principles of that art: this is what is available, and one must make it one's own.

While Miranda is an artist, in the sense that she draws and paints, she is cognizant of the fact that she is not the sort of artist who can gather a following and thereby make a living from what she produces on paper or canvas. She is fully aware that her efforts are those best described by the term "draftswoman." She draws what she sees or has seen, and whenever she ventures into original design and composition it requires a lot of effort, and she lacks confidence. To mask this—because she deems it a flaw—she strives to produce such perfectly realistic depictions that those who look upon her work lose their breath. But she knows, and she is accepting of her various personal truths, not least this one: she understands art, and she knows what is and what is not art, and that knowledge now has a purpose.

After lights-out, she lies awake and stares up into the dark, and her mind's eye shows a parade of models wearing gowns and dresses and ensembles. She doesn't see herself when the designer is led onto the catwalk, after the show, but she does see herself in that place, in that future time: she is in the front row, and the designer looks to her for approval.

There's a rumor that one Andy Sachs decked someone for saying something untoward about a certain magazine editor-in-chief. Nigel follows up, which isn't difficult: the news is everywhere because Andy didn't smack just anyone, and it wasn't just a tap either.

He takes the news to Miranda, delivers it while standing at the side of her desk, and they are both looking out the window, she seated in her chair. Her lips purse, but against amusement. Nigel clears his throat and adds that Andy is now out of a job. Apparently, even before he'd hauled himself off the floor, Greg Waters had given Andy just two options: resign, or take the risk of an assault charge sticking.

Nigel comes to the end of his report, and Miranda's expression clouds, eventually settling into the blank mask he associates with someone's eventual demise. Someone is in trouble, and this time it isn't his friend Six.

Three days later, Miranda inclines her head as she walks, and Nigel, on his way to Graphics, changes course to match hers. They arrive in the lesser of two conference rooms; the door is closed. Miranda wordlessly places two sheets of paper on the table. Nigel peruses first one, then the other, and his eyebrows slowly rise until they can go no higher.

'Which would suit her best?'

'People will talk about this, Miranda.'

'I didn't ask your opinion on future water-cooler natters. Which?'

'She can't choose for herself?'

'One or the other. Choose for her. I think you know her well enough.'

The hand Nigel has in his blazer pocket bunches into a fist: even when she does relatively nice things she is just plain otherwise. And how is it that she always knows everything? How does she know that he and Andy are friends? Also, he's worried: this isn't smart. There is still talk, a whole year after the fact, as to the possible reason why Miranda didn't flay Andy alive and make it so that the kid couldn't find work this side of the International Dateline. If Nigel is very frank with himself, even he is still just a little flummoxed. Andy's still living in New York and she isn't a street person! With this newsroom punch-up business, there is chatter again, but in whispers. Andy landing this kind of job now will cause the volume to rise, Nigel is sure. He is Miranda's friend, and for once he will force her to recognize as much at Runway.

'Listen- do you know what the talk is, Miranda? Do you?'

'I happen to find that particular rumor to be rather amusing, seeing as I haven't laid eyes on Andrea since seven or eight days after my return from Paris, one year ago.' She looks at him carefully and her eyes narrow slightly. 'Why are you so concerned about it?'

'Irv is still looking for an excuse to get rid of you.'

'He wouldn't like the discrimination suit I'd bring, nor would Elias-Clarke, if there was any truth to the rumors, which there is not. And good grief, really, all of it.'

'Really-all-of-what, precisely? You're awfully defensive suddenly. Might you head in that direction?'

'Were it not for our friendship...' Her voice is a whispered hiss through gritted teeth.

Nigel raises a hand, palm out, and literally takes a half step back. His apology is in his eyes; he has never crossed that line before. They are old friends but there are areas of their lives that are off limits and which are never discussed. He raises his eyebrows in a question, and Miranda nods: forgiven, this once. Nigel looks again at the two pieces of paper and chooses one.

'I'll call her and meet with her tonight. She'll know, Miranda, that you're behind this, and not me. If she asks?'

'She won't. Shall we bet again, like we used to?' Miranda says, and there is a predatory and combative gleam in her eyes. It's an eagerness that is hard to look at: her lust of, and her taste for, the trickle of blood in the water; the way she takes pride in it when Nigel looks away. She would never bare row upon row of teeth to him after hours, but she will have her due, here and now. They are not friends at work, and he made the choice to forget as much. She says briskly, and with cold confidence, 'My wager is a thousand, hard cash; odds are two-to-one: she will not ask.'

Nigel cannot back out, not without looking and feeling like a coward. By ten p.m he is out of pocket to the tune of two-thousand dollars.

She is twelve, and her mother is thirty-eight.

'How do—Miranda, if you are lying...'

