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Take Me to the River

Chapter Text

Andy Sachs stared out of her office window as the rain hammered down across the city. She longed to open a window and breathe in the smell of wet pavement. Fourteen stories up, that was an impossibility and not for the first time recently, she found herself feeling the confines of her office.

A light tap at her door drew her away from grim thoughts and she turned her attention towards the woman quietly opening the door. She had worked with Radha for going on two years now, and there was something in her face that told her she wasn’t going to enjoy whatever was about to come out of her mouth.

‘You free for a sec?’ Radha asked, entering the room.

Andy glanced at the manuscript on her screen which had been left untouched for the better part of an hour. ‘That depends entirely on who’s asking,’ she said, closing her laptop.

Radha approached her desk and sat down. ‘Me, actually.’ The accompanying wince confirmed Andy’s worst suspicions.

‘I had a feeling,’ Andy sighed, pushing her glasses up onto her head and leaning back in her chair. ‘So, who’s stealing you away from me?’

Radha looked surprised, and then resigned. Andy had been expecting it for a while. The particularly successful marketing campaign Radha had run for one of their new authors had been bound to catch the attention of someone. And by the look on Radha’s face it was someone big, with an offer that would be impossible to match.

‘Elias-Clark,’ Radha said after a moment. ‘They approached me last week. I turned them down but they came back, and it’s a lot, Andy.’

Andy couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped at that. She knew the depths of the Elias-Clark’s pockets all too well. ‘Well, I suppose it’s about time you dipped your toes into the shark pool. New York?’

Radha nodded. ‘I told them I would need to work out my notice here, obviously. But with my loans, I just don’t think I can turn it down. I’m so sorr—

Andy held up a hand. ‘Don’t apologize. You have to take care of yourself. If we had a budget the size of Elias-Clark’s then we’d pay you what you’re worth too.’

Radha relaxed back into her chair a little, the tension leaving her face in a whoosh. Andy didn’t think she was a particularly intimidating member of the senior staff, but perhaps she had been a bit off lately. Nothing felt like it fit anymore. Not her clothes, her apartment, her job or even this city.

‘Do you have someone who can be ready to step in?’ Andy asked, opening her laptop and pulling up personnel details for the marketing team. There were so many of them now. Digital marketing alone was a twenty-four-hour job, and losing their head of department was going to sting.

‘Yeah, Kimani. She’s been shadowing me for the better part of the last six months.’

Andy pulled up her file and blanched when she read the date of birth. Twenty-six and up for management.

Radha must have caught her look. ‘I know she’s young, but she has the leadership qualities and is a good decision maker. Give her a shot. You can always put her in as interim manager of digital for the time being, but she deserves a raise regardless.’

Andy raised her brow at that and Radha gave her a wry smile in return. ‘Hey, I have to look after my girls, right?’

Andy let a smile creep onto her face and shook her head. Radha’s entire team didn’t have a single competitive streak between them. They worked like a well oiled unit, lifting each other up, supporting each other, and covering each others asses. Sometimes Andy wished she had been born ten years later. Or when money was tight, twenty-five years earlier.

‘Interim manager. I can probably negotiate to get her a slight raise to reflect her increased responsibilities. After six months, if she’s proven herself, she’ll get the title and the salary to match. Happy?’

Radha beamed. ‘Thanks, Andy,’ she said as she got to her feet.

‘It’s not a free ride. She’s going to have to work. And I’ll need your official letter of resignation by the morning so I can pass it on to Tim.’

‘I’ll get it done,’ she said as she began moving towards the door.

‘Oh, and Radha?’ Andy said, stopping the woman in her tracks. ‘Make the most of this opportunity. Elias-Clark can open doors for you that you can’t even imagine.’

A strange look passed over Radha’s face like she was trying to solve a puzzle and had just been given another piece. ‘I will Andy, and thanks again for understanding.’ She walked out and closed the door behind her.

Alone again, Andy reached over and closed the laptop on Kimani’s beaming young face.

It had been a long time since Andy herself had been that happy. The end of her marriage had left her withdrawn and pensive. Her thoughts too often strayed to the past, to things she had given up in the name of love. She had comprimised. Too often, on reflection.

Elias-Clark.

Her short time in the gilded halls of Runway Magazine had been the catalyst for a lot of what came after. She had been so arrogant back then. She had thought her future was guaranteed, that she was destined for greatness and was somehow owed it. She thought she was better, that she could forge a new path where she could keep everything in balance, be better than those who had come before. Miranda Priestly had somehow reinforced those ideas in her mind when she had allowed her to walk free without punishment and straight into a job at the Mirror.

She had worked her ass off at that paper, but the pay off was minimal. Journalism just wasn’t the field it used to be. Headlines were produced for shock value and to entice social media users to click. Bias was rife throughout most publications, and she didn’t have enough of a reputation to step out on her own as a freelancer. After a couple of years in the trenches, she was ground down. Her age had seen her pushed into digital content, but the stories, always short, lacked in substance and were forgotten almost as soon as they were read.

She couldn’t see any purpose in what she was doing. She was a good writer, but so were many others, most of whom were willing to sell their soul for the maximum number of page views. She was viewed as an old-fashioned thinker, and when her editor was eventually ousted for refusing to compromise on standards, she couldn’t bring herself to stay.

Feeling lost and adrift, Nate had convinced her that a change of scenery might be good. So she sold her stuff, packed a bag and moved to Boston, then Washington, and finally Chicago as he chased promotion after promotion. She never went back to journalism. She kept writing, for herself mainly, and then somewhere along the line she simply stopped.

They had gotten married because it had seemed like the logical thing to do.

It wasn’t until much later that she realised she might have made a mistake. They were in Washington then. She had been working as a Junior Editor for a medium-sized publishing house when Nate decided he wanted kids.

She remembered the day clearly. They had been celebrating. He had landed the promotion he wanted in Chicago three weeks earlier, but she had put her move on hold until she found something. A small publishing house was willing to give her a shot with a guarantee at moving up from Junior Editor within eighteen months, and although she was taking a pay cut, it gave her something to look forward to. Chicago didn’t really appeal to her. She had liked Washington. But Nate had found another dream job, and with somewhere to land herself there wasn’t much point in fighting the move.

They had had a lot to drink when he suggested it, but something in his eyes had told her he was serious. Even then, four glasses down, something deep down held her back from saying yes. She laughed it off, and in the coming months put it off. She had plenty of excuses: the move, the new job, the sudden departure of an Executive Editor which had fast tracked her promotion. It took him two and a half years to finally confront her and she was forced to admit to him, and to herself that she didn’t want them; couldn’t imagine them, not with him. He expected her to cut back her hours, expected her to bear the load of the childcare as he worked his way towards head chef.

She finally realised that he had always expected her to make the sacrifice. He didn’t consider her career to be as important as his own and she couldn’t even blame him. She had drifted into publishing and simply carried on. She never fought for what she wanted, not the way she once had. She had allowed herself to be led.

To have acquiesced at that moment would have felt like the final nail in the coffin of her life, and something inside her had finally awoken to protect what little she had left.

Things fell apart quickly after that. She should have felt worse about it, but all she seemed to be able to do was dwell on the past decade and every non-decision she had made. She had a good job, but it didn’t feel right.

She was good at it, but it wasn’t what she wanted and she only had herself to blame.

She turned and looked out of her window which faced directly into another dreary Chicago highrise.

This city didn’t feel right because she had never liked it in the first place. She turned back at looked at the door Radha had just left through.

New York.

It had been a catalyst for many things. She had allowed herself to be drawn away. Perhaps if she had stayed and fought, things would be different.

She reached for her phone on an impulse and pulled up a familiar contact. ‘Lil, it’s me. Remember that offer you made me after Nate and I split? I was wondering if it was still on the table?’

Chapter Text

‘I hope you bought some of that fancy ass furniture with you,’ Lily said as she opened the door and pulled her into a hug.

Andy fell into it, dropping her single suitcase on the floor and wrapping both arms around her friend tightly. ‘It’ll be here in a couple of weeks,’ Andy mumbled into the mass of her best friend’s hair.

‘Good, because I’m desperate need of a new sofa.’ Lily pulled back and gave her a once over before shuffling her inside. ‘I can’t believe you all used to give me shit about living in Brooklyn. I could sublet this place and buy a house next week at the way rent prices are going.’

Andy laughed as she pulled off her coat and threw it over a chair. Lily lived in a large open plan apartment. There were paintings from various artists mounted on the brickwork and more leaning haphazardly against one wall, waiting to be hung.

‘Gifts,’ she said, catching Andy’s line of sight. ‘Those over there are going up in a space just down the street next week. Local artists.’

Lily had built a successful career and worked in a number of prominent galleries since they all first moved to New York. These days she was focusing more on putting together shows for artists she believed in. Prominent galleries didn’t tend to feature too many artists of colour, and especially not work deemed too political, and hence unsellable to New York’s predominantly white 1%.

‘That’s a lot of gifts,’ Andy said, eyeing the collection around the apartment.

‘It’s my retirement fund,’ Lily laughed as she grabbed Andy’s suitcase and dragged it towards a door near the kitchen. ‘It’s not much,’ she said and she pushed it open with her foot, ‘but the bed is comfortable and the window gets good light.’

Andy grabbed her suitcase away from Lily and stepped in to look around. There was a bookcase, a desk, and a double bed. One wall was exposed brick, while the others were painted a plain white. A wooden closet stood against one wall.

‘I stripped everything back for you. You can do what you want with it. There’re drawers under that bed you can use for storage to save on space. I work out on the dining room table so you’re welcome to join me there, but I left the desk in case you need it.’

Andy felt tears welling in her eyes. It was like starting all over again. She was terrified, but for the first time in a long time she felt like she had retaken control of her life. It felt good. ‘It’s perfect,’ she said, turning to beam a smile a Lily.

‘Get in here,’ Lily said, pulling her into another hug. ‘It’s going to be okay. You’re good at this, and this isn’t even a new city for you this time, it’s an old one.’

‘Thank you, Lil,’ she said earnestly.

‘Don’t mention it. I told you before you’re welcome here anytime. I was worried about you out there, alone. Always working, no friends to speak of. It wasn’t a life, Andy. You made the right choice.’

Andy wiped a stray tear from under her eye. ‘Yeah, I’m pretty sure I did.’

Lily gave her a reaffirming grip on the shoulder. ‘Now I think it’s time we had a drink, don’t you? But you have got to change,’ she said, eyeing Andy’s business attire with disdain. ‘Go have a shower while I find you something to wear,’ she said as she pushed Andy in the direction of the bathroom.

By the time Lily was finished with her, she was in a pair of skin tight jeans and a button down, paired with white Converse which had seen better days. These were clothes she wore around the house; not clothes she wore out drinking.

‘Welcome to Brooklyn,’ Lily said with a shrug, ‘we’ll take you shopping tomorrow because my God your suitcase looks like you’re doing nothing but attending job interviews for the next month.’

‘Well, that was part of my plan,’ Andy said, a hint of defensiveness in her voice.

‘That was your only plan for most of your twenties. I thought you wanted to rediscover your creative roots? You’re not going to achieve that looking like an Alicia Florrick wannabe. I swore I saw an actual Elie Tahari pantsuit in there.'

Andy’s faced flamed.

‘Well, we’ve found your retirement fund,’ Lily said with a laugh. ‘Maybe you should go back and ask Miranda Priestly for a job, she might give it to you based on your wardrobe alone.’

Andy laughed at that, but her mind couldn’t help straying to Elias-Clark’s enormous publishing department. She had no interest in moving to magazines, but they ran a number of imprints which had diversified a lot in recent years. She had a lot of experience, and the novels she had edited had steady sales, even if they weren’t quite New York Times bestsellers.

‘Oh my God, you’re actually considering it!’ Lily said, tugging her out into the hall.

‘Considering what? Working for Miranda? I haven’t completely lost my mind,’ Andy said. ‘But Elias-Clark does have a significant publishi—

Lily clamped her hand over her mouth. ‘Less thinking, more drinking,’ she ordered before turning to triple lock the door and marching her down the stairs.

They hit the street outside Lily’s apartment and walked down a couple of blocks to a corner bar. It was a Thursday night and packed to the brim.

