DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEQUEL: To Something in Common.
Suddenly She Sees
Andy was at work when she got the call.
"Yes, this is she. What? -- Oh my god." She stood up and banged her knee on the keyboard tray. "Where are you -- where is she? I'm on my way." She hung up, grabbed her coat and bag and ran to her editor's desk, pausing only to gasp, "I'm sorry, I'm going to have to leave early today," before dashing for the exit.
"Is everything okay?" he called after her.
"I hope so," she shouted back, barreling through the doors and onto the street. She flagged the first cab she saw and leapt in. "Bellevue Hospital Center emergency room, please. Quickly, if you can."
The cab took off, weaving and ducking through traffic as best as it could. Andy stared through the window in a daze, twisting her hands in her lap. The sun hung low above Manhattan; the late afternoon glare bounced off the tall glass buildings and reflected into Andy's eyes. Cars and pedestrians rushed by. All she could think about was Miranda.
"Please be okay," she begged silently. "Please be okay."
The cab pulled up outside the hospital. Andy yanked several bills out of her wallet and stuffed them into the driver's hands. "Keep the change."
Rushing through the entrance doors of the ER, Andy she found out that Miranda Priestly had been admitted to one of their hospital rooms for an overnight stay, so after extracting the floor number from the nurses there, Andy sprinted for the elevators.
When she found the right place, there was a slim, well-dressed girl squabbling agitatedly in an English accent at the reception desk; Andy realized with shock that it was Emily.
Of course Emily would be here. But this was not the time and place to be worrying about her presence.
"-- I'm her assistant, for Christ's sake!" Emily was bellowing. "There's a magazine whose very existence depends on the woman who you will not let me see, so are you willing to be responsible for the possible millions in lost revenue if the next publication is jeopardized, you middle-aged, uncultured philistine?"
"I can't let you in," the nurse responded calmly and insistently. "You're not family, or her emergency contact, and until her doctor comes out, there's not much I can do for you."
"It will be ON YOUR HEAD if --"
"Hey," Andy touched Emily's shoulder.
"Andy? But -- how did you -- what are you doing here?" The nurse looked grateful at the distraction and started attending to someone else.
Andy hoped Emily didn't notice she was ignoring the question. "I came as soon as I heard. What's going on? What on earth happened?"
"I don't know," Emily said helplessly. "We were doing a last minute photo re-shoot for this month's issue -- you know how picky Miranda can be -- and it was so hectic and nothing was in place, everything was so rushed, and all of a sudden this huge wooden backdrop, twice her size, tips over and whacks Miranda over the head --"
Andy thought furiously that whoever was responsible for failing to nail that thing to the floor should be fired, flogged and never allowed work in this city again.
"-- and she doesn't even see it coming, she just falls over, doesn't make a single sound... and when we finally pull her out from under the thing, she's just lying there, still as can be," Emily frowned at the memory, "God, it was horrible."
"How is she? Is she okay now?"
"Well, I wouldn't know, since they won't let me in to see her." Emily glared in the direction of the reception desk.
"Excuse me," Andy tried to get the nurse's attention, "Can you tell us how Miranda Priestly is doing?" When the nurse looked at her suspiciously, Andy clarified, "I'm Andy Sachs. Someone here called me about her?"
"Ah, yes. Andrea?" The nurse peered at something she was reading. "Please have a seat -- you can go in to see her shortly."
"How did you get my number?"
"Oh, you're listed as Ms. Priestly's emergency contact."
"I am?" It was the first Andy had heard of it.
"She is?" Emily sounded stunned.
The nurse tapped her clipboard quizzically. "Andrea Sachs -- that's your information right here, isn't it?"
Andy glanced down. Name, Andrea Sachs. Relationship, friend. The phone number, home address and email address were all hers.
"How are you, of all people, her emergency contact?" Emily squawked.
"I'm actually not sure," Andy said truthfully. Emily responded with a withering look. "I think, ah, we're actually distant cousins or something."
"Andrea?" A doctor materialized at her elbow. "She's awake now. Would you like to go in see her now?"
"Yes, please," Andy said hastily.
"What about me?" Emily said urgently. "I need to talk to her -- it's very important."
"And you are ...?"
Emily pulled herself up haughtily. "Her personal assistant."
"You'll have to wait out here, I'm afraid," said the doctor kindly. Andy shot Emily an apologetic look and started to follow the doctor down the hallway. She heard Emily shout "Distant cousins, my ass" and then they thankfully turned the corner.
"Doctor, how is she?" said Andy anxiously.
"Some scrapes and bruises from the fall -- the radius on her right arm is fractured, but it's not too nasty of a break and should heal in eight weeks or so. She also suffered quite a blow to the head and was out with a concussion for more than half an hour. Fortunately, no sign of any brain trauma, but there'll be a nasty bruise on the side of her head for a few days."
The doctor stopped outside a room and opened the door. Andy trailed in after him. "She's still a bit disoriented, and she might exhibit signs of memory loss, but that's normal. We're keeping her here to observe her overnight. For now, you can see how she's doing."
