DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To qhfletcher[at]gmail.com
We're Having A Baby Series: Skirmishes
By quiethearted (QH Fletcher)
Cruella cradled the tiny blanket-wrapped bundle to her shoulder awkwardly.
"Now, lightly pat Mirella on her back," Miranda instructed patiently.
Following Miranda's direction, Cruella barely touched the tips of her fingers to the infant's back as if afraid to break her with a firmer touch. However, the gesture seemed sufficient as a loud burp sounded through the room.
With a grimace, Cruella lifted the baby from her shoulder and tried to see the spit-up spreading rapidly over the shoulder of her silk jacket.
"You did that on purpose," she declared, eyeing Miranda malevolently.
Rolling her eyes, Miranda reached for their daughter and proceeded to rock her soothingly in sheltering arms.
"Cruella, babies must be burped after feeding and they quite often spit up milk as part the experience. I told you to put the pad over your shoulder. I cannot be blamed if you refused to do so."
"You didn't tell me why," Cruella huffed. "And it simply clashes with my ensemble."
"Only you two would be burping a baby while wearing silk," Andréa remarked from her spot on the bed. She was supposed to be napping, but couldn't resist watching Miranda's first attempt to teach Cruella the finer points of infant feeding.
"With the proper precautions one can feed a child wearing Valentino," Miranda replied with a sniff. "I've done so many times with the twins when they were small."
"Someone obviously gave you a proper warning about the pad," Cruella sniped.
"Careful, my dear, or you'll be on soiled nappy duty for the rest of this week," Miranda warned with a baleful glare.
"I've been meaning to discuss that with you," Cruella shot back. "Such a small person should not be able to make such an offensive odor. There is clearly something wrong with either Mirella or the disgusting swill the two of you insist on feeding her."
Narrowing her eyes, Miranda growled. "You might wish to reconsider your phrasing. Our Andréa produces the so-called swill you're referring to."
"Something else you didn't warn me about sufficiently," Cruella snarled. "I almost drowned!"
"Did you expect the milk switch to flip to off because you became amorous?" Miranda sneered. "Common sense should have told you otherwise."
"Again with that old argument!" Cruella threw her arms up in frustration. "Must I remind you that we clearly agreed months ago that, that is a trait I do not possess! You had agreed to compensate for the lack."
"We agreed you were challenged in that area, not that you were entirely absent of the characteristic. Really, Cruella, I've seen you get out of the rain," Miranda replied disdainfully.
"Whatever does that have to do with being drowned during foreplay?" Cruella stared at Miranda as if she were the one lacking in common sense.
Miranda opened her mouth to reply only to snap it shut again and shake her head. Sometimes it was better to simply admit defeat, though it was a difficult knowledge to accept. Defeat had never been in her vocabulary until Cruella came along. She ignored Andréa's continual giggling and moved to lay Mirella in her bassinet having gotten the infant to sleep. As always, Miranda was amazed that their daughter slept so easily amidst the noise of her mother's arguments. After tucking Mirella in gently, Miranda turned back to her more frustrating lover.
"Darling, I will try to be more exact in my explanations in the future," she conceded with a sigh, though how to do so remained a mystery.
The rapid tones of the Twilight Zone theme song had barely begun to issue from her cell phone before Miranda had it to her ear.
"Yes, Cruella? What's wrong now?" she asked, having decided to get to the heart of the matter right away. It seemed every time her excitable lover called it concerned some issue of the direst importance, if only to Cruella.
"Our child has a foot fetish!" came the hysterical exclamation in her ear.
Miranda rolled her eyes and released a slow, even breath. She had far too much work to do to feed Cruella's mania. "And what makes you say that, Darling?"
"Mirella insists upon chewing her toes. She simply cannot go through life with her foot hanging out of her mouth."
Removing her glasses, Miranda pinched the bridge of her nose to stave off the headache these conversations invariably generated. "Babies experience the world through their sense of taste to being with. Hunger is after all her driving need, Cruella. We've spoken about this before. Mirella will put anything she grasps into her mouth for many months to come. It's nothing to be concerned about as long as the object is clean and too large for her to swallow or endanger herself with. Now I really must get back to work."
Knowing of only one way to deflect the conversation, Miranda interrupted sharply. "You have spent the majority of your life having stuck one or the other of your feet in your mouth regularly. I don't see where it has harmed anything other than your reputation for sanity."
"Cow," Cruella bit back succinctly.
"Lunatic," Miranda responded in kind.
"You two are going to wake the baby." Miranda heard Andréa's voice in the background on Cruella's end.
"Rag hag" was Cruella's typical response before hanging up abruptly.
Setting aside her phone, Miranda slipped her glasses back on and returned to scanning the photos spread over her desk.