'I'm not,' Miranda says, and her eyes are hard. She tells little fibs, if she feels she has to, but she doesn't tell whoppers, ever, because they are too easily found out. She learned this lesson from her father; she learned by noticing how easily her mother finds out his great big lies. Never mind the fact that sometimes he tells lies in the hope that he'll be caught, so they'll fight. She still can't quite fathom this dynamic, this urge of theirs to fight and make up. It's a riddle whose answer hovers at the edge of her awareness, and she doesn't like the hints that occasionally drop in on her: they make her squirm and hurry along to thoughts of other things. She has been drawing a lot lately, most of the summer, in fact. 'I'm not lying, Mom. He was talking to Grandma.'

Grandma is her mother's mother; the white-haired woman hasn't spoken to Miranda's mother in eight years. Miranda isn't too sure what that is all about, but she does know that her father is supposed to be firmly in his wife's camp, and not in Grandma's. Miranda herself has not spoken with her maternal grandmother for at least four years, if not five, but that's all right because Lorraine Brent is twice the bitch that her daughter is.

When Miranda's father comes home there isn't the expected yelling match, but there is strain and tension at the dinner table. Her father notices.

'What's wrong here?' he asks in his usual gruff, terse way.

And for the first time Miranda thinks that she could be in real trouble, for telling on him. She schools her expression to show nothing at all, and she is careful with her fork on its way to her mouth. Her father is going to blow a gasket, she knows, because she was supposed to be playing over at Kerry Schumann's house this morning. She had gone there, but had come home when she'd found that Kerry's mom had forgotten the play date.

And she does get into trouble, because her mother makes sure of it. The woman likes to inflict a lot of damage, when the mood takes her. She tells her husband that Miranda saw him this morning, talking to Lorraine.

While the lesson learned by other children might simply involve keeping their mouths shut about certain things, Miranda learns that and something else. It would have been wiser, today, to have crept closer, to have overheard the conversation between her father and grandmother. She didn't, and her parents don't discuss it now; to Miranda's knowledge, they don't discuss it at all, and she never finds out the real reason why her mother refuses to speak to her father, the reason why she forces him to sleep in the guest room for more than a month. He doesn't fight her on this, because her mother tells him, reminds him, of "something else I know, Henry."

Miranda learns that it pays to know things and use those things as levers and weapons: knowledge is power.

La Priestly is not the only side to Miranda. That view is one for clackers, Perez Hilton, Paris Hilton, and anyone else so shallow as not to see past their own ill-informed opinions. Andy has always known this, just as she knew at once that Miranda was behind the gift of an interview, which led to the job she has now. There was no point in asking Nigel to confirm that certainty, but besides that her feelings on the matter are her own business.

It's not that she feels she owes Miranda anything, not for that weird letter of recommendation—"If you don't hire her, you're an idiot"—and not for the job she has now, as editor at an established publishing house. Andy is grateful but more importantly, she is loyal, and loyalty is not about debts and favors; it has nothing to do with giving back and/or getting something in return. Loyalty might bring many rewards and it might earn as many favors, but the loyal never expect as much. Andy feels firmly that she was born a loyal person, that loyalty is a trait more prevalent in some than in others.

Take Lily and Doug, and even Nate, for example: they have all turned their backs on Andy, but she can't bring herself to offer them the same in return, even a year later. So she asks Lily's dad and Doug's mom and Nate's parents how each of the three are doing. It isn't something done out of duty. It comes naturally as breathing to Andy Sachs. Understanding Andy better than their children do, the dad, the mom, and the parents in question fill Andy in.

And Miranda might stab her in the back tomorrow, but Andy would still be loyal. Why that is, Andy isn't precisely sure, but it certainly has a lot to do with understanding Miranda's circumstances. As far as Stephen Tomlinson was concerned, Andy was pretty much in the same boat with Nate. So while others say, in a certain variety of newspapers, that Miranda is heartless and unfeeling and so on, Andy says to herself that Stephen knew what he was getting into. No-one else seems to be looking at it from that angle. The divorce is newly over, and yet there is still unkind comment levied against Miranda, only Miranda. Andy calls this grossly unfair.

As far as Nate is concerned, Andy has come to feel that he could have been a little more accommodating. After all, if and when Nate had been required to work late or swap shifts—which effectively screwed up plans he and Andy had made—Andy had said "Okay." The fact is, he'd had to work on her birthday, but his job at a restaurant had made that okay. They had simply gotten together at said restaurant. Okay? No, not quite. He hadn't even tried to get the night off; he'd simply said to come round to his job. Not okay at all. Of course, Andy hadn't thought to make that argument when Nate had pouted and had locked himself in the bedroom. She still kicks herself over this little issue—still gets mad whenever she thinks about it.

While still angry about the way their relationship ended, she doesn't bear Nate any sort of grudge. Nor does she hold a grudge against Miranda.