Miranda lay on a hospital bed, her head elevated, surrounded by beeping monitors, with cords and drips trailing from her arm. Her silver hair, usually so vivid and striking, stuck out in tufts from under the bandages wrapped around her head and was sprawled limply over her pillow. Her gaze roved over the ceiling and around the room, pausing when she realized there was someone in the room with her.
"You feeling okay?" said Andy softly, approaching the bed.
Miranda fixed Andy with a look of confusion. "I said the burgundy sash, not the maroon."
Miranda blinked, and her eyes focused. "Andrea. It's you."
"Why does my head feel like it's made of steel wool?"
"I think because a chunk of wood fell on you and knocked you out."
"Huh. No wonder I feel like I just won a boxing match."
Andy reached out and touched Miranda's hand, the one without the cast. It felt soft and dry. There were suddenly a thousand things she wanted to say, but they got stuck in her throat, and instead she said:
"Is there anything you want to tell Emily about the re-shoot?"
Miranda rattled off a bunch of commands, and Andy couldn't tell how many were relevant and how many were pure nonsense; for one thing, she was pretty sure Miranda didn't really mean to 'paint the elephants green' and she repeated 'I don't want Riesling' over and over when no one was offering her any. Finally Andy looked weakly at the doctor.
"She's not making any sense."
"Maybe you should let her rest for a little while longer. She's still a little out of it," suggested the doctor. Seeing Andy's stricken face, he said encouragingly, "It's okay -- she's not going anywhere."
It was probably a good time to tell Emily what Miranda had said and see if her assistant could make any sense of it. The doctor looked away politely as Andy leaned forward and kissed Miranda on the temple. "I'll be right back, okay?" Andy whispered, squeezing Miranda's hand. "You wait right here for me."
She gave Miranda one last, longing look before following the doctor outside.
"If you want to see her again, just tell one of the nurses and they'll let you right in," the doctor told her, and then he was gone, undoubtedly having more important matters to attend to.
A hard, sudden sob racked through Andy's body and she smothered her mouth in surprise, feeling like an idiot. Miranda was fine. But the sight of Miranda lying there, so defenseless, vulnerable -- so powerless -- had triggered something deep in Andy's chest. It had never occurred to her until that moment that Miranda was actually mortal.
Andy wandered aimlessly until she found herself at the waiting area. Emily sat up and lifted her head off her hands when she saw Andy approach.
"How is she?"
"Awake, but slightly unsound." Andy sat down next to Emily and repeated word for word what Miranda had said.
"Riesling's one of the models, and I have no idea what she means about the elephants," muttered Emily, making notes. "Maybe she's talking about painting their nails. We can probably manage everything else. Somehow." Emily flipped open her phone and glared at Andy. "Don't go anywhere."
Andy waited for Emily to finish relaying tasks to someone at Runway, getting the feeling she was going to regret doing so, judging from the look on Emily's face.
"So," said Emily when she hung up. "Emergency contact?"
"I know, right? How weird is that?"
"Don't even bother giving me that. Since when did you two become so buddy buddy?"
Andy tried to sound belligerent. "It's really none of your business."
"Do you want to tell me your version, or would you prefer that I make up my own?"
"Emily, it's not -- we're just friends, okay? It's not a big deal."
"Firstly, Miranda doesn't have any friends; she's not the type of person who makes friends. And secondly, how on earth do you bridge that huge gap between being her disgruntled employee and her friendly emergency contact?"
"We just kept in touch," Andy hedged. "Reconnected. Realised we had more in common than we'd thought."
"Like what? Stock information?"
"Maybe she just needed someone outside of work to yell at and torture after the divorce." Andy forced a laugh.
Emily wasn't buying it. "Why you, of all people?"
"Hey, there's nothing wrong with being friends with me," said Andy defensively. "I'm a perfectly respectable person."
"Why you?" Emily repeated. "Why would she need to go to you, when I'm right here for her?"
Andy had no answer, and even if she did, she wasn't sure she wanted to share.
"Am I not enough? Why am I never enough?" Emily stood up, her handbag and cel phone clattering to the floor, her voice rising. "Why is ANYTHING I do never enough?"
"Emily, sit down," Andy hissed, grabbing her sleeve. Emily yanked her arm away, staring at Andy as if trying to dissect her.
"I don't get it," she spat. "What do you have that I don't?"
"I don't know," Andy said feebly. "Maybe you're thinking too much about this. I mean, I'm sure Miranda just didn't want to put even more on your plate, what with you being so overworked and all."
"What makes you think I'm overworked?"
The glazed, harried look on Emily's face was a huge clue. "Just a feeling."
"What is it about you? You're fat, ugly and completely full of it --" Andy became aware of people stopping to stare at them. "-- stupid, incompetent -- wouldn't have lasted a DAY if I hadn't been there to save your fat ass --"
It was probably be a good idea to move this discussion away from the curious stares of onlookers. Andy hastily gathered the things Emily had dropped while steering her down the hall with a vice-like grip on her arm. She half-shoved the other girl into the first bathroom she saw, which thankfully was empty, because Emily wasn't done.