"Cruella's adjusting to the new baby, I see," Nigel offered in an amused tone.
"Yes, well, infantile behavior is one of her specialties," Miranda murmured before drawing a large X over one of the images and tossing it aside.
"A teddy bear, Cruella, a simple, soft, small teddy bear. That is what I asked you to bring home," Miranda chastised as she flung yet another faux fur creature toward the pile on the sofa. "Not the largest stuffed animal known to exist. Not the entire stuffy section of the FAO Schwartz, but a single small teddy bear."
Several of the stuffed animals tumbled to the carpeting as Cruella created room to poke her head out. "You said Mirella should have a stuffy," Cruella defended herself.
"A, singular, one, not every one in the tri-state area!" Miranda corrected again continuing to toss the animals at her as she attempted to reach her desk in their shared study. She could not believe that Cruella could mess up such a simple request, but then again, she could. "The entire house is brimming with these."
"I couldn't decide! They're all so adorable and I just knew Mirella would love them."
"Mirella is three months old. Of course, she'll love them." Miranda agreed while trying to uncover her desktop by tossing the animals over her shoulders with both hands. "She will not, however, be able to play with this many in several lifetimes. I realize that constraint is not one of your natural qualities, but really some common sense is necessary."
"We've had that discussion before," Cruella responded, her voice muffled beneath the rapidly growing mound of toys that buried her.
"I insisted that you remove these from our home immediately, if not sooner. Call your minions and have them gone before Andréa returns from the park with our children. Return them. Give them to charity, hospitals, whatever. I don't care. But they must be out of this house within the hour," Miranda directed through clenched teeth. She was fighting hard to hold her temper in check. As irritating as Cruella could be, she was only trying to make Mirella happy and Miranda couldn't quite bring herself to fault her for that desire. "You may keep one, singular, one and only one." She turned just as arm thrust up from the enormous pile on the sofa with a black spotted white stuffed dog clutched in its hand. "Not that one."
The sound of a choked off guffaw drew Miranda's attention to the doorway where Andy stood staring wide eyed at the pile of toys. Andy held up her hand as Miranda opened her mouth to explain.
"No, I don't want to know. Miranda, I'm trusting you to handle this. I'm assuming Cruella is at the end of that arm. I just wanted you to know we're back and Mirella is down for her nap. You two need to hold it down before you wake her up." She started to turn away and then turned back to look at pile of stuffies with the arm frantically shaking the black and white dog. "And, Cruella baby, Miranda's right. Not that one." She stifled a giggle at the muffled whimper from the pile. "Carry on."
Miranda looked up from the deluge of sketches that had suddenly flooded her desk obscuring The Book from her view. "Yes, Cruella? You wanted something?" she asked beginning to brush the pages aside to return to the layout she was shredding minutely.
"Baby clothes!" Cruella crowed, clasping her hands together beside her cheek. "Wonderful, beautiful baby clothes!"
Sighing quietly, Miranda shifted the sketches from atop the baby monitor she had lying next to the book and pulled the top most sketch to her and gazed at it a moment in silence. "While a lovely design, do you really think Mirella is in need of a formal evening gown at this stage in her development?" Drawing another one close with a slender finger, she perused it before gazing over the top of her glasses at Cruella. "Tennis wear?"
"Oh, yes!" Cruella nodded enthusiastically. "Our darling must be suitably attired for all occasions."
Removing her glasses, Miranda folded the arms deliberately and set them before her on the desk. Reminding herself that while not the sanest of approaches, designing baby clothes, like purchasing stuffies, was not in and of itself either illegal or a sure sign of insanity, Miranda cleared her throat gently. "Perhaps it would be best if we waited a bit on the more energetic and party oriented of these and concentrated more on items Mirella can actually use at this time. After all, her immediate wardrobe needs tend more towards onesies and nappies."
"They're so dreadfully boring!" Cruella screeched.
"They are comfortable and restful, both of which our child needs." Try as she might, Miranda could feel her grip on her temper slipping. "What she doesn't need is to be dressed like a catwalk model before she's even old enough to know what she's wearing. The next thing I know you'll be lining her up for some idiotic infant beauty pageant so she can show off your newest designs!" Miranda snapped.
Cruella froze, her eyes taking on a mad gleam. "They have beauty pageants for babies?"
"No! Do you hear me? No! You will get that idea right out of that twisted excuse you have of a brain." Miranda warned her.
"But there's no baby more beautiful than ours."
"No. Not happening. You will not do that to our Mirella. The mere idea is absurd." What Miranda hated most was she'd given Cruella the idea herself. When would she learn to watch what she said closer when it came to Cruella? She used the one argument she knew would head Cruella off. "Andréa would leave us both and take Mirella with her before she'd let that happen."