A little over a year ago in Paris, she had seen Nigel before she left; he'd hunted her down at Charles de Gaul airport.

'Don't you dare do this only for me,' Nigel had muttered in her ear while hugging her fiercely.

'I don't wanna be her protégé,' Andy had told him.

'Okay,' Nigel had said, but shakily, afraid for her. 'Okay. I'm earning a third again what I did yesterday, by the way.'

'Is that good enough? You wanted that job so much.'

'That job—You know, Six, that job is not a safe place: I found out that Irv owns a full forty percent of the company. He'd think nothing of fucking me over to get at her. Miranda didn't get me the job. Irv tried to put me at that desk. Why, hmm?'

And Andy had paled at the very unpleasant scenarios that suddenly arrived in her head. She'd learnt in the space of less than twenty-four hours that Irv Ravitz is a master at playing dirty. She'd accepted, even while packing her bags, that for Miranda it was a case of play ball by his rules, or lose, and whoever was close to Miranda Priestly would be Irv's target, too. That was Nigel. Until that fall afternoon in Paris, it had also been Andy Sachs.

A year on and Andy is no longer concerned about Irv Ravitz, but she keeps tabs on Miranda.

At the Mirror, Andy developed quite the reputation for aggressively rounding on anyone who dared say anything negative about Miranda. It's now a reputation that precedes her, one bolstered by the solid-fisted straight right she'd delivered to the Mirror's editor-in-chief. The erstwhile editor of the Mirror, Andy reminds herself. That happened yesterday: Greg Waters walked into work only to be told to pack up his office. It's too much of a coincidence, and Andy is no fool. She knows that Miranda was behind the man's dismissal, even if indirectly.

They are both equally surprised to see each other after fourteen months. But here? It's a dojo, one specializing in the instruction of Iaido and Kendo, both of the Muso Shinden Ryu curriculum.

Andy has just stepped out of a kata- and has lowered her sword into an off-guard position. It's a real sword, dangerously real: a Thaitsuki Budo katana which is hand-forged, the blade folded over three-hundred times. Iaido kata begin with the sword—a katana—sheathed, and they end with the iaidoka—the practitioner—sheathing that sword. Andy hasn't completed her kata, and she's quite forgotten to sheath her blade. Not that anyone would blame her, considering who she's plainly staring at right now.

Miranda notices the easy, relaxed line to the Andy's forearm, wrist, and hand, so that the sword seems a natural extension; it belongs there. Even though many people might consider a sword-wielding ex employee to be something of a health risk, Miranda approaches without fear.

And as Miranda walks over, Andy's expression loses some of its surprise. She looks down critically, at Miranda's feet, only to regain the surprised expression when she finds no shoes in evidence.

'Of course I took them off,' Miranda mutters, easily reading Andy's mind, and referring to dojo etiquette. She gestures at the heavy quilted top and the thick floor-length split skirt Andy is wearing, and says, 'The uwagi and hakama suit you.'

'Thanks. What are you doing here?' Andy mutters. She is ill at ease. This is an odd hour, just around ten a.m on a weekday, and very few people are here at the dojo. In this large room there's only Andy and Miranda, who is looking at her in a way that causes Andy to worry about her hair and the fact that she's barefoot, and never mind the compliment on her attire, and the fact that Miranda is barefoot, too.

'I'm told that the Kendo instruction here is excellent. Your opinion?'

'You really want it, or are you making small talk?' Andy feels no need to be polite: she doesn't like this one bit. She is loyal, yes, and she thinks highly of Miranda, but Andy also knows Miranda.

'I want it,' Miranda says, her tone sharpening in answer to Andy's sharpness.

'Yeah. It's a good school. The girls wanna try it?'

'Yes. Actually, they've "tried it" already. What they want is to get serious about it.'

'Hope they've got the discipline for it. And they're starting late: I picked up my first shinai when I was six.' Andy guesses that Miranda has done her research. A shinai is a practice sword constructed of split bamboo, as opposed to a bokken which is a practice sword shaped from hardwood. 'Tell them not to get ideas about Iaido anytime soon: six years of work with a shinai and bokken before my first Iaido lesson.'

'I have to ask, how did your mother feel about that?' Miranda drawls, eyeing the katana in Andy's hand.

'Not happy,' Andy says with a broad grin. 'Same sword, just as sharp. Y'know what tameshigiri is?'

'Chopping things up,' Miranda says wryly. 'I realize that it might take years to perfect the method of cutting right through a tightly rolled, water-soaked bamboo mat with just one... slice, but I don't really see the point.'