The pushed their way to the bar and Lily ordered them two Jack and cokes. Whisky didn’t feature anywhere on Andy’s usual list of drinks, but the usual was what she was here to escape so she didn’t argue.

As they picked up their drinks and moved further into the bar to mingle, a folk band fired up in the corner.

‘Is that guy playing a Guiro?’ Andy called out over the noise.

‘Yeah, these guys play most Thursdays. Most of them have small businesses in the area. The guy with the tattoos on the banjo owns a studio down the road from us.’

‘I feel old,’ Andy said.

‘You’re not. We’re not. You just need to loosen up. You’ve spent too much time in corporate Chicago. Drink up, it’ll help the process.’

‘It was hardly corporate,’ Andy grumbled as she thought back to her small company and downed her drink.

Lily ordered another round, and soon Andy found the taste of whisky to her liking. So much so that she found herself stomping her Converse on the floor in front of the band and wishing she had worn a pair of boots as a guy with an impressive beard went to town on an Irish fiddle.

She hadn’t felt this free for a while, and the reality that she had no one to answer to the next day was finally hitting home.

She had no job, no husband, no responsibilities. Her only responsibility was to herself. She could do what she wanted. She could eat, drink, and fuck whoever she damn well liked and no one was there to stop her.

The guy on the fiddle caught her eye and she smiled freely as he upped the tempo and she started stomping and clapping in time.

Lily appeared at her shoulder and grabbed her by the elbow. ‘Alright Michael Flatley, that might be enough for tonight,’ she said with a grin, dragging her away towards the quieter end of the bar.

‘You know,’ Andy began, a slight slur behind her words, ‘I never realised how much I liked folk music before.’

Lily steered her towards the towards the door and out into the fresh air. ‘You also never realised how much you liked six Jack and cokes in a row before, either. I don’t suppose you ate on the plane?’

Andy shook her head.

‘I hope you like kebabs,’ Lily said as they began to make their way home.

 

*

 

The next morning certainly wasn’t the best of her life, but having a hangover to focus on seemed to push a lot of unhelpful thoughts out of her mind and simplify her thinking.

Since the divorce, she had spent all of her energy focusing on her regrets. She had gone over her entire life with a fine tooth comb trying to work out exactly where it all went wrong, what she could have done differently.

The reality of it all was that she just needed to start thinking about what to do today. And then tomorrow. And then the next day.

She wanted to write, but wasn’t in a position to support herself on it. She worked in publishing, she knew the reality for writers out there. Freelancers were paid pittance unless writing for big publications, and returning to the novel she had left behind six years ago was going to be a process.

She needed a job.

But today, she needed to write.

She just wasn’t sure where to start.

Well, getting up was a good first step.

When she wandering out into the apartment, Lily was on the phone, pacing back and forth and arguing with someone about the delivery of a collection. ‘It could be all the way in Australia for all I care. It needs to be here by tomorrow morning, otherwise you’re going to be liable for the lost revenue,’ she snapped before abruptly ending the call.

She took a breath and then moved to the kitchen. ‘Coffee?’

‘Yeah, please,’ Andy said, moving gingerly to sit down.

‘How’s the head?’

‘It’s definitely been better.’

Lily laughed. ‘You were on fire, I felt bad dragging you away but I figured a one night stand with Vic the local bike mechanic wasn’t exactly what you needed. Although you certainly made an impression.’

Andy groaned as she sunk her head into her hands. ‘The dancing?’

‘Was magnificent. My Instagram followers certainly enjoyed it.’

Andy’s head shot up. ‘You didn’t!’

Lily laughed harder. ‘My God, your face. Of course not. Although I can’t say the same for the fifty other patrons who were enjoying your take on Irish dancing with their phones out.’

‘I hate the 21st century.’

‘Yeah, but at least it has good coffee,’ Lily said as she placed a mug down in front of Andy. ‘Look, I have to go into Manhattan this morning. The collection that was supposed to have arrived for an opening tomorrow night hasn’t shown up. The artist is local, so he’s bringing some other pieces in so we can at least start getting them up on the walls. I took the liberty of emailing you a bunch of links for local groups on Meetups. There’s a book club, some language learning groups, a couple of creative writing courses, meditation, you name it. Get out of the house, go do something fresh and I’ll be home tonight if you feel like taking another swing at Vic. He won’t have his fiddle but I’m sure he’s still interested,’ she finished with a wink.

‘You’re hilarious.’

‘Oh, I know,’ Lily smirked. ‘Right, I really need to go,’ she said as she moved to drop a kiss on Andy’s forehead. ‘It’s day one of the rest of your life, go and enjoy it.’

After finishing her coffee, Andy did just that. None of the groups were meeting during the day, so she packed up her laptop and made her way to Prospect Park. She found herself a space near the water, spread out a blanket and opened up a document she hadn’t touched in six years, save for transferring from transferring it from device to device.

As she scrolled through page after page she realised that the time to write that particular book had passed. It no longer felt relevant.
She opened a fresh document and decided to start somewhere small. Unfortunately, somewhere small wasn’t small enough. She didn’t know where to start. There was a time when writing had been second nature to her. She would walk through the world, observing and narrating and plotting out stories for everyone and everything that she saw. She saw articles she could write while reading the newspaper, things that could be expanded on and investigated further. Now, it was as if the door to that skill had been nailed shut.

She closed the lid of her laptop and sighed.

Perhaps she could find inspiration from someone who knew what they were doing. She exchanged her laptop for the book in her bag, laying back on the blanket and enjoying the feeling of being outdoors in the middle of the day. It was a simple pleasure; one she hadn’t enjoyed alone, perhaps since college.

It was an odd feeling having nowhere to go on a weekday. She hadn’t been unemployed since after her time at the Mirror, and even then, the period had been so short as she had thrown herself into the first internship she could land in the hopes that she could salvage something of a career before it was too late. She had been in such a hurry in her early twenties. Impatient. A costly credit card bill for a flight back from Paris was one of many examples of her hasty decision making.

Not much had changed, really. Coming to New York had been a snap decision, although she had done her company the courtesy of a two-month handover to her Junior Editor, who was long overdue a promotion anyway. She had grown, a little.

New York wasn’t a city she could tackle penniless or she would be out on her ass in less than six months. The move had sucked up a good portion of her savings. Lily had given her a place to land, but she needed to find a way to fund her lifestyle here if she was going to get anywhere.

She had a skill that could be utilized while she was trying to recapture an old one, as long as she didn’t allow herself to settle.

Later that evening when Lily got home, she was camped out at the dining room table, her pixie cut sticking out at all angles as she typed furiously on her laptop, her glasses perched down her nose.

‘I didn’t know you wore glasses,’ Lily said as she dropped her bag and straight to the fridge, pulling out a bottle of wine.

‘Too much time in front of screens.’ She pushed her laptop away and pulled her glasses off, dropping them on the table. ‘Long day?’

‘You could say that, but the shipment arrived. We have enough time to finish the set up tomorrow.’ Lily poured two glasses and bought one over to her.

‘You need some help?’

‘Wouldn’t mind it, now that you mention it. You don’t have other things to do?’

‘No, just tidying up my LinkedIn and social media. I’ve been on the phone with recruiters all afternoon, they’re setting me up with some interviews for next week.’

‘You’re going back to publishing, already?’ Lily said, a twinge of disappointment in her tone.

Andy shook her head. ‘No, it’s just to help keep me afloat. I’m not throwing in the towel yet. Plus, I have you you here to pull me back.’

‘That you do.’ Lily took a deep sip from her glass and sighed contentedly. ‘It’s nice to have someone to come home to. I don’t think I realised I had been a bit lonely myself.’

‘It feels like old times,’ Andy smiled. ‘Although, with a few more wrinkles between us.’

‘Yeah, and much better wine,’ Lily said, titled her glass towards Andy, her face lost in thought.

‘There’s something I’ve been meaning to say for a while,’ Lily said after a moment, ‘and now is probably as good a time as any.’

Andy had an idea of where this was going. There were things they had never discussed, things which had put dents in their friendship over the years.

‘I was too hard on you, back then,’ Lily said. ‘Nate was always around, and you were nowhere to be seen. We saw how much it hurt him, but I took his side without asking you how you were doing. I thought you were trading us all in for your fancy new job, and all those fancy new people. I lashed out. You were my best friend, and I should have had your back, not his. I wasn’t there for you, and looking back, you needed someone in your corner. You were alone. I didn't see it until later. Much later, and by then? Well...you were gone.’

Andy shook her head. It was a long time ago, but that year had remained clear in her mind, like it had happened yesterday. ‘It was a long time ago, Lil. I didn’t ask for help, either. I lashed out, and then acted out. I put you in a terrible position with Christian. You’re here for me now, and that’s all that really matters.’

‘You couldn’t pay me to be twenty-three again.’

Andy laughed and screwed up her nose. ‘God, no.’

‘Do you think we’re doing much better now?’

‘You are,’ Andy said. ‘Give me a year and I’ll get back to you.’

Lily looked at her. ‘I think it might be sooner than you think.’

Andy smiled warmly at the vote of confidence. 'I missed this,' she said.

'Me too. It feels like you've come home.' 

Andy glanced around the apartment. She listened to the noises of people yelling merrily in the street as they made their way home and felt something settle deep inside herself. 'Yeah, it does.' 

Chapter Text

It had been inevitable, Andy supposed, as she climbed the stairs towards a familiar building, fiddling with the belt on her Phillip Lim belted pleat crop pants.

She looked good, she knew it. However, she had been experiencing an unusual level of anxiety since she had woken up this morning.

Everything was feeling a little too full circle. It was like going back to the beginning, tracing over her first footsteps in New York. Perhaps they would lead her in a different direction this time, or perhaps not.

She had met with the Executive Editor of a HarperCollins imprint on Monday and hadn’t felt this agitated.

The call about an opening at Elias-Clark came yesterday afternoon, and Lily told her she had bought it on herself that very first night back in New York by even letting the thought cross her mind.

She had hesitated when her recruiter had sent her the details, wondering if pursuing positions at Elias-Clark and other big name houses was the right choice for her right now. However, not much else was available, and attempting to survive in New York on minimum wage wasn’t something she was prepared to do. She had invested a good chunk of her life in publishing, she might as well reap the benefits.

As she walked through the front doors, her sense of déjà vu began to dissipate. The interior of the lobby had had a makeover in the last decade, and she couldn’t see a single familiar face as she approached the security desk to pick up a pass.

She took the elevator and allowed a small smile to play across her face as she remembered the scrambling her and Emily used to do to try and reach the twenty-fifth floor before Miranda when they were forbidden to share an elevator with her.

Things were certainly simpler then. She wasn’t required to use her brain, just follow orders.

The offices of Inception, a relatively new Elias-Clark imprint, were located on the twelfth floor and had all the markings of a modern office space, designed for millennial workers. As she walked in, she wondered if she should have taken Lily up on her offer to go shopping. People were flitting about in casual wear, piercings and tattoos unapologetically on display. She managed to locate the receptionist and was directed towards an office on the other side of a co-work space where two women were sitting with coffees and laptops, pouring over a sizeable manuscript.

She knocked on the open door, and a short young blonde popped up from behind the desk.

‘Sorry, just having an issue with the old network Finance insists on using. So many fucking cables. Come in and make yourself comfortable. It’s Andy, right?’

‘That’s me,’ Andy said, unsure as to whether she was supposed to close the door or not. She decided against it, and moved into the room.

The woman, Catlin Greer, was back under her desk for another couple of minutes before resurfaced and sat in her chair.

‘Phew, sorry about that. Pull up a chair and we’ll get started,’ Catlin fired off quickly, turning her attention to her laptop as Andy located a chair and moved it to the front of the desk.

‘Okay,’ Catlin continued, looking at her screen. ‘I’ll cut straight to the chase. We’re looking for someone experienced in the field who can come on as an Editor. I have some Junior’s who need more guidance, and your name was the first to cross my desk that I recognized and your LinkedIn had a bit of colour. Two years at the New York Mirror?’

Andy nodded back at the woman whom, she guessed, was at least two years her junior. ‘I graduated from Stanford with a degree in journalism, bu—

‘Expectations vs. reality?’ Catlin interrupted, the words flowing quickly from her mouth.