"-- and you know the thing I really don't get? You walked out on Miranda, you left her, stranded and unassisted in Paris, embarrassed her -- and she let you! No, more than that, she FORGAVE you! The idea is completely ridiculous! What did you do, Andy? What makes you so -- so special?!"
"You're being hysterical," Andy said levelly.
Emily's face changed so dramatically that Andy wondered if Miranda had joined them in the bathroom, but no, they were still alone.
"What?" Andy wondered. "Is there something on my face?"
"I've seen that watch before."
Andy covered her wrist and laughed nervously. "Don't be silly. It's just a coincidence."
"I'd recognise that Bulgari anywhere. Miranda had me buy that two months ago. She made me take the first one back because it wasn't the right one. She went completely mental, I'd never seen her so worked up over a gift before."
"You're mistaken. My mother gave this to me for my birthday last year," Andy lied.
"Bullshit. No way in hell your mother couldn't afford that."
"Hey, you keep my mother out of this."
"There's an engraving on the backside of that watch, isn't there? 'The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes,' isn't it?"
Well. The game was up, then.
"Rather generic quote, if you ask me."
"I happen to like it," Andy said defensively.
"It was too long, but she insisted, " Emily's eyes grew distant at the memory, "said the whole thing was valueless without it. Shit, I can't bloody believe this." She started pacing the bathroom, stopping in front of a sink to lean against it heavily. "All this time. You?"
Andy grimaced apologetically. "I guess?"
"How did I not see it? I should have known." Emily stared at her reflection in the mirror. "She's been so strange this past year -- whole blocks of time on her schedule completely unaccounted for -- having me pick up dry cleaning for clothes not even in her size --"
"It's not what you think it is."
"Then why don't you tell me what it is? You do know it's not normal to give a five thousand dollar watch to a friend, right?"
"Well, normal is such a relative term --"
"Maybe to a spouse, or a girlfriend, or lover, but not to a friend. Unless you're a very special friend, Andy." Emily lowered her voice, and a twisted smirk played on her lips. "What kind of friend are you to Miranda? The prostituting type?"
Andy felt a bolt of rage through her spine. "Now you're going too far."
"Didn't know Miranda had such bad taste. So that's why you quit -- she made you leave, didn't she? Because you started screwing your boss, and she was afraid she'd get caught for sexual harassment."
"What -- no!" Andy wasn't sure which she was madder at, the attack on herself, or on Miranda's sensibilities.
A thought struck Emily. "I suppose that's why you got to go to Paris, too. I'm surprised you didn't share a hotel room."
"That was purely business, and you know it."
"Took her husband long enough to realise she played for the other team," Emily continued ruthlessly, "but I suppose I'd want a divorce if I found out my wife had been deceiving me all these years, and was cheating on me with some slut at work. I suppose the only way Miranda can get someone to sleep with her is to give them a direct order --"
"Emily," Andy thundered, a hazy film descending in front of her eyes, "Not. Another. Word."
Before she knew what she was doing, she had lowered her shoulder and barreled into Emily, knocking the air out of her with a grunt and pinning her against the wall. As they began to shove at each other, scratching, screeching, and pulling at each other's hair, it struck Andy that defending Miranda's honour in a bathroom was the last thing she thought she'd be doing that day.
Emily jabbed her in the eye, and Andy staggered backwards, howling in pain. "No one hits me and gets away with it," panted Emily, cuffing Andy resoundingly across the face.
"Bitch, did you just slap me?" Andy's hand formed a fist and connected it swiftly with Emily's jaw, and her head snapped backwards painfully. "Oh, oh God. Emily, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to --"
What words Andy had intended to say were lost as Emily jerked her head forward and slammed her forehead into Andy's chin. Andy decided then that she wasn't sorry anymore.
This time she aimed for Emily's nose, who ducked too slowly and caught Andy's fist with her forehead, resulting in a bruise to Emily's forehead and sore knuckles for Andy.
They exchanged several painful (and painfully) embarrassing blows, circling and going at each other again and again. Andy wondered why no one was coming into use the bathroom, and she figured it was probably for the best that no one witnessed her punching Emily in the gut after Emily dug her nails into her breasts and twisted viciously. She'd take that sort of abuse from no one but Miranda, thank you very much.
At some point, Andy found herself crushing Emily from behind in a choke hold, slowly throttling her, while finding out first hand exactly how sharp Emily's elbows were as Emily repeatedly drove them into her ribcage. It was a race to see whether Andy would release Emily out of pain first before the other woman suffocated.
Emily raised her leg and rammed her stiletto heel down heavily onto Andy's right foot, finally realising that she wore the most lethal weapon in the room. Andy let go with a bloodcurdling scream and hopped around on one foot.
"Ow! I can't believe you used your shoe on me! That's so low!"
"You're one to talk," croaked Emily, massaging her throat. "You hit me with a closed fist! And it actually hurt, you heavyset, iron-breasted cow!"
"You deserved it, you underhanded, bony-elbowed skank."
"Piss off, Andy. You started this."
Andy saw the truth in that statement, and she reluctantly raised her hands in surrender. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry I shoved you into a wall. I don't know what came over me. But it's out of my system now."