'Discipline,' Andy states. She steps over to a shelf and fetches a sheet of regular printer paper from a basket, then steps into the center of the room. The katana has been sheathed, and Miranda notices that Andy's expression has become decidedly blank. Andy holds the paper by an edge, with two fingers and the thumb of her left hand. Abruptly she flicks up with her arm and wrist and the paper flips into the air. With her eyes on the fluttering paper, the sword is drawn, and then Andy is a blur of movement: two cuts leave the sheet of paper in three pieces. She tells Miranda, 'That's fifteen years worth of discipline.'

The word "wow" very nearly escapes Miranda's lips; that much she can control, but she doesn't even try to keep astonishment from her expression. Never mind the exceptionally sharp sword and the paper. She's never seen another human being move as fast. She feels like a child, filled with the urge to ask to see it again, but she doesn't ask. There are limits, even here and now. She thanks Andy for the demonstration and her favorable opinion of the dojo, and she leaves the room.

Andy frowns while balling up the scraps of paper. She doesn't understand why she feels sad to see Miranda go.

She is seventeen.

'I'm so, so sorry, Miranda,' Mrs. Kepler says softly, and she is very worried about the lack of tears, the lack of any reaction whatsoever. She says very gently, 'It's okay to just let go.'

Miranda shakes her head. The man who told her so many times not to let her emotions show, is dead; her mother is in a critical condition. Miranda overheard some people saying that the accident was her father's fault: he was speeding, a police officer said. Miranda adds, "And probably drunk" only to herself, but she knows that others will find that out. She straightens her back and looks at Mrs. Kepler.

'She's not going to make it, is she?'

Mrs. Kepler could lie, but everything in her screams "Don't!". This girl is here all alone, but for Janet Kepler, and if she coddles and offers platitudes, it's highly likely that Miranda will reject any further kindnesses Mrs. Kepler has to offer. But she cannot bring herself to speak about this, so she shakes her head and struggles to keep herself from crying. Her heart very nearly breaks when Miranda offers a kind smile and a sort of there-there pat to her knee. And then Mrs. Kepler is the one who straightens up, who finds her backbone, because the last thing Miranda needs is to feel as though she should be comforting her history teacher.

Miranda hates the wait for news. She sits in this cold waiting room that is warmed only by someone who, if not a stranger, is someone she can't even call a friend. It comes to her quite suddenly that she is now all alone in this world. No, wait. There's Grandma. Miranda barely holds back a derisive snort. No, there isn't Grandma. They can't stand each other, so Lorraine Brent does not count. It's likely that Miranda will soon be able to choose who she associates with; she will be allowed to choose a good many things for herself, and this is a very frightening thought.

When the doctor comes in to tell them, Miranda stands and thanks him for his efforts. There's nowhere else to go but back to the dorm, because her grandmother is in Nice and will only come home in two days.

'Will you come and stay with Rob and me, just for the night?' asks Mrs. Kepler. 'Principal Jackson said it'll be all right.'

Miranda considers the dorm, and Mrs. Kepler's offer. At some point, she knows, the hold she has now will be lost, and she doesn't want to face any of her dorm-mates, not in tears. It's only fair to warn her, and Miranda does, mentioning that she will probably just want to be left alone. Mrs. Kepler nods and Miranda follows her out to a car. Later, she finds herself in a small but lovely home where kind and quiet Rob Kepler has gone to the trouble of thawing and heating thick, rich soup. After six hours at the hospital the meal is exactly what Miranda needs: it provides a new focal point, on a primal sort of level—one that is oddly similar to the twist of grief in her gut. The feelings of hunger and grief are subjoined. Miranda finds herself analyzing and reaching for a side of human nature that she has never contemplated before. It's soothing, almost as soothing as drawing.

When she is alone in the guest room, she hides her face in a pillow and the sobs come choking up.

While her home life has never been wonderful, of late she had been making a concerted effort to get along with her parents. Those efforts had been paying dividends: so far this term she had not spent a weekend alone at school. Her successes both academic and in a dressage arena had been cause for her father especially to become proud of her; her growing interest in fashion had been noticed, at last, by her mother, and they'd been talking and getting to know each other in a new way.

But now they are gone and she must face that. It would be easier, so much easier, if she hadn't put in the effort. She wishes that she could undo her hard work; she wishes that she could just shut off her feelings as one turns out a light, or closes a faucet. In the end, wishes leave her flat, because she knows already that love is something that doesn't simply end or vanish. All that's left is the hope that the crushing fist around her heart will eventually relax its grip.

The funeral is something Miranda wants immediately to forget, because her grandmother turned it into a farce. She kept a tight grip on Miranda's hand throughout; she wept like the best actress in Hollywood. But now they are at home- Miranda's home. She knows already that the house is willed to her; her father's attorney is now her attorney, and he's already explained a great deal. Miranda will be eighteen in six months, and by the time her birthday arrives all the legal matters regarding the death of her parents will have been settled. Beginning the day after her birthday, she will be a very wealthy young woman.