Andy shrugged. ‘That more or less sums it up, it was the pre-Trump era. I wanted to go into investigative reporting, there wasn’t a lot of money being funnelled that way then.’

‘So, publishing? Why did you leave New York? Looking at this you were searching for something low key. We’re definitely not that.’

‘I’ve done my time in smaller houses, I’m looki—

‘Your career trajectory doesn’t make sense,’ Catlin said, speaking over her again, waving at her laptop in apparent frustration at Andy’s life choices. ‘You had an internship with Penguin Random House, I’ve had assurances you’re good and I read that latest novel from Laia Lopez, so I know you’re good. You could have been running your own imprint by now – why go to Washington, of all places? I’m clearly missing something.’

Catlin pinned her with a look that said she wasn’t going to accept a pre-packaged answer.

‘My ex-husband got a promotion. Well, multiple promotions.’

Catlin’s eyes moved down to her empty left hand and she nodded in understanding, giving Andy a look that was filled with too much sympathy for Andy’s liking. ‘So you’re back, single, and ready for another crack?’

Catlin’s presumptuousness was beginning to grate. ‘I suppose you could put it like that,’ Andy gritted out.

‘Okay,’ Catlin said with a nod, pinning her eyes on Andy and looking for all the world like she had decided on something.

Andy was taken aback as Catlin sat back in her chair. ‘Okay?’ Andy asked, puzzled.

‘The job is yours, if you want it?’ Catlin said, before reaching over and hitting a button on her laptop.

‘That’s…it?’

‘Inception is an imprint for millennials, as you’ve probably read,’ Catlin explained, ‘but our entire budget for the next six months, and our reputation, is resting on a coffee table book about labradoodles than just happened to go viral. We need more credibility or we’re going to sink fast. You’ve edited some amazing releases, some which deserved more recognition than they got. I want you to bring your eye for good stories here, and I want it now. I just emailed the offer I had prepared, and I need an answer by end of day tomorrow.’

‘You haven’t bought anyone else in for this?’ Andy all but spluttered.

Catlin looked at her. ‘No, you were my first choice. I usually get what I want.’

Andy looked Catlin up and down and didn’t doubt it. She was wearing a tight steel blue dress which hugged every curve, designer unknown. Her hair and makeup were impeccable and—when she wasn’t focused on one of a million other things—her look was piercing and screamed ‘don’t fuck with me.’ She was direct, bluntly so, and now that the outcome of all of the personal questions was a positive one, Andy realised it was somewhat refreshing.

As she made her way back down to the lobby afterwards, everything felt a bit surreal. She had been in there for less than twenty minutes.

When the elevator doors pinged open, she headed across the marble floors, her mind already beginning to plan out the rest of her day.

Her head was elsewhere, so much so that she didn’t notice the woman walking briskly towards her until she ploughed straight into her.

‘Would you watch where you’re going!?’ she snapped at Andy, before looking in relief at the still intact Starbucks cup in her hand. She pushed past Andy with a huff, breaking into a run to catch the elevator doors which were about to close. She was impressively quick in heels.

Andy was certain she knew to which floor she was headed and chuckled to herself.

She turned back from the scene, shaking her head and walking back towards the entrance, dropping her security pass off on her way out.

As stepped outside, she pulled out her phone to start scanning the offer Catlin had sent through. It was attractive. Less than HarperCollins, but her interest was piqued. It would be something completely different. A millennial imprint would bring in fresh talent. Maybe it would help kick her out of her rut.

She nodded to herself, and looked up just in time to spot Miranda Priestly making her way up the stairs towards the doors she was standing idiotically in front of.

Miranda was rapidly dictating to an assistant who was furiously typing notes on her phone.

Andy felt a phantom pain in her wrist at the memory of similar mornings.

She looked about but there wasn’t exactly anywhere to hide, unless she made a run for it, so she moved off to the side and began to make her way down the stairs.

It had been more than a decade. She figured it would be a pretty safe assumption that Miranda wouldn’t recognize her, let alone remember who she was.

However, something must have drawn the older woman’s attention away from her assistant for a moment and Andy saw, no, felt her glance in her direction.

Miranda paused, her mouth parting slightly.

It was fleeting. If Andy hadn’t spent eight months in the trenches with her all those years ago, she probably wouldn’t have even noticed it. However, it was clear that Miranda knew exactly who she was, and certainly hadn’t expected to see her here, of all places.

Of course, shock wasn’t even enough to faze Miranda and her focus was back on the task at hand in an instant. She continued her dictation as she walked straight past Andy without acknowledgment, her assistant attempting to continue to take notes while simultaneously leaping ahead to open the door for her.

And then she was gone. Just like that.

Andy let out a breath she hadn’t realised she’d been holding. She had thought the likelihood of seeing Miranda here would have been minimal at best. It was a huge building, and Miranda had never been one to linger anywhere.

She was thankful that the whole thing had passed by without incident, as having a conversation with Miranda Priestly wasn’t something that was on her list for that morning, or any other morning for that matter.

However, there was little doubt that she had been spotted and she could only hope that Miranda’s curiosity in regards to her was minimal.

‘Shit,’ Andy groaned.

 

*

 

‘What do you mean she didn’t say anything?’ Lily asked, confused, as Andy recounted her morning to her later that evening. They were both sitting on Lily’s old sofa, Chinese takeaway between them.

‘Exactly that,’ Andy said, reaching for another pot sticker, ‘she didn’t say anything, but I know she recognized me.’

Lily rolled her eyes as she fell back with a groan, ‘Ugh, I forgot how much you could eat,’ she complained, hands across her stomach as closed her eyes and dropped her head onto the armrest. ‘And,’ she continued, eyes closed, ‘I think you’re being paranoid. It’s been, what? Eleven years? Fuck, I can’t even remember the assistant I had two years ago.’

‘I know it sounds insane, but I know her. She knew it was me.’

‘Maybe Elias-Clark wasn’t a good idea. You’re starting to lose your mind already and you’ve only just taken the job.’

Andy tossed a cushion her way, hitting her square in the face and laughing as she shot up and launched it back at her.

‘You’re probably right, you know,’ Andy said, as she caught the cushion mid-air.

‘Of course I am. Look, I know that time was a pretty defining one in your life, but Miranda probably couldn’t care less. I wouldn’t worry about it. Even if she did recognize you, what’s she going to do? Chase you down for a chat? Stalk you at your office? I highly doubt it.’

Andy fell back into the softness that was Lily’s sofa. ‘You’re right. Of course you’re right. I must be losing my mind,’ Andy groaned. ‘It’s something about being back here, and back at Elias-Clark. It’s stirring up old memories and messing with my head.’

‘Well, get your shit together Sachs, you start in five days. And until then, you’ve got five days to start something of your own. Do something. Anything. Write about Miranda-fucking-Priestly for all I care, just pump out something. I’ve seen this time and time again with artists. You just need to start again, and then it’ll start flowing.’

‘Maybe I should write about how she’s immortal,’ Andy said. ‘She looked exactly the same. How is that even possible?’

‘Drinking the blood of innocents?’

Andy snorted. ‘I wouldn’t be surprised. Her assistants looked as harried as ever. One of them almost took me out in the foyer.’

Lily shook her head in disbelief. ‘I don’t know how you did it.’

‘It’s Miranda,’ Andy said, not sure if she could convey her meaning. ‘There simply isn’t an alternative. She’s terrifying, sure, but there’s just something that makes you want to please her. She’s like your favourite teacher and your worst critic wrapped in the same person. You don’t just do it because you have to, eventually you do it because you want to.’

‘You make Runway sound like a cult, and Miranda it’s leader. You get that, right?’

Andy laughed. There was little doubt about that. To it’s followers, Runway was the only religion they followed. Andy had taken away an appreciation for fashion, certainly, but she wasn’t one to blindly follow any longer. The industry had a lot to answer for on a global scale, regardless of how she had come to appreciate the art. There was a reason her clothes were expensive, and it was to ensure they hadn’t been produced in a sweat shop. Well...mostly. 

‘You’re not planning on drinking the Kool-Aid again, are you?’ Lily asked.

‘Don’t worry, I’m not so easily overwhelmed these days.’

‘We’ve been talking about Miranda Priestly for the better part of the last half an hour,' Lily said, her tone all-knowing while she eyed her closely. 'Don’t be so damned sure.’

Chapter Text

It had been almost two months, and Andy was settling into Inception better than she had expected. She hadn’t quite adjusted to the loose scheduling and work patterns of her Junior Editors, but she was beginning to embrace them. 

Everyone had a side-gig these days. It wasn’t something that had caught on amongst her team members in Chicago, but she had one Influencer, a DJ and a fellow writer on her staff here.

Life did not begin and end at the office, and the freedom had given Andy space to ensure she dedicated at least two hours a day to writing. Not having to answer to anyone else, or work around their schedule helped immensely, and she felt a newfound appreciation for her single lifestyle.

She had fallen quickly back into article writing. It was something that came naturally, and without the restrictions of reporting, she could bring her own style into it. Her team directed her to different websites who took accepted submissions, and Nina, an intern who had been published in Slate a couple of months back was only too happy to show her the best approaches. 

She had been stagnating in Chicago, that much was obvious. Opportunities had been available if she hadn’t been so closed off to them. There wasn’t any money in it, that was for certain, but the life she felt coming back into her veins at doing what she loved again was something that couldn’t be bought and paid for.

‘Multipotentialites,’ Catlin said over coffee one morning.

‘Huh?’

‘That’s the buzzword. Jack-of-all-trades’, dipping their toes into everything. I haven’t found any benefit to side-gigs, just a healthy dose of exhaustion, but it seems to keep them all alive.’

‘That’s because you’re an Editor,’ Andy said, sipping her lukewarm, milky coffee, ‘you’ve found your calling.’

‘You’re an Editor too, a brilliant one at that. Barely two months and the kids are already beginning to look like real editors, not to mention bringing Laia with you. I didn’t think you were the poaching type.’ 

‘I didn’t poach,’ Andy corrected, ‘Laia simply preferred to work with me. They’ll get one more book out of her before she moves. I think Tim hopes he can persuade her otherwise before then.’ 

‘Whatever you say, Andy. I still think you’re a shark wrapped up in some fucking pricey clothing.’

Andy shrugged. ‘I’m good at what I do, but I don’t think I enjoy it the same way you do.’

‘Oh no,’ Catlin groaned, eyeing her with mild disgust. ‘It all makes sense now. The Mirror, journalism…not another writer. God help me. You never really gave up the dream, did you?’

Andy felt the hint of a blush creep into her cheeks.

Catlin rolled her eyes, but there was a smile there. ‘Look, I tell you what. You produce a manuscript worth publishing, and I’ll publish it for you. Then you can get it out of your system and stay here with me so we can take over the publishing world. I have three other imprints I plan on crushing this year, and we’ve only just begun.’

Andy grinned at the predatory look in Catlin’s eyes. Catlin wasn’t just an Editor; she was a competitive business woman. Her job was her life.

Andy wondered if it was her destiny to work beneath women born of the same ilk.

They were busy discussing the marketing for their latest release when Zainab, their receptionist, popped her head around the corner. ‘Hey, Andy?’

‘Yeah, Z? Shoot.’

‘Do you know anyone up at Runway? Someone there wants to speak with you. They didn’t leave a name, just an extension to call back, ‘when you’re ready.’ Their words, not mine. It was weird.’

Andy felt her stomach drop. 

‘Runway?’ Catlin asked, staring at Andy. ‘That would be good marketing if we can get one of our titles featured. Have you been doing some extra networking behind the scenes that I don’t know about?’  

‘Not exactly,’ Andy said weakly. She had been stupid. Miranda had let her get comfortable before she dropped the guillotine.

Elias-Clark was her domain, and Andy should have known better than to think she could enter with paying her dues.

‘Andy, are you okay?’ Catlin asked, ‘you look a bit pale.’

Zainab was looking at her as well.

The imprint was a small team of eight, and oversharing, Andy had realised shortly after she started, was the team motto. The guise of professionalism was reserved for outside of their cosy office space with it’s bean bags, pool table and extremely expensive coffee machine.

‘I may have left something off my resume…’ Andy began.

‘No way,’ Catlin breathed.

Zainab stared at her disbelief.

‘I can’t believe it,’ Catlin continued. ‘It’s not possible. You? Well, that explains the clothes, but holy mother of fuck I can’t actually believe it.’