"Well, I'm not done yet." Emily took her heels off and hurled them in Andy's direction before Andy could react. Andy dodged one while the other struck her squarely in the face.
"Feel better?" muttered Andy, rubbing her nose.
"Slightly." Emily approached the wash basin, turning on the tap, and examined herself in the mirror. "Bloody hell, look what you did to my makeup."
Andy thought that makeup should be the last thing on Emily's mind. Several bruises were forming across the other woman's face, around her eyes and jaw, and her neck was rubbed bright red and raw. Andy was not much better off, sporting several scratches across her cheeks, a bloody nose and a split lip.
"Here." Andy grudgingly held out a handkerchief to Emily.
"I don't want your dirty little cloth. Keep it."
"Have it your way." Andy held her handkerchief to her nose and watched Emily hiss in pain as she tried to hide the bruises under mascara and foundation. The rush and adrenaline was wearing off, and Andy began to feel every bruise and scratch in earnest. "You shouldn't have said all those things," she said crossly. "Those things about me and Miranda. It's not like that -- we're not like that."
"So what are you like? Tell me what it's like." Emily met her glare in the mirror. "You're fucking her, aren't you?"
"Yes, we fuck," Andy spat the word out, "but nothing happened between us while I was at Runway, okay? I wouldn't do something so unprofessional. And you sure as hell should know Miranda wouldn't, either."
"Should I?" Emily retorted. "I don't know how well I know Miranda, not anymore, at least -- and certainly not as well as you claim to."
All of a sudden she turned and violently flung her eyeliner into a toilet stall. Andy ducked into a defensive posture in case Emily suddenly launched herself in attack again, but instead the other woman covered her face and sagged against the wall.
"Emily?" Andy said cautiously.
"I can't believe this is happening again."
"This is like Paris, only worse. I'm in a hospital, again, and there you are, again, informing me that Miranda has picked you, not me. Again."
"You keep beating me, over and over, without even trying. I can't win against you. Why is that? I was there first. I was there LONGER."
Andy was surprised to see tears running from the other woman's eyes.
"I was there for her -- I stayed for her. I was the one who had to answer her phones, get her coffee, make things right. Bloody hell, I faxed that goddamn recommendation to the Mirror for you."
"Thank you," mumbled Andy.
"I had to field the press, deal with the questions. Dozens and dozens of calls a day, from reporters and journalists and jerks all looking for a statement, pushing up to her whenever we were in public at any event, hounding her at her house every night. I had to fight them off every time I went over, and let me tell you, they have REALLY sharp nails."
Andy wanted to ask, "as sharp as yours?" but it didn't seem appropriate.
"And the questions they'd ask -- if they didn't have something nice to say, they wouldn't hesitate to say it. 'How does it feel to have everyone around leave you? First your husband, then your staff. Have your eyes on another Mr Priestly yet? What kind of example do you think you're setting for other women, sacrificing your family for work? What kind of example are you setting for your children?' The things they would insinuate -- no one protected her, only me! I shielded her! I supported her! I saw her cry when no one else saw her, and she would kick me out of her house, and I'd have to pretend I saw nothing the next day at work, and she'd be an utter bitch, and I'd put up with it, because God knows someone had to. But I didn't mind! But YOU --"
A cold lump of guilt settled in Andy's stomach, though she wasn't sure who she was feeling it for, knowing she was feeling it too late.
"You just waltz in here, with your silly resume and bad hair, not even realising you're in the completely wrong building, much less the wrong industry, and you get her attention, just like that, while the rest of us slave and slave away, just hoping that for once, she'll recognise us for what we've done for her."
"It wasn't easy," Andy muttered. "I had to work hard at it, too. Nothing's easy with Miranda."
"No, but in a matter of months, you managed to stumble on what some of us devote our every waking minute trying to achieve -- and all you did was walk away from her." Emily looked like she sincerely wished she'd thought of it first. "Maybe that's what she wanted all along -- someone who would say no to her."
"I'm not the first person to say no to Miranda Priestly," said Andy thickly, "and you completely have the wrong idea if you think that's why she loves me."
"Ugh, don't say that," Emily shuddered, covering her ears. "I don't want to hear it."
"Well, it's true, okay?" Andy didn't care anymore and she threw her head back defiantly. "She loves me. I love her back. Yes, I fuck her. I put up with her. I watch her cry. I worry about her. I let her be mean, petty and spiteful to me. I don't go home at the end of the day to escape her moods. I stay with her, all through the night, and 24/7, I'm on call, there for her."
"That still doesn't answer my question," Emily whispered in agony. "You're not the only one who would -- what do you have that I don't? What makes you so special?"
The unbridled, resentful disgust in Emily's eyes hit Andy harder in the gut than any of Emily's elbows had, and suddenly Andy understood, all too well, the source of that rage, and she wanted to look away and couldn't. A surge of helpless, pity-tinged loathing built inside her, and she wasn't sure if it was directed at Emily or herself.