'What will you have, Lorraine?' Miranda asks, suggesting a drink.

'Water. I don't touch booze,' Lorraine mutters and strips off black dress gloves. 'Don't tell me they let you drink.'

'Offers were made.' Miranda feels no need to lie about it. It's blisteringly hot, so she cracks ice-cubes out of a tray and shares them between two large glasses and adding water from the cooler in the corner of the kitchen. 'I should ride later.'

'Yes- back on the horse in more ways than one.' Lorraine looks her granddaughter over, liking the similarity to her own features, rather than those of her late parents. Another trait passed from grandmother to granddaughter is there, besides the face: 'I see that, like me, you don't mind the early addition of a few greys.'

'They're not like tears, not like being upset. I think that hiding them would be a kind of weakness,' Miranda states, and finds that she is starting to like her grandmother. This is surprising, but then Lorraine has never spoken with Miranda like this, on pretty much equal terms. 'You've always treated me like a kid.'

'Until recently, you've never given me cause to do otherwise- hiding away,' Lorraine says. 'I like to respect people. Generally speaking, if I respect someone it's because they, in turn, show me respect. It's a fail-safe; a little trick that tends to ensure that I don't end up being put through the emotional wringer. The truly strong are those who know their own weaknesses, and avoid situations where those weaknesses may be exploited by others, Miranda... They call you something else at school, don't they?'

'Yes. Andy,' Miranda says.

'You prefer that to Miranda?'

'No,' Miranda drawls. 'But the teachers don't use it, so...'

'Yes. The other girls can call you what they like because they don't count. No friends, hmm?'

'None that really want to know me,' Miranda says, and she's quite comfortable with this fact. She takes a long drink from the glass and sets it down. 'I'm going up to change. When I've finished schooling Saracen, we should talk. Will you go home? I can drive there, if you'd prefer.'

'No, I'll stay. I've never seen you ride.'

They will never move past respect into that kind of love common between many grandmothers and granddaughters.

Six years later, when Miranda stands alone at Lorraine's funeral, what she mourns is the loss of someone who understands her, and many years after that, when she finds that rarity in someone else, she knows better than to reveal any more chinks in her armor.

If Miranda is free, on evenings when Caroline and Cassidy attend Kendo classes, she accompanies them. But were it not for the armor utilized by kendoka, Miranda would not be able to sit here and watch blows aimed to her children's heads, shoulders, midsections, and forearms. They've been at it now for six months, and both girls only seem to grow more enthusiastic about the sport. Given the high cost of their gear, Miranda had been concerned that they would become bored of it all ("It's not about being able to afford it; it's about spending it wisely": what she always tells her girls about money), but those worries are long gone.

No belts are issued in this dojo, and belts of various colors denoting rank are generally not worn at all by kendoka. Sparring and competitions are the only times colored obi—sashes—are worn; and even then, the sole purpose is simply to tell two kendoka apart. Miranda knows her daughters by the braided tails of red hair exiting the backs of their helmets. She isn't sure which is which; one is wearing a red obi, the other a green one. It's a good thing that they're twins and matched in weight and height, because the other kids at their level are all much younger and smaller, so the twins spar together. As yet they are forbidden by their sensei to enter into ji-geiko, or sparring, at home, but they practice their kata religiously and without being asked or told to do so.

As other parents have had cause, Miranda has noticed that Caroline and Cassidy have both become a little more focused since taking up this martial art. They have found that they cannot apply discipline only to one area of their lives. Discipline has a way of worming its way into everything else.


Miranda turns slightly and nods a greeting to Andy, then returns her attention to the twins, being put through their stances and drills on a polished wood floor. Andy sits next to her on a bench against a wall.

They keep meeting here, but more often than not the twins have just finished their practice, or Andy has ended her session, and only greetings are exchanged in passing. But when they smile, it's real, and it didn't take long for their brief interactions to become pleasant. Andy puts this down to her own simple acceptance of circumstances: she'll be seeing Miranda, in passing, on a pretty regular basis, and so it's best to make the most of these transitory meetings.

Andy has a few minutes now before she's expected elsewhere; she's genuinely interested.

'How're they doing- still keen?'

'Yes- very,' Miranda says. 'As for progress, you tell me. You see the red hair?'

Andy nods and watches as Miranda's daughters are put through attack and defense drills. Footwork is very important in Kendo, and for that reason, beginners wear gi pants instead of the hakama skirt which hides the feet. Andy pays attention to the girls' footwork, and she likes what she sees.

'They practice a lot. Good.'

'When you worked for me, when did you find the time to practice?' Miranda asks.