‘I Googled you,’ Zainab said. ‘No articles came up from Runway. Not a single one.’

‘I wasn’t writing then; it was when I first came to New York,’ Andy explained. ‘I needed a job, and one came up. As an assistant.’

‘To whom?’ Catlin demanded.

 ‘To Miranda Priestly,’ she admitted, her head sinking into her hands. 

Zainab gave a low whistle of surprise.

‘You don’t actually think that was Miranda Priestly on the phone, do you?’ Catlin said, aghast. 

Andy shook her head. ‘Probably an assistant,’ she spoke into her hands, not ready to face this reality just yet. ‘But there was only one other person I knew from Runway aside from Miranda who would leave me a message like that, and he works at Alexander McQueen, London now.’

Catlin groaned. ‘I can’t afford to lose you, Sachs. How the hell did you manage to get on the wrong side of the most terrifying woman in New York? I have bigger balls than you and I do my best to stay as far away from Miranda and her sycophants as possible.’

Zainab pulled up a chair and sat down, her face still coloured with disbelief as she stared at Andy. ‘I’m struggling to imagine you as one of those bitchy women from Runway.’

‘I wasn’t one of those bitchy women, that was part of the reason I got hired I think. Although, I’m not sure if Miranda made the same mistake twice.’

‘What did you do?’ Zainab asked.

‘It’s a very long story, and one that ends with me somehow ending up right where I started, just in a different office space.’

‘Well that was frustratingly vague,’ Catlin said with an eye roll. ‘I’m going to want better than that at Friday night drinks, but for now, what are you going to do?’

‘The only thing I can do. Call her back.’

 

*

 

Twenty minutes later and Andy was still staring at the post-it note from Zainab that was stuck to her desk. It wasn’t really necessary seeing as the number and the extension was for Miranda’s direct line, which apparently hadn’t changed in over a decade.

Miranda may have liked to be unpredictable towards those around her, but she had always held a certain dislike for change.

It was late-afternoon and things were winding up for the day in their office. She figured now was as good a time as any to make the call. Putting it off any longer was simply going make her more anxious.

She popped her neck and picked up her desk phone to dial the number, reminding herself in the process that she was an adult woman, not a bumbling twenty-something any longer. She was a successful professional and had every right to be here. 

‘Andrea,’ a familiar voice said down the line, in lieu of a greeting. Any remaining hope that the call hadn’t been from Miranda was immediately crushed. 

Andy groaned internally when she realised she had called from her office line. Miranda had known it was her before she had even picked up the phone. ‘Hi, Miranda,’ she replied as neutrally as possible.

‘Ah, so it is you,’ Miranda said. It was a faux exclamation, laden with sarcasm, and Andy could tell Miranda was just warming up.

‘Now, imagine my surprise,’ Miranda began, ‘when, scarcely a few weeks ago, I was walking into my building and I thought I saw Andrea Sachs, intrepid reporter, hanging around outside. I thought to myself, ‘what on Earth would Andrea Sachs be doing at Elias-Clark? I must be mistaken.’

A very unpleasant feeling began in the pit of Andy’s stomach and began moving through her. It wasn’t unfamiliar. In fact, it was the exact feeling Miranda had given her almost every day she had been in her employ: a healthy mixture of terror and anxiety which mixed around in the pit of the stomach and made her feel like she was going to puke at any moment. She had learned to live in a state of constant alertness, body fuelled by adrenalin when she had been at Runway, but she wasn’t accustomed to it any longer. She tried to swallow against the tide, but felt her palms beginning to sweat.

‘Then, just last week,’ Miranda continued, oblivious to Andy’s impending meltdown, ‘I was having a pleasant conversation with the head of the Digital Imprints division and he simply couldn’t help but rave at the turn around Inception had had since their new Editor, Andy, had come on board. Now, that seemed like far too much of a coincidence. However, I was still certain I must have heard him wrong, for you see, the Andrea Sachs I knew had no interest in being a book editor, and especially not at an Elias-Clark subsidiary. For you see, the last time she was employed by Elias-Clark, she thought walking out of her job during an overseas event she was attending at the expense of Elias-Clark was acceptable. So, I thought, just to satisfy my own curiosity, I would call and confirm that the new Senior Editor of Inception wasn’t the Andrea Sachs I knew, because otherwise that would mean Andrea Sachs thought she could blithely walk back into this building without me finding out about it, and surely she would know me much better than that. And yet, here you are.’

Andy sunk down in her chair and gulped. She was so screwed. She had highly overestimated her ability to handle Miranda. She might as well have been twenty-three again as she felt herself beginning to fall apart under the veiled threats delivered precisely in that soft, yet threatening tone.

‘What exactly was your plan, Andrea?’ Miranda pressed. ‘Pray you would remain insignificant enough that you would never be brought to my attention?’

Andy wiped the back of a shaky hand along her brow before answering. ‘To be honest Miranda, I thought it unlikely we would ever cross paths. It’s a large building,’ she said, working hard to keep her voice steady as she imagined the various ways Miranda could get her fired.

‘You are aware that HR maintains a copy of all previous employee files, and that when you were entered back into the system they contacted me, as there was no letter of resignation on file and no reason for termination listed.’

She really hadn’t thought this out at all. Although she wondered why they hadn’t contacted Catlin. To be fair, they may have, but Catlin had a tendency to avoid HR as their calls usually involved mandatory staff training she didn’t want to attend.

‘You used to be smarter than this, if I recall correctly,’ Miranda said, and Andy swore she heard a hint of amusement in her tone. Miranda was enjoying this.

Andy straightened up in her chair, internally admonishing herself for getting her so worked up. Miranda wasn’t her boss. Miranda had no power to fire her. If she had, she would have been gone by now. No, Miranda was simply fucking with her. Why, she had no idea, but the woman had always taken a sick kind of pleasure in watching people panic around her.

Not today.

‘I was simply under the assumption you wouldn’t care, Miranda. I was only an assistant after all. Barely worth mentioning, or so I was led to believe,’ she replied. 

That gained her a moments pause.

What followed was a light, breathy chuckle down the line. ‘So indignant, Andrea. I was merely making an observation.’

Andy spluttered. Observation my ass, she thought.

‘My four thirty has just arrived,’ Miranda said before Andy could recover herself enough to respond. ‘Have your assistant call mine and set up a meeting within the next two weeks. I have something I wish to discuss with you.’

‘I don’t have an assis—

The line went dead.

Andy pulled the phone away from her ear and gaped at it.

She was severely out of practice when it came to dealing with the whirlwind that was life around Miranda. She felt strung out. In the space of five minutes she had gone from being terrified for her job at Elias-Clark to terrified about staying.

Miranda wanted a meeting.

With her.

It made no sense whatsoever. Unless she simply wanted to make Andy suffer in the unknown for the next couple of weeks while she found a way to get her removed from her post. It wasn’t beyond the realm possibility. Miranda could be unbelievably petty when she chose to be.

Andy put the phone down and took a deep breath.

She had survived the first round. She could do this. She needed to treat Miranda like all other overzealous Senior managers on a power trip and stand her ground.

She picked up the phone again and dialled Runway. ‘Hi, this is Andy Sachs from Inception on the twelfth floor. I need you to get me on the books with Miranda in the next two weeks, she is expecting this meeting.’

Chapter Text

Andy pushed through the doors of Runway determinably. She had spent the entire morning reminding herself that she would, under no circumstances, allow Miranda to run rings around her again.

While flicking through her closet that morning, she had decided on Ted Baker. The body-con dress clung to every curve, the top a solid black with three quarter sleeves, the rest featuring one of the more subdued floral patterns from last year’s collection. It was cinched together with a black belt and was more impressive than anything she had been wearing to the office lately. Brooklyn and Inception had been wearing off on her on clothing choices, but today she needed every weapon in her arsenal and to speak a language that Miranda knew all too well. 

The meeting was at Runway, which hadn't surprised her. Miranda clearly wanted to have the upper hand in whatever game she was playing. However, Andy was determined not to be thrown off by her surroundings. Her five and a half inch heels made her look like an Amazon. Catlin had watched her with a smirk on her face all morning, asking her whether she was going to a meeting or to war. It felt a lot like the latter.

As she approached reception, she noted that the woman was intimidated enough that the bored look on her face dropped away immediately.

It was precisely the effect she was going for.

‘Andy Sachs,’ she said. ‘I have a one o’clock with Miranda.’

The receptionist scrambled to pull open Miranda’s calendar. ‘Conference room two. I’ll just call one of her assistants and have them take you.’

‘No need, please tell Miranda I’m here,’ Andy said, turning to her left and making her way through familiar halls before she had time to protest.

The interior design of Runway had changed little; white walls, cleans lines and glass continued to feature heavily. It meant she could peer into offices and spaces as she followed a familiar path to the conference room just down the hall from Miranda’s office. It was one of only two closed conference rooms on the floor. Whatever this meeting was about, Miranda wanted it to be kept away from prying eyes.

Runway still hummed with that underlying sense of urgency that it always had, but it something new to experience it from the outside. It no longer related to her. Someone ran past her with a rack of clothes and she watched them with a kind of detached amusement.

When she reached the conference room she let herself in. The door was unlocked, and the room looked otherwise untouched, so she highly doubted Miranda was going to force her to sit through a PowerPoint presentation of her failures. She moved towards the twelve seat conference table and leaned against, arms crossed as she faced the door and waited for Miranda to arrive.

She didn’t have to wait long.

At precisely 12:50 p.m. Miranda entered the conference room, a hint of approval gracing her features as she found Andy already waiting, and apparently adequately dressed.

‘I’m glad to see you have forgotten everything Nigel and I taught you,’ she said as she moved to take a seat at the head of the conference table and waved Andy into the one to her left.

‘I may have had a therapist help me forget your Starbucks order, but otherwise I think everything else remained in tact.’

Miranda raised her brow slightly at the retort. 'Witty,' she said, her tone just shy of scathing. 

Andy decided to segue quickly before Miranda changed her mind about this meeting and denied her the satisfaction of her curiosity. ‘How is Nigel?'

‘Flourishing, of course,’ Miranda said. ‘McQueen was a much better fit for him than James Holt International,’ she continued, piercing Andy with a knowing stare. 

Andy didn’t rise to the bait. She didn’t have any interest in going over the past with Miranda. She had been young and naïve, that much had been made perfectly clear to her over the last few years.

‘That’s good to hear. Emily?’

‘British Runway, as she always dreamed,’ Miranda said, her expression showing she was getting bored of the small talk. ‘And what about you, hmm? What on Earth possessed you to leave New York? You haven’t progressed anywhere near as far as I had expected. You’re what, Andrea? Thirty-one?’

‘Thirty-four,’ Andy corrected, feeling a hint of insecurity arising. She didn’t want to discuss this. Especially not with Miranda, of all people. She had enough regrets of her own to dwell on without someone pointing out her innumerable failures.

Miranda eyed her carefully. ‘I warned you,’ she said, her tone all-knowing before she moved on. ‘What’s done is done, I suppose. Now, I want to hear about your editorial experience, and make it brief.’

Andy felt like she was suddenly in a job interview. She gave Miranda a quick run down of her experience, and the names of her most successful titles before pausing. ‘Miranda, what am I doing here?’

‘I need an Editor,’ Miranda said simply.

Andy was floored momentarily, before she burst out laughing. ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’

Miranda didn’t look amused.

‘No offence Miranda, but there’s no way I’m leaving Inception for Runway.’

‘You would never be allowed to step foot back into this office, Andrea. I haven’t forgotten your little temper tantrum in Paris. You know I don’t forgive easily. There are no second chances at Runway.’

Andy looked confused. ‘Then why am I here?’

‘Runway doesn’t require an Editor, I do.’

Andy felt like world had titled on it’s axis, and she was suddenly standing in Bizarro World. It certainly felt like everything had flipped. ‘Excuse me?’

Miranda glared at her, her hatred for repeating herself clearly still well entrenched.

‘Sorry, sorry’ Andy said, holding up her hands in surrender and giving herself a moment to process. She sorted through what she knew. Despite how good she looked, Miranda was late in her career, she had requested a closed door meeting, no assistant in sight to take notes. There had been that rumour of a heart attack last year, but Andy had thought it was merely tabloid fodder as it hadn’t shown up in any later reports. Maybe there was more to that than she thought. Suddenly it clicked. ‘You’re writing your memoirs,’ Andy said with a slight hint of awe.   

