DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is an AU event in my AU series, Life Is a Banquet. By which I mean, it doesn't fit into LIAB as currently outlined, but it does make use of its characters, Miranda Priestly, renowned fashion editor, forty-eight, and Andrea Sachs, an aspiring twenty-eight-year-old chef who lives in the basement apartment in Miranda's home, where she served temporarily as a nanny to Caroline and Cassidy. And there is cooking. And with an apple developed here in Minnesota, which they dubbed the SweeTango unfortunately, instead of the really cool name I've chosen for it.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To medoramacd[at]yahoo.com

Tasting the Possibilities
By Medora MacD



The meat course had been a triumph, thought Andy, if she did say so herself. She hadn't had to, though. Miranda had done it for her. Normally sparing when offering praise, she had been almost effusive about how the dish looked, how it tasted, and what a nice contrast the sweet, soft beets and the chewy apricots provided, with their tang of pomegranate and subtle bite of onion, to the richness of the fowl's dark meat. She had insisted that this was a dish Andy had to share with Chef Alberto, that all of the courses, in fact, deserved to be presented to him.

Opening a second bottle of the Riesling, they had embarked on a wonderfully absurd discussion of what the various dishes could be called. Miranda had come perilously close to giggling over one or two of them, Andy recalled with a tender smile. Especially the one she'd coined for the last one, "Dan(dy) Quayle Lays an Egg in a Crispy Mess of Potatoe." That had almost made her snort wine out of her nose.

She should have ended the meal then and there.

But nooo — another course had awaited in the fridge, a fancy schmancy "Parfait of Aged Blue Cheese Rice Pudding with Applesauce" dished up in martini glasses. Giddy, tired, and a bit buzzed, she'd brought them to the table and gone all gonzo about the new kind of apple she and Doug had used to make the applesauce. Doug had placed an uncooked slice on each of the dishes as a garnish. She had picked up hers and waved it somewhat over-enthusiastically in Miranda's face.

"You've just got to taste this. When you bite into it, the cells shatter, filling your mouth with juice. It's sweet, but it has this great lemony finish, almost a tropical taste, that cuts the sugar." She'd dug into the glass with the apple slice, using it to scoop up a dab of parfait. "Pair it with an aged blue cheese and the combination is absolutely unforgettable."

Brashly, she'd held the slice up to Miranda's lips, as she had done earlier with the teaspoonful of relish. She watched breathlessly as the other woman nipped off a piece of the offering, coming deliciously close to her fingers, and began to chew it thoughtfully.

"It's a cultivar of the Honeycrisp," she choked out. "They're calling it the … "

Her eyes fixed themselves on Miranda's luscious mauve mouth, and she was lost. What would it be like to press her own mouth to it? To delve inside it, explore it with her tongue, feel Miranda responding in kind? To kiss that long, strong muscle originating just under her elegant ear and follow it down, down, down to her clavicle? And lower?

Or to have Miranda do the same to her? To have her place sweet, smooth, butterfly kisses  on her brow and along her jaw? On the inside of her wrist? On the inside of her elbow? On her breasts? Oh, God … on her nipples?

She clawed her way back to reality, finally grinding out in a voice so rough she barely recognized it, "Honeykissed … They're calling the variety the Honeykissed."

Her tipsy lips didn't stop there, unfortunately.

"Isn't that the most amazing sensation? The way it explodes in your mouth? Then the sweetness and the savor? It's exactly what I imagine it would be like to kiss you..."

Her voice trailed off as the panicky look on Miranda's face made it clear that she had spoken those last, revealing thoughts aloud.

She cleared her throat. "If someone did that. I mean, if you let them. Kiss you, that is. Then it would be like this dish. Staggering. Stupefying. Something she … I mean, they would never forget. That's all I meant to s…"

Miranda had risen from the table at that point, her eyes icy and her lips set in a thin hard line. "You'll have to excuse me," she had said frostily before sweeping out of the room. "I need some time to digest … things."

Miranda studied the reflection in the mirror above the mantel. The rigid jaw. The stormy blue-grey eyes. The prematurely white hair. She had welcomed it as a mark of distinction and a physical affirmation of authority when it manifested itself in the 1990s, but at her present age it was wholly unremarkable. Expected even. An intimation of deterioration. Of vulnerability. A sign that the bearer might be capable of being dethroned.

The Ice Queen crumbleth, she thought. If not today, soon enough. The denouement could be staved off for a few more years, maybe even as much as a decade, but not avoided. Then what?

She extended a manicured finger to the cool of the glass and traced the faint lines that were beginning to show around the eyes staring back at her. How would it happen? Would she splinter into thousands of pieces? Or would she melt like the Wicked Witch of the West?

And what would remain when the "queen" was gone? At the end of it, would any of Miranda Priestly be left, any vestige of Miriam Princheck? Damn little, she'd say if forced to wager.

Not that she didn't have more than enough of what it would take to totally mess up Andréa's life in the meantime. Or Cassidy and Caroline's. Especially if she were idiotic enough to respond to Andréa's tacit invitation to pursue something more intimate.