'I didn't. I had to choose to pay the rent, or attend classes and group practices. I started here a week after I got back from Paris.' Andy pauses, then decides to say it: 'I almost hated you then- I no longer felt as though I could claim my fourth dan rank. I worked my ass off to get back into it.'

'For what it's worth, I'm sorry,' says Miranda. And she is, especially now that she knows what it means to take on the mantle of discipline required here. Miranda now knows that Kendo and Iaido are not just sports; they are working philosophies which require a change in both attitude and mindset if one ever hopes to attain proficiency—not to mention the daily practice required to keep a hold on whatever level of proficiency one has already attained. 'They had the flu two months ago and couldn't practice for nearly a fortnight. It set them back considerably. So yes, I'm sorry.'

'Long time ago,' Andy grunts and shrugs. But she smiles eventually and dares to bump her shoulder against Miranda's. 'We should get coffee sometime.'

'Really?' Miranda drawls, a smile quirking at the corners of her mouth.

'Don't be all highhanded and stuffy. Gotta go. I'll call you. Still the same number?'

'If ever it has to change, I'm sure that the resulting panic would cause my assistants to quit, or at least report to a doctor for a sedative,' Miranda says dryly, and she rolls her eyes at the immediate grin of understanding on Andy's face. Miranda watches Andy go and a small part of herself hopes that she will call soon.

Once at home with her daughters, Miranda faces a slightly uncomfortable grilling.

They are not employees who can be shut up with a glare and, perhaps, the addition of a very quiet tirade. She never speaks so to her daughters; she never has and, no matter what, she never will.

They're nearly thirteen now and quick as whips, growing like weeds, naughty as all get-out but in ways that Miranda finds endearing: mischief is not mayhem. They are known more these days for their fine manners than their old reputation for pulling pranks. They are growing up, and Miranda has cause to be proud of them most every day. She never bothers to hide her love for them, and it was quite amusing to see so many jaws drop when the girls visited Runway last week, when she hugged them and smiled at them and paid attention to them to the exclusion of all others, even a visiting designer of no small standing.

Caroline and Cassidy are, for the most part, Miranda's world. If ever they ask it of her with real sincerity, and given the fact that she need never work another day in three lifetimes, she will quit her job tomorrow. She is a mother to the nth degree: they come first and always will.

'She's really pretty,' Caroline tells her twin.

'Whatever: she's a fourth dan! Pretty-so-what,' Cassidy says and shoves her glasses up her nose. 'I wish she'd lead our class.'

'Doesn't she have to be a fifth dan for that?'

Off on this new path, the girls have seemingly forgotten what they'd originally asked their mother. While they verbally lay out Kendo and Iaido rankings, Miranda takes the gap and tries to work out what to say. She knows these two: they'll get back onto their original tack, and when they do, she should have an answer.

But what answer? They've asked if there's any truth to a rumor, and they asked this in a very straightforward way: "Mom, did you have an affair with Andy Sachs?" The answer is simply no, but a simple no won't suffice, considering the rumor has persisted for more than a year.

Cassidy and Caroline were told quite some time ago that they can, and therefore should, ask their mother anything. Miranda feels strongly that parents should be every child's first source of information. There have been times when Miranda has literally put in some study time on subjects unfamiliar to her, in order to be that first source of information for her girls. It's no answer at all, telling one's child to consult Wikipedia. That approach leaves the parent on the outside looking in, out of touch with the child's interests and developing mind and emotions.

If her daughters find a new interest, Miranda knows about it. She knows what music they listen to because she listens to it, too, even if it's torture: she isn't a hip-hop fan at all, and she isn't partial to boy bands in the slightest . She knows what TV shows they like, and she knows what video games they prefer to play. There used to be soccer, and now there's Kendo, but the girls still follow American soccer, South American fútbol, and English Premiere League football, and Miranda regularly watches whichever game with the twins. On the academic side, she keeps abreast of all of their classes, and it isn't unusual to find Miranda wishing that she'd paid more attention in math classes many years ago.

Gone are the days when two little brats would cajole their mother into getting one of her assistants to do their various homework assignments and projects. She no longer allows that, because she doesn't feel that she has to. Stephen is long gone, and so is the stressful atmosphere that pervaded the house when he was living here. Miranda no longer allows guilt to cloud her vision where her daughters are concerned.

Eventually she is asked the question again, and her answer is a simple no. She might preempt any further questions with an explanation, but she is interested to hear their thoughts, wants to find out what kind of approach their young minds have taken here.

'She must like you a lot, though.'

'Yeah, cos she pounded her boss and lost her job, cos of what he said about you.'

'He's lucky she doesn't take her katana to work,' Caroline drawls, and her dry tones are beginning to resemble Miranda's more and more. 'So if there wasn't an affair, why are people still talking about it? What's the big deal?'