Miranda looked at her like you would a dog who had just achieved a basic trick.

Andy had to ask. ‘Why me?’

‘I’ve been through 6 different Editors already and they’ve all proven to be completely incompetent.' 

‘That doesn’t answer my question,’ Andy fired back. ‘There are better editors out there than me. You said it yourself, I’m thirty-four and behind in the game. My Executive editor is at least two years younger than me and brilliant, just to give you an example. Why me?' 

‘That,’ Miranda said, waving her finger in the direction of her mouth.

‘Huh?’ Andy said dumbly.

‘That mouth of yours. I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday. Always speaking your mind, regardless of how much trouble it gets you into.’

Andy winced. ‘It’s a family trait.’

‘Yes, and unfortunately for me it has meant that you, of all people, stand amongst a very short list of people who are prepared to be honest with me, to their own detriment. I need someone who isn’t afraid to speak their mind around me for this.’

‘Well, I wouldn’t go that far,’ Andy said.

Miranda raised an eyebrow. ‘Still playing the sweet and innocent game are we, Andrea? Trying to please everyone? I had hoped you would have shed that skin a long time ago. Perhaps that explains the delay in your development.’

Andy felt her face harden in anger at the accusation. It hit a little too close to home.

‘Much better,’ Miranda smirked.

Andy bristled, she was getting tired of the mind games. ‘What are you proposing?’

‘Simple really, I want you to work with me throughout the editing process. I’ll pay you your worth, of course. I don’t have a significant amount of time to invest in it right now. A couple of evenings per month at the leisure of my schedule, and your own, at most.’

With you?’ Andy repeated.

Miranda looked at her like she was an idiot. ‘That’s how the book editing process works, does it not?’

‘Not always, and frankly I didn’t expect you to want a collaborative process. I’ll need a chance to read the manuscript before we have the first meeting.’

‘Once you sign a non-disclosure, I’ll give you access.’

That stung more than it should have. No one had ever accused her of being untrustworthy.

Miranda rolled her eyes. ‘It’s standard protocol, Andrea, not a personal slight against your character.’

Andy shrugged it off, knowing she was probably reading into more than she should simply because of who she was speaking to. ‘Do you have a publisher yet?’

‘No, I’m still considering my options.’

‘I want it,’ Andy said, recovering quickly.

‘Excuse me?’  

‘When it’s complete, no matter when that may be, I want you to allow me to publish it.' 

‘You want me to kick-start your flailing career?’ Miranda said, with a hint of surprise at, what Andy assumed, was her apparent gall.

‘My career isn’t flailing or I wouldn’t be here. You must have some faith in my editing abilities. I simply want you to give me the opportunity to take the book to an imprint of my choosing.’

‘Inception?’ Miranda asked, brow raised.

‘Possibly.’

Miranda’s lips pursed. ‘It’s a millennial imprint.’

‘And you control the clothing choices of every millennial in the world. You’re ageless, Miranda, and the book will sell regardless of who’s name is on it. This is an opportunity to help fund and support new talent, something you’ve always strived to do at Runway.’

‘How do you know the head of the Publishing Division won’t take it away from you and give it to a more established imprint?’

‘They won’t, if you threaten to take the book outside of Elias-Clark.’

Miranda looked her dead in the eye. ‘And what makes you think I would do that?’ she said, voice low in warning.

Andy chuckled. ‘Because you hate to be controlled. Irv Ravitz was ousted as CEO less than eighteen months after he attempted to de-seat you from Runway. I doubt that was a coincidence.’

Miranda pondered her for a full thirty seconds. ‘You should have never left New York,’ she said bluntly.

Andy shrugged. ‘What’s done is done. But, perhaps, some things can be undone, in a roundabout kind of way.’

‘Hmm,’ Miranda said, continuing to look at her with those piercing blue eyes. ‘I’ll have the paperwork drawn up and sent to your office. I suggest you have a lawyer look everything over.’

Andy nodded and began to get to her feet. ‘As soon as everything’s signed, I want access to the manuscript and a full two weeks to go over it before we meet.’

‘Fine,’ Miranda agreed, mirroring her action as she pushed her chair out from the table and stood.

‘Okay,’ Andy said, holding out her hand to seal the deal.

Miranda eyed it before reaching over and gripping it firmly.

‘I can see myself out,’ Andy said, before turning and striding from the room.

It wasn’t until she was in the elevator and half way back to her office that she realised neither of them had questioned whether or not they would be working together on this.

The meeting had flowed swiftly and efficiently, much like their exchanges had in the latter part of Andy’s tenure as Miranda’s assistant had.

She had walked straight back into the lion’s den, willingly, and for the life of her she couldn’t understand why.

 

*

 

‘How was your day?’ Lily asked from the sofa when she got home that evening.

‘It was...’ Andy paused, ‘good. It was good.’

‘You don’t sound entirely sure about that one,’ Lily said, her head titling in question.

‘Yeah, it was just a bit strange,’ Andy chuckled, thinking back. The meeting with Miranda was on the tip of her tongue, but she bit it back. She had yet to tell Lily that Miranda had been in contact with her. Lily had her opinions when it came to Miranda, and Andy wasn't sure she could explain what had happened in that conference room this afternoon in a way that she would understand. Lily would assume she was pushed into it, that Miranda had threatened her livelihood, which was something Andy herself had expected. 

But that wasn't it, was it? No, she had fought for that book today. She had fought Miranda. She had pushed her into agreeing to a deal from which Andy benefitted considerably in the long run, perhaps not financially but certainly reputation wise. Today she felt like a woman who worked in publishing, and for the first time in a long time, she had truly enjoyed it. She only wished she could have shared it with Catlin. Unfortunately, this project was going to be under lock and key until Miranda deemed otherwise. 

'Hey,' Lily called out. 'Earth to Andy,' she said, clicking her fingers.

Andy shook her head to clear her thoughts. 'Sorry, I'm a million miles away tonight. I think I’m going to try get some writing done – late dinner okay with you?’

Lily picked up her wine glass and waved her book. ‘I’ve got all the time in the world.’

Andy smiled at her and then headed to her room. She dropped her bags on the floor and headed to her desk, opening her personal laptop.

She felt different, more settled in her bones. Confident. That's what it was. Today had made her feel more confident.

She pulled up a blank document and felt a small smile crawl over her face. It was time. 

Chapter One, she typed.

Chapter Text

It was after eight in the evening on a Tuesday, about three weeks later, when Andy found herself standing outside Miranda’s office with a hulking manuscript under her arm.

They had spoken briefly on the phone once or twice in the interim, but otherwise Andy had been focused on Inception, writing and then looking over Miranda’s drafts, usually in the comfort of her bed.

‘You’re late,’ Miranda said, not bothering to look up as she stepped through the door.

‘I left a message with your assistant,’ Andy said. ‘Do you have a space we can work?’

Miranda looked up from the Book, closing it as she did so. ‘Here will be fine. Close the door,’ she said as she cleared a space in the middle of her desk.

Andy did as she was told and sat down across from Miranda, placing her copy of the drafts between them.

‘Well?’ Miranda demanded.

‘Do you want me to just…’ Andy waved vaguely in the direction of the manuscript.

‘Do your job? Yes, and some time this century, preferably,’ Miranda said, her eyes drifting to the Book and her mind to other things she could be doing with her time, apparently.

Andy resisted the urge to roll her eyes and she reached over and opened the manuscript to the first chapter before pushing it towards Miranda, pulling her focus back to the task at hand.

She crossed her legs and leaned back, attempting to look relaxed before she opened with some things she knew Miranda wasn’t going to like. She was dressed down today, non-threatening in a pair of jeans and a simple white linen button-down. She took a breath. ‘It’s a good overall picture of your career to date,’ she said. ‘But that’s about it.’

Miranda attention snapped to her at that, but her face was unreadable.  

‘Look,’ Andy continued. ‘I don’t know what the others you bought in told you, but it’s a memoir Miranda, not your Wikipedia page. The earlier chapters are good, they have some heart, but later you sound like you’re simply rattling off key moments in your career. The stories in there are okay, but I’m sure you have better. Not to mention the complete absence of anything prior to your arrival in New York.’

‘This is not some trashy tell-all,’ Miranda snapped, ‘I’m not Carrie Fisher.’

‘I’m not saying you have to rattle off a list of your sordid affairs, but when people buy an autobiography they want to read it with your voice in their head, they want to hear what led you to fashion, what drove you to become as successful as you are. When I read this, I don’t feel like you’re in it. You’re too controlled. You’re going to have to let little bit of yourself bleed into this.’

‘You want me to look soft,’ Miranda said, the disdain clear in her tone as she leaned forward in her chair to glare at Andy. ‘Who do you think you’re working with, Andrea? I don’t know what’s gotten into your silly little head while you’ve been flitting all over the country wasting your time doing God only knows what with your life, but I am not that woman. Maybe you should try revisiting your memories a little more closely.’

Andy had prepared herself for a vicious reaction, but she had forgotten how merciless Miranda could be. She sat up and met her gaze, letting the words roll off her. ‘I don’t think you’re some redemption story for successful women, I wouldn’t be so stupid as to make that mistake,’ Andy said directly, ‘however, I don’t think you’re entirely heartless either and I have the receipts to back me up. Whatever heart you have, you need to show some of it. People climb all over each other just to get the opportunity to work with you, and I think there’s more to that than your celebrity and your status.’

‘I think you overestimate humanity,’ Miranda said. ‘Everyone always wants something, Andrea. Even you.’

Andy sighed. ‘Hey, I’m not going to deny that I negotiated a good deal out of this. But you hired me. I highly doubt you’d respect this working relationship if I had simply acquiesced to your requests. I’m not twenty-three anymore Miranda.’

‘If only,’ Miranda said, ‘I think I preferred you then.’

Andy resisted the urge to roll her eyes. ‘Look, think of it like this. You could have this published posthumously if you don’t want to be around for the fall out, but at least leave behind a story that people find inspiring – that your daughters find inspiring. Rupert Murdoch has spent years painting a very specific picture of you. This is your opportunity to change the narrative.’

‘What if I don’t want to change it. What if I want to solidify it?’

‘Then do that, but this current draft does neither,’ Andy said bluntly. ‘It’s boring. Something you are most certainly not.’

Miranda titled her head slightly towards the heavens. ‘I asked for this,’ she said to no one in particular.

‘Yes, you did,’ Andy confirmed. ‘So let’s just start at the beginning and see where we can bring a little light in.’

Miranda rolled her eyes, but reached for a pen and paper to take notes as Andy directed her attention to the opening page.

It was pushing eleven p.m. when Andy’s back had finally had enough of leaning across Miranda’s desk to point things out to her. Not to mention she was starving.

She reached into her bag for a cereal bar, her stomach grumbling at the thought of it.

‘Do you have any idea how much sugar is in that?’ Miranda said in disgust.

‘Yes, but not of us have the ability to go hours without eating,’ Andy said a little sullenly as she popped her back out with a grimace.

Miranda leant back in her seat, her face showing little sign of being tired. ‘I suppose they have you on one of those new-age, flexible work schedules,’ Miranda said, her distaste quite clear, ‘along with that completely unprofessional dress code,’ she said, waving at Andy’s clothing.

‘That must be some kind of record,’ Andy chuckled. ‘It’s taken you over three hours to tear apart my outfit.’

‘Well, I didn’t need you sulking about it for the entire evening. I recall your ability to look like a kicked puppy for hours on end.’

‘I never did!’

Miranda raised her brow to challenge that statement, and Andy sunk down further into her chair. ‘Maybe once or twice,’ she grudgingly admitted.

Miranda shook her head, a barely discernable smile hinting around the edges of her mouth.

Andy grinned at her before taking another bite of her cereal bar.

Miranda removed her glasses and brushed a hand through her hair. ‘I think that will be enough for tonight,’ she said, her voice quiet even in the empty office.

Andy nodded, crumpling up the wrapper in her hand and launching it at the trashcan next to Miranda’s desk. ‘Let me know when you’ve made the changes we discussed tonight, and then I’ll give the first two chapters a thorough going over and send the changes to you for approval. If you’re happy with having a working document for the two of us, as I mentioned, it’ll make it easier for the initial revisions.’