"Look, I didn't ask for her to --" Andy ran her free hand through her hair despairingly. "I'm sorry, okay? I didn't meant to take your place -- I never even meant to go to Paris." When Emily's face contorted into rage, Andy realised it was the wrong time to bring that up. "Emily, what do you want me to do? It's not my fault that I -- that you -- "
"-- sucked so badly it made you look good in comparison?"
"I didn't mean it like that." Although that was exactly what she'd meant.
"Save it, Andy. I'm sick of this shit." Emily glanced irritably at her watch, then at herself in the mirror, and decided that reapplying her makeup was a lost cause. "I'm sick of Miranda," she tossed her accessories into her handbag, punctuating every word, "sick of the stupid things she makes me do -- sick of this stupid job -- sick of Runway --"
"You can't mean that."
"I can and I do." Emily hunted for the eyeliner for a moment before she remembered what she'd done with it. "And I'm done. Really. I'm not doing this anymore."
"So that's it?" Andy said in disbelief. "You're going to quit?"
"I'm really not sure, Andy." Emily snapped her purse shut and whirled around to face her. "What does it take to succeed at Runway under Miranda Priestly? Keep your head high and your mouth shut, obey her every command, tell her 'fuck you' at the end of the day and then watch her come scurrying after you? Maybe I'll try what you did. Maybe then she'll actually see me for once."
"She needs you right now." Andy realised this was the truth. "She can't run Runway from a hospital bed with a broken wrist and a concussion."
"Oh, have more faith in her. I do. I'm sure she'll find a way somehow."
"You're seriously going to give up your entire career in fashion, your lifelong dream, just because of this? Because of me?"
Emily narrowed her eyes. "You flatter yourself. This has nothing to do with you."
"It has everything to do with me! If you hadn't seen me today, you would have just gone right back to Runway, continued being a good little assistant for Miranda, but instead, you're going to run away with your tail between your legs," Andy taunted.
Emily's jaw dropped open. "Did I not hit you hard enough? Because there's more where that came from." She approached menacingly. "Where the fuck are my shoes?"
Andy dove for them both and snatched them before Emily could get her hands on them. "You are not going to resort to physical abuse just because I'm right."
"You're full of shit."
"And you're an insecure, whining underachiever!" Andy straightened. "You know what, you don't deserve to work for Miranda if that's all you're made of." She hurled Emily's shoes back at her, who juggled them in surprise before putting them back on her feet.
"If this is an attempt to motivate me, it's not working," Emily scoffed. "I've hated you from the moment I set eyes on you." She brushed past Andy and out of the room. Andy stood there stunned for two seconds before she rushed out haphazardly after her.
"Good luck finding work on the East Coast, Emily Charlton," she yelled after Emily's departing figure.
Emily raised her middle finger in response without turning around.
Andy swore. Her foot was still hurting from when Emily had ground her heel into it.
"Do you need a doctor?" said a nurse dubiously, noting the scars on Andy's face. Andy glared at her and the nurse backed away, muttering "Girls these days, rude as anything..."
Andy limped in the direction of Miranda's hospital room, wondering how to explain everything. Just as she reached the door, a red-faced nurse scurried out, harried and indignant, nearly knocking Andy over. Andy peeked in. Miranda was sitting upright, staring out the window. "I see you're back to normal."
"The state of our health care system is appalling." Miranda looked up at Andy's voice, her expression changing from disgruntlement to pleasant surprise, then to mild shock. "What on earth have you been up to?"
"Oh, this is nothing," Andy unconsciously raised a hand to her face. "You should see the other guy."
"Get over here and let me take a look at you," Miranda snapped.
Andy obeyed, sitting down on the bed and letting Miranda run the fingers on her good arm over her cheeks. "Who did this to you?" she said in alarm, probing Andy's swollen lip with her thumb.
"Just some crazy girl in the bathroom."
"And why, pray tell, did she decide to randomly attack you?"
Andy debated what to tell her, and decided the truth was easier. "She found out about us."
Miranda's grip tightened. "Who did?
Miranda looked startled, then incensed. "Emily? My assistant Emily?"
"I'm sorry." Andy hoped Miranda wouldn't take it too hard. "The truth was bound to come out sooner or later."
"Who cares about that right now?" Miranda stared.
Andy was confused. "But I thought you didn't want --"
"How dare she -- I'm going to fire her sorry ass tomorrow," Miranda's eyes were smoldering, "make her sorry she ever stepped foot in Runway --"
"I think you should offer her a promotion," Andy said wearily. "Or at least a raise."
"Why, to silence her?"
"To stop her from quitting."
"And why would I want to do that?"
Andy half-smiled, taking Miranda's hand in her own. "Well, firstly, I gave as good as I got. And secondly, I kind of drove her to want to quit today."
"How convenient, then."
"Be serious. I know that despite what you say about her, you don't really think she's incompetent. Plus, you're going to need all the help you can get, with this, and you can't really afford having your good -- well, better assistant leave now." Andy gestured to Miranda's broken wrist and the bandages around her head. "That's your writing hand that's broken, you know. And she works really hard, and and she's been with you for a while, so she's overdue for some kind of money-based compensation for loyalty."