'There's the rub, as Hamlet would say,' Miranda says with a slight smile and a vague little shrug. 'I'm the Dragon Lady, and Andrea walked away from her job, in Paris, and I didn't make life difficult for her. That's shocking!'

The twins giggle at their mom's overly dramatic tones, along with her wink, and her smile. They know her best. They know that she is playful and that she adores them, and that she isn't anything like a dragon at home. But they also know that she is all that at work, and they know why. They are very young but they know already that women must often be bitches to get and hold respect; they know that being nice results in others using one as a stepping stone, or a doormat; they know that nice people cheer on the winners, who call the nice people weak. Most importantly, Caroline and Cassidy know that it's perfectly possible to shrug off one's work persona and hang it up in the closet with one's coat. Their mother does it every day.

'So why were you nice to her, Mom?'

'Not nice. Fair,' Miranda says. 'The truth is, I'm always honest in a way that suggests that if the truth hurts that's not my fault. And I'm always fair; hard, but fair. I might have to pull an underhanded trick or two, but most often, what people see of the professional me is what they're going to get if they don't pull their weight. As far as Andrea is concerned, I made a mistake. I thought that she had turned out to be very good at her job because she wanted that job. She didn't, and I made the mistake of not remembering that she had and has dreams of her own. So I let her go, and when she interviewed at the Mirror I told her boss to hire her. From there she worked very hard and proved her worth to herself, and also to me... And she struck Gregory Waters because she is a loyal person. Loyalty is not something that easily fades. You two like that English soccer team, Everton, for example, even though they generally middle out on the log. You're loyal to that team, even though they don't always win. Loyalty is not something easily explained, but it is a very definite feeling, and a strong one. It's an approach that tends to beget an answer in kind, so when Andrea lost her job, through her loyalty to me, I helped to get her a new one. But an affair? No.'

'But you like her,' Cassidy says, and it's a statement, not a question. She and her sister know their mother best; they read her like a book. 'There's only three other people you smile at the way you smile at Andy- me and Caro and Daddy. Not even Uncle Nigel gets that kinda smile from you. You like her.'

'Yeah, you do,' Caroline agrees.

'I think that I've always liked her,' Miranda says. 'Andrea is kind; she was kind to me even when, perhaps, others wouldn't have bothered... But yes, I think I liked her right from the outset. She was very different to the other assistants I've had. To start she had no clue who I was.'



'Really,' Miranda chuckles and nods. 'So she wanted a job first and foremost and she never thought to suck up.'

The girls don't need to say that that had to have been a welcome change: they know how their mother is seen by others. They know that almost every day most everyone approaches her with flattery in the hope of "earning" her favor.

Later, Miranda drops in her lap the anthology of poetry she has been trying to browse through, and she ponders this question of Andrea Sachs.

It isn't at all difficult to step back in time, and her heart aches again as it did in that hotel suite in Paris, which speaks volumes here and now: she has missed Andy. And she enjoys their small interactions whenever they see each other these days. Miranda hopes again, quite fervently, that Andy will call sooner than later. It's no use trying to analyze this feeling. She sets aside the book and turns out the light.

But she can't sleep, not at first, and when she does drift off at last, she relives a shoulder bumping against her own, and from memory, a voice says:

"I'll call you."

She was right: it is very scary to be able to choose so many things for herself; it's scarier still to be able to afford most anything she can think of. Her parents never taught her about money, and now she has so much, too much, and there is no-one there to say, "No, you can't have it" whenever her eye is caught by jewelry, or a car, or even a house: scary.

It isn't her grandmother, her lawyer, or her bank manager who eventually provides guidance. She is in a store filled with beautiful dresses and blouses and skirts, and she overhears a woman saying to her daughter:

'Honey, it isn't about being able to afford it. Yes, we can, but this will be the second new dress this month. The trick with money is to always spend it wisely. Things happen; good turns bad in a second flat. Welcome to the real world, baby, it's time to grow up.'

Miranda very nearly approaches the woman to say thank you. She doesn't do that, but she does set a dress back on a rack, and she goes to a coffee shop where she sits alone in a corner, and thinks. For the first time ever, she thinks about her future beyond her dream of working in the fashion industry, beyond possibly holding a position for a time at Runway or Vogue.

One's future is not really about that time beyond tomorrow, and next month, and next year. One's future is governed by desire, by what one wants in that future time.

In the coffee shop, there is a baby asleep in the crook of a young mother's arm. Babies have never been on Miranda's mind in any way, and looking at this little innocent, Miranda wonders what kind of parent she would make. Her heart races and she is abruptly worried. She becomes angry with herself. Ridiculous, to be so viscerally moved by mere thoughts of something that hasn't happened yet and might never happen. But no, she does want a child of her own and she really does have cause to worry, given the only examples she has of parenting. Her anger shifts and aims itself at her late parents. That, too, is rather silly, she feels. What purpose, now that they're dead?