‘If you insist.’

‘I won’t jump in and out, but when you want me to go over something or check something, just let me know. This is your book, you have control over this, I’m just here to help guide and mould,’ Andy said as she reached into her bag and pulled out a business card before flipping it over and jotting down her personal number and passing it to Miranda. ‘If you need to chat outside office hours,’ Andy said by way of explanation, before reaching for her coat and pulling it on.

Miranda packed up her notes, closed her own copy of her manuscript and pushed it to the side before reaching for her glasses and the Book once more.

Andy watched her in disbelief, but thought better of mentioning anything. She leaned down and picked her bag up off the floor. ‘Well, I’ll see you soon then?’

Miranda simply nodded as she flipped the Book open.

Andy shook her head a little before turning on her heel and walking towards the door,

 

*

 

Miranda peered up from the Book and watched as Andrea departed, the younger woman shaking her head a little as she headed towards the elevator.

When she passed around the corner, Miranda closed the Book once more knowing she wouldn’t be able to concentrate on it anyway.

She picked up Andrea’s business card and spun it absently in her hands. Andrea Sachs, Senior Editor, Inception. She had grown into her own, there was little doubt about that. The woman was born for publishing. Miranda had seen it when she had worked as her assistant.

Oh not publishing per se, but something better. She hadn’t given Andrea a reference for the Mirror in the hope she would become a journalist at some sub-par newspaper for the rest of her days. In fact, she had done it so she would do the exact opposite. She had had a feeling that the realities of real-world journalism would come crashing down for Andrea, and that hopefully it would lead her in an alternate direction.

She hadn’t expected her to leave New York over it. That had been unfortunate.

However, the fire was still there. The intellect, the drive, the ambition. It had remained intact in spite of whatever had happened in her life since she had stormed out in Paris.

Miranda stopped spinning the card and looked at the personal number that was so readily provided to her. She had needed to know. Ever since that day she had seen her on the steps of the building, she had needed to know what had become of Andrea Sachs. That girl had been the closest she had ever come to closely mentoring one of her assistants, and it still grated her that she had dropped the ball somehow. She had miscalculated, certain that Andrea was more cutthroat than she appeared.

She hadn’t expected to bring her onto this project of all things, but as soon as she had trawled through her LinkedIn profile she couldn’t seem to get the idea out of her head. She had interviewed four new editors in that space of time and none of them seemed to fit. She didn’t trust them, although why on Earth she should feel a sense of trust towards Andrea was beyond her. Perhaps it was the unwavering loyalty she had once displayed. Perhaps she hoped she would see that again. 

And there was certainly hope; tonight had been a revelation.

They still worked together just as well as they had back then, but the additional years seemed to put them in better stead. Andrea would push her where she needed to be pushed, and there was a surprising level of comfort in that.

Miranda looked at her manuscript and resisted the urge to throw it in the bin and start from scratch. She despised mediocrity, and having it pointed out to her was unpleasant. She had pulled Runway from obscurity and turned it into the world’s leading fashion publication and yet somehow she was incapable of writing something of worth about a subject in which she was the only expert.

She rubbed her chest absently, the memory of why she had decided to start this project still far too fresh. It hadn’t been major, but it had been enough to scare her and remind her of her mortality. She took good care of herself, quit smoking in the eighties before everyone else did, and somehow she was the one having a myocardial infarction. Stress was the best explanation they could give her, and an excess of red meat. It was true that she had been working more since the girls moved out for college. There simply wasn’t any reason for her to be at home. She had never slept well, and so her hours at the office had steadily increased.

Miranda pulled the manuscript towards her and opened it to the first page.

There, written in Andrea’s untidy scrawl was ‘Childhood??’

Miranda slammed the book closed on that and started packing up her things. It was time to go home.

Chapter Text

Over the next couple of months Andy found herself up in Miranda’s office only a handful of times. Finding time allowances within Miranda’s schedule had proven as challenging as expected. Yet, during that time, Miranda had been updating her draft chapters and taking Andy’s advice on a few points, if not all.

Baby steps, Andy had thought one evening, rolling her eyes at her laptop as she found that Miranda had summarily ignored all of her suggestions on the manuscript from the previous evening.

The time stamps on Miranda’s edits were erratic, and Andy had no idea how the woman functioned from day to day. She appeared to be up working at all hours of the night.

Thankfully, things did seem to be taking shape. There was more colour than before and it was like New York of the seventies and eighties was finally leaping off the page in the initial chapters. Miranda had an eye for detail Andy wished she possessed. She could describe an office, a street, a dress in a way that made certain you could see it in your mind exactly as it had been in that one moment in history.

Her description of meeting her first husband Samuel in a rundown bar in the lower eastside when she had been working as an assistant at Vogue had drawn Andy in, and a picture of Miranda when she was younger was finally beginning to emerge. Focused, yes, but willing to let her hair down, drink cheap beer and be wooed by a dashing law student from Columbia.

However, there was still one glaring absence in the memoir: Miranda’s childhood. There was no mention of where she was born, where she grew up or who raised her. In fact, there wasn’t a single mention of a Priestly family member outside of her daughters and her ex-husbands in the entire manuscript.

It was as though Miranda Priestly hadn’t existed before 1975.

Andy didn’t need to bring it up to know it was clearly a topic Miranda didn’t wish to discuss. However, she knew she couldn’t avoid it forever. At some point they were going to have to broach the subject. Despite allowing Andy to read over her drafts, Miranda hadn’t exactly ‘opened up’ in their first meeting, or the meetings that had followed. They had settled into working comfortably together, and yet most of their discussions seemed to be Andy poking at Miranda, trying to get her to expand on details which were clearly absent from her narrative. It was like trying to draw blood from a stone, and Andy knew things needed to change if they were going to move forward and make any real progress.

She needed to get inside her head.

While there was little doubt she knew Miranda in a professional sense, she had very little insight into the woman behind the façade of Runway’s editor-in-chief.

Andy mulled that problem over as she rode the elevator up to Runway. It was a Monday, of all days. Not exactly the best time of week for advanced problem solving.

As she entered the offices she was surprised to note that one of Miranda’s assistants was still waiting at her desk. Miranda keeping her assistants late wasn’t surprising, but the twin minions who usually flanked her office door had been absent on every previous occasion. The woman looked bored out of her mind, and Andy wondered whether she had looked just as young when she had occupied that same seat.

‘Do you have an appointment?’ the assistant demanded as she approached, sitting immediately at attention.

Andy recognized her as the same assistant who had almost knocked her over in the foyer of Elias-Clark. ‘Miranda’s expecting me. Andrea Sachs.’

‘You’re not in her calendar,’ she replied, her eyes drawing up and down Andy and apparently finding her wanting. 

Andy rolled her eyes and locked her gaze on the woman sitting behind her desk a few feet away, watching the entire exchange with a hint of amusement.

‘Could you call off your guard dog, please?’ Andy called out.

‘Cecily,’ Miranda said, barely raising her voice, ‘next time, I suggest you find out who you’re speaking to before opening that idiot mouth of yours. Let Andrea through, and get out of here before I begin to reconsider your position here,’ she said, her tone clear with the implied threat.

Andy watched as Cecily’s face paled. ‘Yes, Miranda,’ she squeaked.

Andy knew what she had to live through but she couldn’t bring herself to feel sorry for her.

As Cecily scuttled away, Andy made her way into Miranda’s office. ‘Did you keep her here an extra two hours just so she could terrorize me on the way in?’

‘Yes, actually,’ Miranda said, getting to her feet and waving Andy towards the left hand side of her office where a spacious coffee table already held her laptop and a hardcopy of her manuscript. Andy sighed gently in relief as she took in the cosy space, penned in by a couple of luxury brand sofas.

It was entirely dependent on the day where Miranda decided she wanted to work. Days she was sharp or pissed off, she opted for her desk. Days she was more relaxed, or weary, they ended up here. Andy preferred it. They seemed to get more done on these days, Miranda more receptive to her prodding.

‘I kept her here,’ Miranda continued as she took a seat and Andy joined her, ‘because two comments reached my ears about her attitude this morning alone. She’s let the position go to her head, but that problem is now solved.’  

‘You always were creative.’

‘The lessons I impart are rarely forgotten, wouldn’t you agree?’

‘Yes, the terror with which they’re instilled tend to ensure there is little chance of ever forgetting them. I think the entire history of cerulean is still crystal clear in my memory.’

Miranda titled her head in thought for a moment before something clicked and she looked back with amusement. ‘Whatever happened to that hideous sweater?’

‘I donated it to a homeless person my way home from work that day.’  

‘I’m surprised they didn’t give it back,’ Miranda said mockingly, her face relaxed as she leaned back into the sofa, the day seeming to bleed away. 

It threw Andy off a little, as it always did. However, each time it happened she was sure they were making some kind of progress, that Miranda was beginning to trust her more, if only a little. She grinned in response. ‘Where do you feel like starting this evening?’

‘On the digital version if you don’t mind,’ Miranda said, leaning over to open her laptop and pull the coffee table closer.

As evening drifted along peacefully, they reworked bits and pieces of the early chapters. Andy had left the narrative open in a way that would allow for one or two additional chapters, or a prologue of sorts, with minimal work. Miranda had either failed to notice or had decided to ignore it. She suspected the latter.

After a couple of hours her back began to protest, so she slid to the floor to stretch her legs underneath the coffee table and more readily point things out to Miranda.

‘You need to see a chiropractor,’ Miranda said absently as she retyped a sentence.

‘Not much they can do, it’s an old horse riding injury. I just don’t do well in the same position for long.’

‘Buy a standing desk.’

Andy stared at her, horrified.

‘You’re such a child,’ Miranda said, turning her attention away from the screen. ‘Would you like to work up at the desk?’

Andy shook her head. ‘No, this is more relaxed. Plus, those chairs in front of your desk are too low, I just end up leaning more.’

Miranda looked as though she was about to agree with Andy, and then suddenly caught herself. Andy watched as her face changed, like she had just realised that an employee was sprawled out on her office floor, chatting amiably with her. ‘I think you’re beginning to get a little too relaxed in my presence,’ Miranda said, her tone more closed off than it had been moments ago.

Andy sighed internally. At this rate she would be waiting until hell froze over for Miranda to drop those walls she had so firmly in place. Every time she thought they were getting somewhere, they somehow ended up right back where they started. ‘This is book editing Miranda; the result is the same whether I do it from the floor or a desk. If you’re unhappy with our progress, I’m happy to point out exactly what’s slowing us down.’

Miranda’s eyes flashed dangerously. Andy had chosen a stupid position from which to start a fight with one of the most dangerous women in New York publishing, her ass on the floor, but she was getting tired of skirting the issue.

‘Do go on,’ Miranda said, in a tone which suggested the best course of action would be to do otherwise.

‘We’re trying to complete a manuscript about your life, Miranda,’ Andy said, allowing the exasperation to seep into her tone, ‘however, you seem completely unwilling to talk about yourself, on paper or here in person.’

‘What did you think this would be, Andrea? That we would sit here, braid each others hair and I would tell you all my deepest, darkest secrets? We’re not friends. You’re here to do a job, nothing more.’

‘And I can’t do that job if you don’t trust me.’

‘If I didn’t trust you, you wouldn’t be here.’

‘Fine, then tell me, is there any particular reason you haven’t mentioned a single thing about your childhood so far?’

Miranda’s back stiffened, her face shuttering closed so fast that Andy felt like she had whiplash.

She may have miscalculated.

‘I recommend you focus on the content of the manuscript rather than digging into things which are none of your business,’ Miranda said sharply.

She was angry. How angry, Andy wasn’t entirely sure, but the look on her face right now wasn’t one that she had seen before and she wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to backpedal out of this situation.

‘In fact,’ Miranda continued, getting to her feet. ‘Get out.’

Andy scrambled up to a standing position. ‘Mira—

‘I said, get out.’

Miranda had hired her because she would push her, would stand her ground, but the tremble of fury in Miranda’s voice was enough to tell Andy that she should have listened to the warning signs about this issue and stayed the hell away from it.

Their eyes were locked on each other as they both stood their ground in front of the sofa they had been sitting on all evening.