True to form, Cruella deflated and lost the maniacal gleam. "She'd really leave us?"
"In a second," Miranda declared emphatically.
"And take Mirella?"
Cruella sighed and began to gather up her sketches. "I'll rework these for when she's older."
"That's a very good idea," Miranda agreed, helping to shift the drawings into some semblance of order.
"So maybe when she's two?" Cruella murmured to herself as she headed out the door.
Miranda's eyes widened before she rushed to her feet and hurried after her. "Cruella DeVil, you stop right there!"
Neither heard Andy's voice drifting from the monitor, "You two are going to wake the baby."
Miranda rubbed the bridge of her nose tiredly. Cruella was in London finalizing the last details of her Spring showing and no one had has much sleep around the mansion since she'd left. Mirella simply refused to go to sleep. She cried for hours and no amount of walk, bouncing, patting, lullabying, or cajoling would convince their little one close her eyes. Even once she'd cried herself to sleep, Mirella's rest was fitful. Though she missed Cruella herself, Miranda could not believe that her absence was having such a profound effect on their baby. Thankfully, Alphonso had met Cruella's plane and they should be arriving home at any moment.
As if her thoughts had been prophetic, Miranda heard the front door crash to the wall as it was thrown open.
"My darlings! I'm home!" Cruella's voice rang through the mansion.
Miranda would never understand how one woman could propel her voice through several layers of floor and ceiling with so little effort. She hurried from their shared study, baby monitor in hand, and down the stairs to head her off. Mirella had only just dropped off and Andréa was taking the opportunity for some much needed rest of her own.
"Cruella!" She hissed from the top of the stairs. "You'll wake everyone up!"
"But, of course, darling. I'm home. Everyone should be up to greet me!" Cruella stared at her as if she thought Miranda was the one who was slightly less than sane.
Hearing Mirella begin to fuss over the monitor, Miranda rushed down the stairs. "Will you please be quiet? You're going to wake Mirella, not to mention Andréa."
"Its 2:00 in the afternoon, Miranda. I've only just come home. My family should be here to greet me, not shout at me," Cruella huffed before a look of concern entered her eyes. "Are my lovely Mir and my darling Andy ill? Should I get a doctor? Why haven't you called one already?"
"Shhh!" Miranda hissed, hearing whimpers from the monitor. "No one is ill. Nor has anyone has a decent night's sleep since you left."
"Why ever not?" Cruella asked incredulously. "Have you not been taking care of our darlings?"
"Of course, I have."
"Really, Miranda, I'm gone for just a few days and you let everything fall apart? Can I not trust you to care for our family without my having to be here?"
Miranda felt like the universe had shifted when she wasn't looking. It was surreal to hear words she'd normally speak herself coming from Cruella's mouth. Before she could stop herself, Miranda's tiredness took over what was left of her patience. "Have you taken leave of your senses entirely? Of course, I've taken care of our family. I've been the one here walking the floor night after night with Mirella crying her heart out. She refuses to sleep until she's too exhausted to remain awake any longer. She won't eat without a battle. Why your presence is so necessary, I will never know. I finally get some peace and quiet from your constant insanity and the baby loses hers."
"Our baby is not insane!" Cruella shrieked.
"No, she is not. She merely has a mother who is," Miranda shot back. "I finally get her quiet for a few minutes and in you storm screeching at the top of your lungs like a banshee trying to wake her back up again."
"I was not screeching," Cruella screeched. "I was calling out a greeting to those I love hoping for a similar response."
"Will you please stop shouting!" Miranda responded, raising her voice to a near shout of her own. "The baby"
"The baby is sleeping peacefully for the first time in days," Andy interrupted sleepily from the top of the stairs. She covered her mouth as she gave a wide yawn which barely distorted her large grin. "And I suddenly feel like I can do the same. Welcome home, Cruella baby. We've missed you. I'm going back to bed. When you two are finished, come on up and I'll greet you properly, Cruella." She turned and disappeared back in the direction of their bedroom.
Miranda felt herself deflate as the tension fled her body. "Our baby, our Andréa, they couldn't rest peacefully because you weren't here for me to argue with," she murmured in amazement. "What does that say about our family?"
"Why, it says that we work, of course," Cruella responded with a maniacal gleam. "I have so missed our little discussions as well."
Miranda nodded, feeling as if she too could rest for the first time in days.
"Come along, dearest," Cruella encouraged, linking arms with her. "I'll pour us a dram and then it's off to bed with you. I could use a bit of a lie down myself come to think of it. I haven't slept all that well either. No matter how I yelled and threatened my staff it just wasn't the same."
Miranda let herself be led up the stairs, shaking her head in wonder. As lunatic as their interactions might seem, they did work and even the smallest member of their family knew it.
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