"You're suggesting I should reward my employees extra for doing what's listed on their job descriptions?" Miranda sniffed. "That's what their salary is for."
Discussing human resource policy with Miranda was always an uphill battle, and nearly always a futile effort. Andy adored the woman, but there was no way in hell she was ever working for her again. "Research indicates that there's something to be said for occasional incentive bonuses -- it encourages longevity, productivity, provides motivation ..."
"I get this spiel from HR all the time."
"So what do you do?"
"Ignore it, mostly."
"But Emily deserves it," Andy said in a rush, "she's been there for you this whole time as your first assistant, and she's the one you rely on every day to get things done and to keep track of everything, and she's stayed around, so much longer than anyone else, and she never left you, even when the going got tough, and that makes her a good person ..." she trailed off slowly, aware that she was rambling, and why.
"Compared to who?" Miranda peered at Andy like she was the one who'd been struck by a wall. "Demonstrate to me exactly where she hit you in the head, and how hard."
Were Andy in Emily's shoes, she would have done much more than stomp on Andy's feet with them; she'd be wanting so much more than she was getting from Miranda for her devotion and loyalty, for tolerating her in the background silently with no acknowledgment, she'd be sick with jealousy and hatred, waiting and hoping for what she was rightfully owed --
"Andrea." Miranda stroked her cheek, concern lacing her voice. "Andy."
Andy whipped her neck around. She only used that name for her on very rare occasions, either when she was really, really tired, or making fun of her. Miranda's grave expression indicated that this wasn't either of those occasions.
"I'm not sure what misunderstanding you're labouring under, but I assure you, everything that happened between us -- back then -- is water under the bridge. I don't feel guilty about it anymore, and I'd prefer that you do the same."
Miranda thought Andy was troubled about Paris. Maybe she was. She'd failed that test, after all, and ultimately somehow was rewarded for it, whereas Emily --
Andy crushed Miranda's palm against her face desperately. "What if I'd been Emily?"
"I don't follow."
"What I'd never gone to Paris? What if I'd never left you?" The possibility was suffocating. "Would you have ever thought that I was important to you?"
"I could still be at Runway now, trapped, unable to get away from you, and maybe I'd never have realised how I felt about you, and maybe I would, but it wouldn't matter to you because you wouldn't really see who I was, ever --"
Miranda pressed her thumb to Andy's lips to still them. "That would never have happened."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because you're you, and nobody else."
"Are you saying fate would have led us together eventually?" Andy didn't believe in fate.
Miranda wrinkled her nose at the word too. "Not so much fate as inevitability."
So, basically Miranda was saying Emily was screwed from the start; if everything had happened all over again, unfolded differently, Emily would still be the one toiling thanklessly and unrewarded in the background. But looking into Miranda's eyes, she knew Miranda wouldn't understand, or care, and and a small, ugly part of Andy was grateful that Miranda only had eyes for her, and she wouldn't have it any other way.
"So you'll think about giving Emily that promotion? That is, if she goes to work tomorrow."
"It's under consideration. And she'll be there. It's not the first time Emily has threatened to leave. She normally doesn't do it to my face, but word reaches me in indirect ways."
"So you know she's unhappy?" Andy found that oddly troubling.
"As hard as it might be for you to believe, I'd never stop her from leaving."
"Then why does she stay?"
Miranda raised a shoulder elegantly. "Not everyone is like you, Andrea." There was an underlying tension to her words, but she didn't elaborate, and Andy knew that was the end of the discussion.
"Well, now that that's settled," Miranda said briskly, "how could you be so careless as to tell her about us?"
Andy cringed. "You told her yourself, twice."
Andy raised her wrist to show Miranda her watch.
"That's your fault for wearing it everywhere."
"Why would you give me a watch engraved with my favourite Proust quote if you didn't mean for me to wear it?"
Miranda coughed. "What was the second way I allegedly gave it away?"
Andy raised an eyebrow. "I meant to ask you about that. Since when am I your emergency contact? You might as well broadcast it on the hospital intercom that we're together."
"Didn't I tell you?"
"No, you didn't! I would have remembered something like that. I'm flattered, but why me?"
"I must have brought it up at some point." Miranda fussed with an invisible speck of dust on her sheets. "And who else but you? You're the only person I'd trust to break the news to the girls."
Andy felt the sting of tears in her eyes. Miranda's trust in her felt almost too heavy for her to bear alone. She kissed the bare knuckles on Miranda's good hand.
"In the future, if you plan to put my name on any important documents of yours, warn me first, okay?"
"In that case ... you remember that studio apartment I just rented downtown?"
"Yeah, what about it?" Officially Miranda wanted a base in the city for when she needed it; unofficially Andy was already planning to wheedle Miranda into allowing her to crash there on late nights.
"I put your name on the rental lease." Andy nearly flew off the bed, horrified, when Miranda grinned with delight. "Relax, I wouldn't do that to you with your salary. I just wanted to see the look on your face." She genuinely laughed out loud when Andy glowered at the implied insult. "Get me something to drink, will you? I feel like some coffee."
"At this hour?"
"Decaf will do fine." She was still chuckling as Andy left the room, scowling. The woman drove her up the wall sometimes.