‘Are you going to let me speak?’ Andy asked quietly against her better judgement to simply walk out.

‘I think you’ve done more than enough of that this evening,’ Miranda said, refusing to give an inch.

‘Look, I apologize. I overstepped.’

‘It’s what you do, isn’t it? Overstep. Always involved where you shouldn’t be. You should never have worked here, yet you did. You should never have stepped in with Stephen at the gala, but you did. Always taking liberties, always far too involved in other peoples’ business. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? To get the story, to know all the things that made you curious, that made you stick so close while you were here.’ Miranda threw the accusations, viciously.

You hired me, if you’ll recall,’ Andy bit back.

‘Yes, and that was a mistake. What on earth was I thinking? Hiring a woman who couldn’t manage to see a position through to completion when it was in her best interests, who threw it all away for a man.’

Andy drew in a sharp breath. She hadn’t discussed this with Miranda. Had never bought it up. That information had come from elsewhere.

Yet, regardless of where it came from, she felt it. It dug into every insecurity she had had over the past year. But that was what Miranda did, wasn’t it? She collected weaknesses like cards to play against everyone, and she had ensured she had one left to play against her.

Andy took a step back.

Miranda looked triumphant, knowing she had hit a nerve.

Andy recognized that look, her mind flooding with images of every nasty thing she had witnessed years ago. She reached down to pick up her bag silently.

‘Ah, and there she goes,’ Miranda said, tone all-knowing as though Andy had affirmed something she had all but expected. ‘Running away, again.’

Andy didn’t bother to deign it with a response as she walked out.

 

*

 

Miranda sat down heavily as Andrea disappeared around a corner.

That had escalated much too quickly.

Her past had been sitting like a spectre behind her during this entire process. Things she had locked away many years ago had been begging for attention. One prod in the right direction and all of her fears had come lashing out with vicious accuracy.

It lacked control. Yet another unfortunate side effect of her little episode last year.

She stared at Andrea’s copy of her manuscript sitting abandoned on the table.

The message in that was clear.

She leaned over and picked it up, flicking through the pages absently, skimming over the notes that Andrea liked to leave down the sides in various coloured pens.

Ask Miranda about how she juggled motherhood and work. Emotionally. Fears?

Feelings after the divorce – free? Lonely?

Where did the passion come from? Vogue? Before? Runway? NB: Nigel

Pages and pages of questions.

Pages and pages of interest in her life.

Her assistants knew better than to ask her questions. In fact, everybody knew better than to ask questions. But, Andrea? No, she just kept poking. If she answered one question, Andrea would be poised at the ready with another one. Two years in the bullpen of a newspaper had served her well.

She kept flicking through, noting that the manuscript was clearly well read.

Somewhere in the last half a post-it marked a particular page. Miranda scanned the text briefly, recognizing it well. She had been in a particularly melancholy mood the evening she had written it. The girls had recently left after Thanksgiving and Christmas to go back to college and she had tried desperately to describe the devastation which came with them leaving, with having them so far away. She had intended to remove it, but hadn’t gotten around to writing anything to replace it. 

At the bottom of the page, Andrea’s scrawl was clear and it made her pause.

This is Miranda.

Chapter Text

Rather than go home after her disastrous meeting with Miranda, Andy had wandered the streets of Manhattan pondering why she had thought coming back here was going to fix anything.

By the time she got home, Lily was long in bed which allowed her the peace and quiet to sink deeper and deeper into maudlin thoughts about her life.

She had been doing well the last few months, but as she lay in bed and stared at the ceiling she realised that progress had been fragile at best.

Running away, again.

The words played on repeat in her head.

Is that what she had been doing?

She thought back over everything that had happened and concluded that perhaps Miranda had been right. When things hadn’t worked out at Runway, she had taken off in spectacular fashion. When journalism had proved itself to be far from what she had expected, she had run to Boston, to Nate. And when that had eventually failed, she had come running back to New York. 

When she made this move she had genuinely thought it would be a fresh start, that it would help her find answers. However, maybe it was just another in a long line of similar decisions where rather than face her failure, she ran away from it, the result being this life that she had neither expected nor particularly wanted. 

Sleep was slow in coming, and when it did, it was restless. By the time her alarm woke her at seven a.m. she felt like she had only just closed her eyes. She considered rolling over and going back to sleep, but knew today would only be that much harder if she was left alone with her thoughts for any longer.

‘Where were you last night?’ Lily asked as Andy stumbled into the kitchen in search of coffee.

‘Editorial meeting,’ Andy said, her voice hoarse. ‘It took me an hour and half to get home from Manhattan.’

‘Hey, you wanted to work in the city with the big shots, don’t blame Brooklyn for your weaknesses.’

Andy simply nodded as she grabbed the pot and poured herself a huge mug before dumping half a gallon of milk in it.

‘That’s not coffee, you get that right? That’s a milkshake.’

‘I know,’ Andy said, not bothering to disagree as she moved towards the table and slumped into a chair.

‘Who are you editing that’s keeping you up so late? Must be someone big to have you working outside of office hours.’

Andy’s brain took a moment to catch up and she looked up to find Lily staring at her. ‘Yeah, someone pretty big,’ she said, trying to sound casual.

Lily peered at her closely, and after years of friendship Andy knew she had been caught. It was too early in the morning for her to effectively employ cloak and dagger techniques and hide the feelings that were probably written all over her face.

‘What the hell is going on? That was the vaguest response I’ve ever heard, not to mention you look like absolute shit. Have you even slept?’

Andy leaned back in her chair and stared at the ceiling for a moment, her mug still gripped between her hands as she took a breath and faced the music, knowing Lily would only hound her for weeks on end otherwise. ‘I’m bound by a non-disclosure, so let’s just say you’re not going to like who it is. Well, after last night, was.’

Lily was quiet for a moment, before the inevitable ‘No,’ slipped emphatically from her mouth.

‘Yes,’ Andy replied, ‘and that’s all I can say.’

‘She knew it was you that day, didn’t she?’ Lily said in disbelief.

Andy chuckled darkly, ‘Of course she did. Like I said, nothing gets past her.’

‘How long has this been going on?’

‘Three months or so.’

That gave Lily pause. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ she asked quietly.

Andy sighed. ‘You know why, Lil. I knew you wouldn’t be happy.’

Andy saw the hurt in her friends eyes and immediately realised how stupid she had been.

She couldn't get anything right, it seemed. 

‘I should have said something,’ Andy said, ‘I’m sorry. It just...it wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. A couple of evenings here and there to help with editing a personal project, that’s all. I didn’t know how to explain it to you. I didn't know how to explain it to myself, to be honest. I had a meeting with her and suddenly contracts were signed and off we were again, like some strange repeat of the past. Maybe I thought it was an opportunity to make up for my mistakes? I don't know.’

‘What on Earth would you need to make up for?’

‘Running out in Paris definitely wasn’t one of my best moments. I was so young, and so stupid. I guess this was an opportunity to prove something to myself, and maybe to Miranda as well.’

‘So what happened last night? Punishment? Payback?’

Andy set her mug down on the table and turned it anti-clockwise, the base rubbing against the old wood. ‘No, I honestly don’t think it was. I pushed her on an issue and it didn’t end well. Things got a little personal.’

‘You mean she attacked you,' Lily said, and when Andy didn't deny it her face hardened, 'who does she think she is?’ she continued, voice rising, signalling she was about to spiral into a rage.

‘The same person she’s always been,’ Andy admitted. ‘I should have known better.’

Lily’s rage cooled down to a simmer at that. ‘Are you okay?’ she asked as she looked at her closely. She must look like shit. 

‘Yeah, I’ll be fine. I just…do you think I run away from my problems?’ Andy asked, eyes dropping to her mug.

‘You stuck it out in a marriage which took you all over the country. You supported a husband who didn’t necessarily support you all that well, for years. No, Andy, I don’t think you run away from your problems. I think you dig in, and in the case of Miranda, apparently, you face them head on.’

Andy looked up at that and could see the fierceness in Lily’s eyes. She could feel tears beginning to well up. ‘Fuck,’ she choked out as Lily got to her feet and moved around to the back of her chair, hugging her tightly.

‘Christ, Andy. Is that honestly what you think of yourself? You’ve rocked it through three different professions, in multiple cities and you have a job in one of the biggest new millennial imprints in New York. I know I’ve been pushing you to write, and I still think you should, but hell girl you’ve been floating on cloud nine with this new job. You’ve been alive working for that crazy blonde bitch. This wasn’t running. This was coming home.’

Andy burst into tears at that. She was tired and emotional but the words Lily had just given her were exactly what she needed.

‘Do not let her get into your head,’ Lily ordered. ‘You know how she plays. There’s nothing fucking wrong with you.’

‘Thanks, Lil,’ Andy said wetly as she reached blindly for a tissue.

Lily reached for her and pressed a handful into her hands before kissing her on the head. ‘I love you, idiot. You know that, right?’

Andy blew her nose. ‘Yeah, I know.’

‘Christ, Han Solo in the house. You going to leave me hanging like Princess Leia?’

Andy laughed wetly at that. ‘I love you too, Lil.’

‘Good, now what are you going to do? Keep sitting around crying, or you going to get dressed and show that bitch just who runs shit in NYC?’

Andy sniffed and shook it off, she was already beginning to feel like herself again. ‘God, why the hell am I crying?’

Lily laughed heartily at that. ‘Exactly. Now, come on star publisher. It’s time to go and kick some ass.’

And Andy did just that.

She went to work with a new fire in her belly. She put Miranda out of her mind and threw herself into her work. She had come back to New York to carve a new path for herself, something new and exciting. Yet, here she was, in the middle of brand new imprint and rather than embracing that, she was wasting her time going back over old ground. It was time to put her time at Runway, and with Miranda to bed. Some things just weren't meant to be, and the two of them together only seemed to spell absolute disaster. 

She worked non-stop all morning and through lunch. It wasn't until Catlin stormed into her office sometime in the afternoon that she took a moment to breathe.

‘What the hell is going on with you today?’ Catlin demanded.

Andy looked up from the manuscript she had been pouring over. ‘What are you talking about?’

‘You. You’re all guns blazing and working like an insane person. You’re making me look bad, so fucking stop it!’

Andy pushed her glasses up onto her head and leaned back in her seat. ‘A big project I was hoping to bring in fell through last night,’ she said, skirting around the real issue as much as possible. ‘That means I need to find something to fill its shoes. Plus, I realised maybe I haven’t been focusing enough of my energy here.’

‘Oh trust me, you’re doing more than enough. So, chill out before I start to think you’re gunning for my job. The Head of Publishing already has a hard-on for you, he wouldn’t take much convincing.’

‘Trust me, I’m perfectly happy where I am right now.’

Catlin eyed her carefully before accepting her statement at face value. ‘Anyway, you said you lost me a money maker? You talking about that big secret project with Miranda Priestly?’ Catlin said matter-of-factly as she dropped into a chair in front of Andy’s desk.

Andy’s mouth fell open. ‘How did yo—

Catlin stared at her like she was an idiot. ‘Seriously? This is New York publishing. Nothing stays secret for long. I met with someone from Random House a couple of weeks ago and she said Priestly has been interviewing editors for months and word was there is something big in the works,’ Catlin shrugged, ‘plus, I saw you take the elevator up to Runway last week,’ she added with a smirk.  

‘You mean you stalked me?’

‘I was just curious; I knew you were hiding something. You are kind of a terrible liar. It didn’t take much to put two and two together after that phone call you got at the office and that day you came in wearing Tory Burch and a pair of fuck me heels for some mysterious meeting.’

‘Well why didn’t you say anything!?’

‘You seemed to be enjoying this undercover editor thing you had going on; I didn’t want to ruin it.’

‘Catlin,’ Andy growled.

‘So what happened?’ Catlin said, leaning forward in her seat and planting her chin in her open palm and her elbow on the desk so she could eyeball Andy.

Andy chuckled sardonically. ‘We had a…difference of opinion, and apparently I had forgotten exactly who I was dealing with.’

Catlin winced. ‘That bad?’

‘Oh yes, Miranda doesn’t hold back when she has something to say.’

‘I hope you gave as good as you got,’ Catlin said, sitting up with a frown.  

‘I got a few shots in, but I was outmatched by the end of it.’