Why? fumed Miranda, resuming her pacing in the library. Why did the silly girl have to go and spoil everything?

She suppressed a bitter laugh. The question answered itself. She wasn't a "girl," of course, but a remarkably intelligent, capable and mature woman – that was the whole problem. However, for all her maturity, Andréa still possessed a great deal of youthful exuberance and idealism. Including, it appeared, the firm belief that it really was possible to make the dreams that you dared to dream come true.

Not all dreams are meant to be, however. Like that hoary one about living happily ever after in the arms of someone who will respect and cherish you, will intrigue, excite, and satiate you all the rest of the days of your life.

Or the even more illusory one of that person turning out to be someone for whom you are willing — and able — to do the same …

Andréa would learn that soon enough. Miranda didn't want to be there when the blinders fell from those dark chocolate eyes and they lost their special "the sky's the limit" sparkle. Something told her, however, that she was not only going to bear witness to that calamity but actually precipitate it. She sighed. Yet another despicable act to be laid at the Ice Queen's doorstep.

She reversed direction, pacing back toward the fireplace.

Still, until everything had gone to hell, the evening had been one of the very best Miranda could ever remember. Andréa was always attractive – damnably so – in that ragamuffin way of hers, There had been something about her tonight, however. And not just because of what she was wearing. She had been effervescent, lit from within by … what? Pleasure? Pride? Hopefulness? All of that probably. She'd been in her element, fully alive to the moment and reveling in the knowledge that she was — that they were — engaged in something … extraordinary.

Bottom line: Andréa had been absolutely mesmerizing tonight, fully the equal of any dinner companion, indeed, of any romantic partner she'd ever had. Her dishes had been stunning too, on a par with ones she had had at four-star restaurants in New York, Paris, and London. The only thing she had enjoyed more than eating them, in fact, was being able to tell Andréa how very good they were and — truth be told — seeing how happy her commendation had made her.

It wasn't the first time anyone had been thrilled to receive her approval, of course. Her nods, rare as they were, were prized, she knew, because they could literally change people's fortunes. It was very different — exhilarating, even — when it was clear that your opinion mattered to someone just because it was coming from you, from someone the recipient lov… cared deeply for.

She turned and strode back toward the bookshelves that filled the room's back wall, her heels tapping out a staccato on the oak floor.

The meal's theme had been transparent, mind you. Especially to someone who worked in the kind of world where people once used the subtle positioning of a hand fan to signal everything from mistrust to a profession of undying love. Andréa's message had stopped short of the latter, thank God. But only barely.

The trouble was — Andréa had absolutely no idea what she was really asking for. Living in the same household with Miranda for four months might have led her to believe that she knew what life with her would be like, but she had never been left waiting at a restaurant for hours while Miranda salvaged a photo shoot, had she?

She completed another lap and turned back toward the fireplace, her pace slowing.

Actually, there had been that one time … when food poisoning had felled not only photographer Patrick Demarchelier but also her intended cover girl, putting an entire issue in peril. It had taken all her connections – and hours that she had promised to spend with her girls at a summer school science fair – to find last minute substitutes.

She'd imposed on Andréa to handle the domestic fallout, even though she knew she had plans to go out with friends that night. When she'd finally returned home, she'd expected to be greeted by tantrums and reproachful glowers as in the past. Instead Andréa had handed her a glass of cabernet and ushered her to a comfy chair on the terrace. As Andréa fixed a snack for her in the adjacent kitchen, the girls had gleefully recounted how they had stolen the show with an impromptu demonstration of food chemistry on the playground that involved Diet Coke and Mentos, getting liberally sprayed with carbonated water, caramel coloring, caffeine and aspartame in the process.

In response to Miranda's glare, Andréa had merely laughed. "Thoroughly non-toxic, I assure you. And long since showered away. Here, Cassidy. Take this to your mom." She handed the girl a plate containing an open-face tuna and arugula sandwich and a bit of fruit salad. "It could have been worse. Doug and I used twenty liter bottles and five packs of Mentos at a bar mitzvah we catered last year. Though I'm not sure you'll agree it was totally harmless if any of the photos that were taken show up on Page Six."

"And why is that?" Miranda asked coldly.

"Because we were wearing black plastic garbage bags over our clothes when we did it, Mom."

Before she could express her horror, Cassidy had stuffed half a sandwich into her gaping mouth. Thank goodness. Because what she would have said at that moment would have wounded the girls at least as much as it would have Andréa. That didn't stop her from giving her an icy glare – to which she responded with a wink, a nod toward the girls, and a smile that held no hint of reproach.  

Given the opportunity to chew things over, Miranda had swallowed her irritation – and her resentment that her daughters had enjoyed themselves despite her absence …

Because of it, truth be told, since she was likely to have stopped their shenanigans before they started had she been there.