After asking around, Andy discovered a coffee vending machine on another floor. As she waited for the coffee to come out, she toyed with an idea in the back of her mind that had started earlier in the afternoon. It had been a random, fleeting revelation, and she hadn't paid it much attention, but now that it had been roused by Miranda's teasing, she found that she could not get it out of her head, and it both chilled and warmed her to the core.
On a whim she stopped by the hospital gift store, but not finding what she was looking for, she returned to Miranda's hotel room. Someone had turned the TV on and Andy wondered which poor nurse Miranda had harassed.
Andy handed the coffee, cream, sugar packets and paper napkins to Miranda, who ignored everything but the coffee. "Who knew there'd be cable here?"
"I made sure the room had it." Miranda took a gulp of coffee and looked at Andy accusingly. "This tastes like pig swill."
"Don't blame me." She watched as Miranda finished it anyway. "Can we watch the Food Network instead?"
Miranda didn't bother to respond, so Andy sat down on Miranda's left and started playing with a paper napkin, tearing it into shreds. She found the Bloomberg channel dreadfully boring, but Miranda liked it for some reason, so Bloomberg it was. She was starting to make a mess on the bed, so she began to weave the paper scraps into a long thread.
"Seems like a good time to invest in oil survey companies," Miranda mused.
"Mmm," Andy agreed. The thread was growing thicker and longer and she twisted several strands together to secure it.
"Do you own stock in any companies, Andrea?"
"Not really." Unthinkingly, she tied the paper thread into a small loop. It frayed at the edges and she pinched them off.
"You should really start thinking about investing your money wisely, because you're not getting any younger. I mean, I don't want to nag, but it's about time you gave some thought to your future."
Andy stared at the object in her hands. Somehow, she'd weaved together a little paper ring.
She slipped it onto Miranda's left ring finger almost experimentally.
"Andrea, what are you doing, I'm trying to concentrate on --"
Miranda finally noticed what Andy had done, and her gaze darted between Andy and her left hand in bewilderment. "Why are you using me as a hand model for trash?" she said, in clear denial, even as it was obvious that the possible significance of the act was dawning upon her.
"I'm thinking about my future," Andy replied.
Miranda's blush had spread to the tips of her ears. "Get this thing off my finger right now."
"You're so unromantic, Miranda."
"What's gotten into you?"
"Well, you got me thinking about all the different types of legal documents you could put my name on, and then it occurred to me that --"
"I was joking about the lease. Joking. JOKING. Can't you take a joke?"
"What do you think sounds better? Andy Sachs Priestly, or Andy Priestly Sachs?"
Miranda suddenly looked like she was having trouble breathing.
"Too much? Too soon? Am I joking? Or am I serious? You can't tell, can you?"
Andy leaned forward and pressed her forehead against Miranda's, entwining their fingers together. Her blood thudded in her ears. She felt Miranda's breath on her face. It smelt like coffee.
"Are you completely insane?" Miranda said. "What you're proposing is totally impractical, not to mention illegal in most states, and neither of us are residents of Massachusetts."
"Haha, proposing. You made a pun."
"It was completely unintentional."
"Let's go to Canada for a weekend."
"I hate Canada."
"I love you, Miranda."
The older woman swallowed. "What do you want?"
"Something permanent. Something symbolic. I don't care how, or when, or who approves."
Miranda gazed at her in wonder. "You're really serious about this, aren't you?"
"I've never been so sure of anything in my life. If one day I ever lose you, I want you to be mine to lose, first. You're mine and nobody else's, and you're stuck with me for life, Miranda."
"I get it now. You're after my money, aren't you?"
"I don't want your money."
"I know. I have children. Do you want my children?"
"I'll take them off your hands if you're sick of them."
"You're barely a child yourself," Miranda said softly.
Andy grinned, baring her teeth. "I'm old enough."
Miranda squeezed her hand tightly. "I've already failed twice at this."
"They say third time's the charm." Andy leaned forward to kiss her, but Miranda drew back.
"Your lip --"
"It doesn't hurt. I don't notice the pain. Not with you." She kissed Miranda fervently and breathlessly, and Miranda kissed back just as hard. When they pulled apart, Andy whispered, "Now say yes."
"Yes to what?"
"Just say it."
"Maybe?" Andy inquired.
"Yes -- yes what? Yes maybe?"
"Andrea," Miranda announced, "I have completely lost track of this conversation."
She raised Andy's left hand to her lips and kissed the base of her ring finger reverently.
The next night, Andy was lounging with her laptop in an armchair outside of the kitchen when she heard the front door open. "Hey, I'm in here," she called. When no one responded, she poked her head out to see Emily in the foyer, wearing a low-brimmed hat and a pair of shades. "Oh, sorry. Thought you were Miranda."
Emily hung the dry cleaning in the closet and slammed the door shut. "Are you gloating at me?"
"No, I just thought you were Miranda." She wondered if she should stand up and meet Emily in the hallway, but Emily approached her instead, hands on hips.
"So you're not even bothering to hide it now, huh? Figured I couldn't keep a secret so you might as well not try?"