By the time she gets home she is almost seething. She has a strong urge to break something, to lash out in some way, but she doesn't. She changes her clothes and heads down to the stables. Her original intention was to school Saracen, her Hanoverian, but she sees Mica, who used to be her father's horse, and decides that he could use some attention. She straps a blanket to his back with a surcingle, instead of burdening him with a saddle. When she vaults to his back and settles herself behind his withers, her legs long and relaxed, Mica tosses his head and whickers: Let's go!

'Yes, yes,' Miranda mutters indulgently. 'You'll warm up at the walk first, but we'll gallop today. We'll fly, eh, old son?'

The handsome steeldust Anglo-Arab snorts and moves out eagerly. Miranda smiles and lets it all go; releases every bit of anger and hurt and worry. Her butt is glued to Mica's back when he moves into a trot and, later, into a smooth ground-eating canter along one of the many bridle paths in this area of the Berkshire Hills. She's not just riding a horse, not just sitting him as he moves from one pace into the next; she's part of him, with him every step of the way. This is what she wants in her future: to be so closely bound to another person that she has no doubts about their relationship; no need to fight and make up; no need to weigh every one of his words to find the lies.

And at the stables, when she's rubbing the sweat out of Mica's coat to make sure he doesn't take a chill, and when she's grooming Saracen even though there is a stable girl who could be ordered to do so, Miranda realizes that being a parent is something she just might be good at: it's all about the effort applied.

If not for the rumors, they would meet for coffee at some fashionable venue or another, but the rumors propel them into the privacy of each other's homes; on and off, and then more and more regularly over several months.

They begin carefully with each other, both employing very different attitudes to the ones with which they were once familiar. Both are accepting of the fact that it will take some time to reach a plateau of relaxed comfort, which is a state requiring no small amount of trust. Facts are facts: Miranda used to scare the hell out of Andy; Andy once turned her back and walked away from Miranda. Speaking generally, that is not nearly a good start if mutual trust is the required outcome. Both are patient women, in their personal lives; they don't fuss over the slow start and the necessity of some tiptoeing around because they both know, without doubt, that it will all pay dividends in the end.

As for the rumors:

'Newspaper people are stupid,' Caroline tells her mother, after Andy and Cassidy have scrambled out the front door on a mission to procure a half-gallon of milk. Andy has become a firm favorite with Miranda's twins; they often "pirate" Andy away from their mother, who doesn't mind. Right now Caroline adds sagely: 'Really stupid. I mean, Andy's still a bit nervous of you. She wouldn't be if you two had an affair, right? Isn't that the way it works?'

'Sometimes,' Miranda chuckles. She assiduously avoids such phrases as "You'll understand when you're older" because they only serve to confuse children, or frustrate them, or both. 'But you're bang on the money, in the sense that we'd behave differently towards each other. There would be an air of... familiarity. That doesn't necessarily mean that we'd be relaxed with each other. It's just a certain something that says to other people that these two people know each other in ways that just-friends don't.'

'I don't have those words yet, to say it like that, but that's what I meant,' Caroline said.

'My lamb, don't grow up too fast,' Miranda says with a fond smile.

But Caroline and her sister show quite a measure of maturity where Andy is concerned. They could say things to Andy about "newspaper people" being silly, but they never do. And before long, those ridiculous rumors die down, and they don't fire up again when Andy is spotted with Miranda's daughters, walking Patricia, or when the three of them are seen cruising a mall. Perhaps the children's involvement flashes a warning light to some, who decide to be wise and pass the word. Miranda is the Dragon Lady, but what scarier sort of monster might be forced into existence if the press say certain things and mention the girls' names in the same breath? At any rate, this is Andy's theory, one she mentions to Nigel.

'You've never told me what you think of those rumors,' Nigel says. He's fishing, of course, but there are no sharks in these waters.

'The trouble is, it's not implausible,' Andy says. 'That's the real reason why the rumors persisted for so long. It was a possibility, because just about everyone knows that Miranda Priestly could snap her fingers and have anyone she wants. Did it happen? No. Did I ever want it to happen? No. Did she? I don't know. It is not and wasn't anything that I've ever spent too much time thinking about, but maybe, like Miranda, that's because I own the luxury of knowing the truth.'

Nigel knows another truth, one called Christian Thompson, and several other truths of the male variety with whom Andy has flirted when she and Nigel have been out together at night. His little fishing expedition has pulled up a rusty tin can and an ancient boot, and he's disappointed but he doesn't let it show.

He will think later that Andy's relaxed attitude is one belonging to someone who knows herself very well. He decides not to go fishing again. He decides not to ask, "But have you ever been with a woman?"

Part 2

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