She looked at the anxious freckled faces looking up at her … and smiled, getting relieved grins in response. Guided by Andréa, she and the twins had spent the rest of the evening surfing the Internet, exploring what science mess they would be allowed to get into next.

She changed course again, her steps picking up speed. Caroline and Cassidy were lucky to have Andréa in their lives, she thought. Very lucky. As was she.

That didn't mean it would be fortunate for Andréa to have Miranda in her life. As Andréa would discover the first time she was relegated to second place by The Book on a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary. Or had a cold shoulder turned to her because Miranda was distracted, exhausted, or, worse yet, bent on punishing her for some real or presumed transgression.

Not that she could imagine ever being too tired or busy to notice Andréa. Or Andréa allowing her to become that preoccupied, for that matter. More than once since she'd joined the household she had found ways to gently pry Miranda away from the obsessions of her work day and remind her of the bigger picture, of the simple pleasures of a walk in the park and watching her girls grow. She was likely to be even more persistent in aid of all of them spending time together if they became – oh God – a family.

As for cold shoulders – like that was going to happen! Being able to touch Andréa might well cause her to spontaneously combust. Just thinking about her warmed parts of Miranda that had been kept numb for years. Deliberately so. Because none of this – she looked around the richly appointed room, stared at the framed copies of her favorite issues of Runway and the photos of her with Andrea Mitchell, Madeline Albright, and Annie Leibowitz and the ones of her with Caroline, Cassidy, and Patricia – none of that would have happened if she'd given in to the impulses of her youth.

She wondered how Caroline and Cassidy would react if she gave in to them now. Given the number of gay people they knew, they might not even be fazed. Not unless, that is, the person in the harsh glare of the spotlight was their mother. Or someone as important to them as Andréa had become. In which case, naturally, all bets would be off.

She pivoted back toward the fireplace.

Still, times had changed, thanks in part to people like Annie and Margarethe Cammermeyer and Harvey Milk. Her status in the world had changed as well. Being linked with another woman wasn't likely to damage her career at this point. Had Andréa given any thought as to how this would affect hers, though? She was destined for great things, that was obvious. She wouldn't be the first lesbian chef in the world or even on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. But entangling her life with Miranda's at this stage could seriously damage her prospects. She'd be called a gold digger or, worse, accused of hitching her wagon to Miranda's star in order to get ahead. Her accomplishments would be belittled, subjected to derision. How would she handle that? Could she?

She might think she knew what it would be like to be in the public eye, given the hullabaloo that had occurred following their first meeting. That would be nothing compared to the circus that would result if they engaged in a romantic relationship. Page Six would invent more offensive nicknames for her – lesbian slurs, now that would be new and special – and sooner rather than later some publicity-seeking sleazette would come forth to advance her claim to have personal knowledge of some kinky practice or another. Gregory could be counted on not to comment, but Stephen would take to the hoopla like a hog to slop, declaring that he had "always known" there was something unnatural about her.

She had to admit that if the situation were reversed she would have found the visuals laughable as well. It was such a cliché, wasn't it? The doddering old fool who gloms onto the promising young thing in the vain hope that her youth and vitality is transmissible? The very thing, in fact, that she had disdained Gregory for in recent years?

And yet … She reached the fireplace and stopped, staring at her face again in the mirror above the mantle. Searching.

And yet … This wasn't something new, wasn't just some midlife crisis. For years now, decades, she'd been pushing back a certain … yearning. Because of her work at first. And then because of the girls.

And because, frankly, there had never been a compelling enough reason to examine what was, after all, just a nebulous hunger. Never a compelling enough person.

Not until now, that is.

Which was why, when Andréa lifted that tempting slice of apple to her mouth, she had taken a bite of it. And why, for a split second, she had allowed herself to imagine what it would feel like to press her lips to Andréa's lips. And other parts of her body.

If Andréa had only kept her mouth shut. Then Miranda could have pretended to have failed to decipher her message. Could have continued to enjoy having Andréa in her life minus the fear, rather, the certain knowledge, that she eventually would do something — or not do something — that would mess everything up. It wouldn't have been ideal, but it would have been something.

A "something" that ultimately would have been unfulfilling, she admitted to herself. And terribly unfair to Andréa.

But then again, so would embarking on anything more serious. Hadn't she proven that she wasn't cut out for happily ever after? Wasn't capable of it? And probably didn't deserve it anyway?

Why take a chance on Strike Three? She'd taken two swings already, though in hindsight Stephen had been clearly nowhere near the strike zone. Why put Andréa through that pain — why put herself and the girls through it — when there was no guarantee, not even the probability really, that doing so could begin to fill the emptiness inside her?

No, all things considered, it would be better if this had never happened. Or if they could pretend that it hadn't. She didn't think Andréa was going to let her off that easily, however.

Which meant what exactly? That the Ice Queen likely was going to have to make a command appearance. She dropped her weary body onto the sofa in front of the fireplace and cradled her aching head in her hands, dreading what she might have to do to convince Andréa that she needed to move on.

Part 5

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