"No, I really thought you were Miranda."
"You and I both know Miranda did not cancel her dinner with Marc Jacobs tonight, and unless this is your first time here, and I know it's not, there is no good explanation for why I have never caught you here unless you've been hiding yourself every time."
"Okay, fine. I sat here in wait for you just so I could gloat when you came by. Happy?"
Emily crossed her arms. "You're a bigger bitch than Miranda, you know that?"
"I'll take that as a compliment." Andy peered at her, unable to tell what Emily was thinking through her glasses. "So I see you went to work today."
"Stating the obvious as usual, Andy."
"Why are you still bringing the Book? Isn't that the second assistant's job?"
"Because Miranda doesn't like to let anyone she doesn't trust into the house, and no second assistant since you left has stayed around long enough to earn Miranda's trust. But I'm sure you're well aware of that already."
"No ... I don't talk to her about Runway much."
"Quite frankly, I don't give a damn what you and Miranda talk about."
"Did, ah, Miranda say anything?" Andy asked.
"About what? Miranda says lots of things."
"Anything out of the ordinary?"
"She mentioned it was a good time to invest in oil survey companies."
"You know what I mean." Andy rolled her eyes. "Emily, sit down and talk to me."
Emily struggled with herself visibly for a moment, then dropped herself into a seat across from Andy and kicked her heels off. "God. My feet are killing me."
Andy eyed the shoes warily. "You're not going to throw those at me again, are you?"
"I'm sorely tempted to." Emily rubbed the bottom of her feet. "She offered me a raise."
"Well, that's good, isn't it?"
"I turned it down."
"Because I gave her my letter of resignation."
Andy's jaw dropped. "Emily."
"She tore it up."
"Said she didn't have time for my tantrums or quarter-life-crises at the moment, but if I was still serious about it in two weeks I could give her another letter then. We could 'revisit the issue' or 'reevaluate my role in the organization' or something."
"Oh. That sounds promising."
"To be honest, I'm kind of relieved." Emily gave a short laugh. "I don't know what I'd do with myself if I left Runway now. I have no other skills to speak of."
"That's not true. You have a very sneaky eye jab. Very Bruce Lee."
Emily ignored her. "So in the end, I'm back at where I started, same job, same pay -- don't even get a raise since I turned it down."
"Miranda really needs you, you know. You could totally twist her arm for more if you tried."
Emily looked at her doubtfully. "Somehow I don't feel like taking advice from you. Guess I should consider myself lucky though, considering I scarred her precious girlfriend's face."
"Yeah ... did she say anything about that?"
"Are you joking? I thought I was going to die when she came in this morning."
Andy tried not to laugh as she imagined the look on Miranda's face. "So what happened?"
To Andy's surprise, Emily snorted with laughter. "She comes in through the doors, and the moment she sees me at my desk, she makes a beeline straight for me, and I'm like, cowering behind my monitor," Emily mimed the motion, ducking behind an invisible object, "so she hurls her coat and bag at my desk, barely missing me, and just as she's about to say something, I take my sunglasses off, and she takes one look at me, goes 'Huh' and tells me to come into her office. That's when we had the whole career talk."
"Are you serious? It can't have been that bad."
Emily took her sunglasses off and showed her.
"Oh. Wow. Jesus." Andy winced. "Boy. That looks painful. I'm sorry."
"Well, you look like shit too, so I guess we're even."
"Thanks, I guess."
Emily replaced her sunglasses and leaned back. "You know, I still hate you."
Andy wasn't quite sure how to respond to that.
"All you ever do is create more work for me."
"What have I done this time?"
"Phone's been ringing off the hook all day, everyone asking if Miranda has any comment regarding the rumours that she's got a girlfriend half her age."
Shit. "What have you been telling them?"
"What do you think? No comment, of course. I spent half my day just hanging up on them. Oh, don't go looking grateful at me. It's not for you." Emily stared at her thoughtfully. "I'm surprised you managed to keep it under wraps so well this whole time."
"There's been the occasional rumour," Andy admitted, "but for the most part Miranda doesn't often have a troop of journalists parked outside her door."
"I really, really hate you."
"You mentioned that." Emily was never going to let her forget that, was she?
Emily stood up, stepping into her shoes. "I should get going."
"Oh, right." Andy jumped to her feet. "Uh, I'll see you to the door?"
"Don't be ridiculous, I know my way out."
"Right, of course. Hey, listen --" Emily paused to face her. "I'm glad that you're there to support Miranda at work. You're a good person."
"Well, I'm not doing it for you."
"I know, but you're a good person," Andy repeated, "A better person than me. That's all."
Emily smiled unhappily. "That's small consolation, isn't it?" She straightened her hat and made her way to the door. "I'm not particularly looking forward to it, but I guess I'll see you around, Andy."
"Are you going to be okay?"
"Well, you know what they say. The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes, right?"
Maybe they'd never be friends, but at least they'd reached some kind of understanding. "I'll see you, Emily."
Andy stood in the foyer for a while after Emily left, playing with her watch. Then she returned to the armchair and waited for Miranda to come home.
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