‘Jeez, Sachs. That’s rough,’ Catlin said sympathetically.

Andy shrugged it off. ‘I should have known what I was getting into. Miranda is Miranda, and nothing is ever going to change that. At least I managed to survive longer than the others,’ she laughed.  

‘That book is never going to see the light of day,’ Catlin said. ‘It’s a shame though. I don’t suppose you could tell me what it was about?’

‘It wouldn’t be worth my pitiful savings account. That NDA was iron clad.’

‘Well, I’ll have to live in hope that some poor bastard decides to take it on in your stead. Do you think she’d give me a crack at it?’ Catlin said wistfully.

‘Hey, I won’t stand in your way,’ Andy smirked.

‘Yeah, on second thoughts,’ Catlin said as she eyed Andy’s tired eyes.

‘Hey, I do not look that bad!’

‘Check in the mirror sister, you look like you went on a bender last night.’

‘Ugh,’ Andy groaned, reaching to open her desk drawer for her compact mirror. 

Catlin eyed her pitifully. 'Jesus, just go home,' she said, getting to her feet. 'You've done enough work for an entire week today, and you seriously look like you need a good eight hours. But, the caveat is you have to sacrifice your evening tomorrow to drink with me. There's a story here, and I want to hear the rest of it. Andy Sachs,' Catlin said, holding up her hands and gesturing like her name was up in lights, 'Runway assistant.' 

Andy rolled her eyes. 'Fine, fine. Deal.' 

'Good,' Catlin said, giving her a genuinely warm smile which didn't quite belay the hint of worry that Andy could see directed towards her. 

Andy found herself grinning idiotically at that. 

‘What?’ Catlin said, screwing up her face as she took in Andy’s expression.

‘You’re just a big emotional marshmallow really, aren’t you?’ Andy teased.

‘Christ, go home Sachs. You’ve officially jumped the shark,’ Catlin said, storming out the way she came.

‘I won’t tell anyone,’ Andy called out after her retreating form.

A middle finger over her boss’s shoulder was the only response she received.

 

*

 

It was well after midnight when Andy’s phone roused her from sleep. She reached around blindly for it, eventually finding it underneath a pillow she had tossed aside at some point in the night.

She stared at the screen and couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

No, actually, that was a lie. She absolutely could.

She hit ‘accept’ and put the phone to her ear. ‘It’s after midnight, Miranda. This had better be good.’

She was met with a few beats of silence before Miranda spoke down the line. ‘I’m a very private person, Andrea.'

Andy dropped her head back onto her pillow and pinched her brow against her frustration. It was too damn late for this conversation. ‘Wow, I never would have guessed. Christ, Miranda, are you being serious with this right now?’ she said, not bothering to sensor herself.

‘Perhaps this was a mistake,’ Miranda said, her tone hardening as if on cue.

‘Oh, really? What gave it away? The fact that it’s,’ she pulled her phone away from her ear to check the time, ‘12:52 a.m. on a Tuesday?’ she finished sarcastically. ‘I don’t work for you anymore, if you’ll recall.’

‘You signed a contract,’ Miranda reminded her, ‘or have you forgotten that little detail?’  

‘So sue me then,' Andy said tiredly. She couldn't care less in that moment, and somehow she doubted that even Miranda, in all of her pettiness, would waste her time trying pin her for breach of contract. 'I’m going back to sleep.’

Miranda sighed. ‘Andrea, wait,’ she asked, her tone suddenly as tired as Andy's.

‘For what?' Andy snapped, the bitterness slipping into her tone. 'I think you covered everything you needed to last night.’ 

Miranda didn’t have a response for that one.

Andy sighed, unsurprised. ‘Just say what you called to say, Miranda.’

‘Fine, I apologize,’ Miranda said frankly, ‘for what I said. My reaction was out of proportion to the situation.’

Andy couldn’t believe what she was hearing. In the entire time she had worked for Miranda, both this time and the last, she hadn’t heard her apologize to a single person. She was floored. So much so that she was sure she was gaping at the ceiling.

‘You can take your jaw off the floor now, Andrea,’ Miranda said knowingly.

‘I’m sorry, but out of all of the scenarios I could have imagined right now, that definitely wasn’t one of them. Could you repeat that? I’m beginning to think this is a very warped dream.’

‘I can assure you it’s not. I called because what happened yesterday was unacceptable. You tried to apologize for prying and I didn’t allow you to. I should have made it clear to you from the beginning that that particular topic was off limits,’ Miranda continued, apparently emboldened by her ability to apologize without the bringing on the apocalypse.

‘Okay,’ Andy said.

‘Okay?’ Miranda asked, puzzled.

‘Apology accepted,’ Andy replied.

‘That’s all it took? A simple apology?’ Miranda said.

‘That tends to be how apologies work when you mean them, Miranda,' Andy said, shaking her head. 'Now, I’m going back to sleep, I have work in the morning and not all of us can survive on five hours sleep. Call my office tomorrow if you want to discuss my contractual obligations. Night,’ Andy finished before hitting the end button and flinging her phone across the bed.

Chapter Text

Three days after Miranda’s midnight apology, Andy was making her way back up to Runway. There was no fear, if anything she felt emboldened.

Lily was exasperated that she was going back for more.

Catlin on the other hand was ecstatic that Miranda’s book would see the light of day, and hopefully at the hands of Inception.

For her, Miranda’s apology had shifted the balance of power. Miranda needed her. Why, she wasn’t entirely sure, but the ground beneath her feet had solidified, and the holes in her self-esteem were beginning to close over in a way they hadn’t for a very long time. 

She shed the last remaining remnants of Andy the Assistant as she walked into Miranda’s office that evening.

Miranda looked up from whatever she was doing and they met each others eyes from across the short distance.

‘Andrea,’ Miranda said, putting her pen down.

‘Miranda,’ Andy nodded in acknowledgement. ‘Ready?’

‘Just give me one moment,’ Miranda said, ‘but make yourself comfortable.’

Andy walked over the sofa and put her things down, taking a seat and watching Miranda from where she sat. It was a Friday evening, and for once it looked like the week had taken a bit of a toll on Miranda. Her hair looked like she had run a hand through it one too many times over the course of the day, and the eyes that had met hers across the office had looked a little drawn.

Miranda eventually stopped whatever she was doing to reach into a desk drawer and pull out what Andy recognized as her own copy of Miranda’s manuscript, the one she had left behind in her haste to exit earlier in the week.

Miranda got to her feet and made her way over with nothing but the manuscript, flicking through the pages until she found what she was looking for and dropped it down on the coffee table. ‘Explain.’

Andy pulled her glasses down from the top of her head and leaned over to look at it, recognizing the page immediately. ‘Simple,’ Andy began, ‘when I first read the manuscript this was the only section that told me anything about you. The rest of it felt manufactured, disingenuous. This was real.’

Miranda sighed, ‘If this is the outcome you want, I think you’re going to be sorely disappointed. I don’t want the public to have this much of an insight into my private life,’ she said frankly as she moved to sit down on the other end of the sofa, pulling her glasses off as she sat.

Andy sat back, mildly stunned that Miranda had apparently made the decision to cut through the bullshit this evening. She had no intention of wasting the moment. ‘Okay, let me get a scope of this. Anything before 1975 is a no-go?’

‘I thought I made myself clear on that,’ Miranda said, a hint of irritation in her tone as she gripped the arm of her glasses.

Andy rolled her eyes, ‘Just roll with me for a second. You want coverage of the girls to be minimal, at best, correct?’

‘Correct.’

Andy reached towards the manuscript, ‘May I?’ she said, hand hovering above the loosely bound copy.

Miranda nodded.

‘I think we’ve established that you’re a very private person,’ Andy said, tongue entirely in cheek as Miranda’s brow rose, ‘which means attempting to write an autobiography in it’s entirety is going to be pointless,’ she continued as she reached to grip the pages written about the girls and ripped them straight out.

Miranda stared at her as if she’d gone insane as she dumped the pages on the table.

‘So,’ Andy continued, ‘let’s focus on the one thing you love that you’ve always been willing to share with the public: Runway, or more importantly, fashion in it’s entirety. What people want are your insights, your opinions. Your career has spanned decades, I mean, look at this for example,’ Andy flicked back towards the beginning, ‘here you talk about the AIDS crisis as though it was on the peripheral of the fashion industry, when I know for a fact that can’t be the case.’

‘It’s not a time I like to revisit,’ Miranda said bluntly.

‘Yes, but the message you’re sending is that it wasn’t important, that you don’t care. Miranda, I know you know this. You’ve been an editor for longer than I have. It’s in these moments which affected the industry where you need to put the heart. Draw the focus away from yourself, fine, but be willing to talk about these things in a way they deserve.’

Miranda leant over and placed her glasses down on the coffee table before leaning back and turning to face Andy. She was quiet for a long time, and Andy found herself closing the manuscript and putting it aside as she waited for her to speak.

‘We lost a lot of people,’ Miranda said after a while. Her voice was distant, like she was having to reach through years of memories to recall that time. ‘Designers, photographers, the boy from the mailroom who had bright red hair, just like the girls. It was like a purge. I had seen humanity in many forms by that time, but that was something else. It ravaged unchecked through the community, the media hailing it like it was a cleansing sent from God,’ she said, anger scraping at the edges of her voice. ‘I don’t know if I have the words to truly describe that time. The horror was unimaginable,’ Miranda finished, her voice trailing off.

It became clear that she had no intention of expanding any further, but it was a start.

‘That,’ Andy said gently after a while, ‘is you.’

Miranda looked up at her, ‘You presume to know who I am, Andrea.’

‘No, I think you misunderstand me. I don’t know you Miranda. I know how you like your coffee, that you love your daughters and that you’re an absolute nightmare to work for. But I don’t know you. That was simply real, and real is all we need. You don’t need to wax lyrical about all of your personal moments to write a memoir based on the industry to which you’ve devoted your entire life. Just some of them,’ Andy finished wryly with a hint of a smirk.

Miranda watched her, the expression on her face unreadable. ‘And exactly how much of myself am I going to have to give for them to be happy?’

‘Who?’

‘The public,’ Miranda said.

‘You need to think about who you’re writing for,’ Andy said. ‘You can’t write for the entire public. You’re never going to be able to focus yourself if you’re trying to keep everyone happy. You need to focus your audience.’

‘On whom? The gay men who worship Runway? The white upper class conservative women who still have the money to purchase the couture we market? The board who makes the decisions about our budget? Who, Andrea? Who am I supposed to write for?’

Andy reached over and picked up the pages she had torn from the manuscript. ‘Who did you write this for?’ she asked.

Miranda paused. She stared at the pages for a long time before answering. ‘I wrote it for myself,’ she said.

‘And we’ve established you’re not willing to share that, so who do you want to write this book for? Why did you decide to write it now?’

Miranda’s handed reached to her chest instinctively, and Andy felt her heart sink a little as she realised the rumours may not have been rumours after all.

Miranda must have caught something on her face, because her arm stiffened before moving back to her lap. ‘That information is privileged and doesn’t leave this room,’ Miranda said.

‘Everything you say in this room is privileged, Miranda. The sooner you realise that, the easier this will be.’

Miranda looked at her sharply. ‘Why are you here?’ she demanded suddenly.

‘Because you hired me,’ Andy replied, confused.

‘That doesn’t answer my question, Andrea. You didn’t have to take this job. You made your feelings about me, and the way I conduct business quite clear when you stormed out in Paris. Why come back?’

‘I’ve been asking myself the same question since we began,’ Andy said. ‘I honestly don’t know.’

‘You say you know nothing about me, and yet I know absolutely nothing about you. The aspiring journalist who sat outside my office is gone, and in her place is someone I don’t know. Still intelligent, still foolhardy, still ambitious, but certainly much more cynical than I recall.’

‘You seemed to know an awful lot about my life the other day,’ Andy said defensively.

‘A passing comment from Emily in the wake of your departure many years ago and a calculated guess. Nothing more,’ Miranda said.

‘Fine, then what do you want to know?’

‘Why did you leave New York?’ she asked, not missing a beat.

Andy ran a hand through her cropped hair. ‘That’s a very long story.’

‘Does it look like I have somewhere to be this evening?’ Miranda said, indicating towards the empty office and the fact that the two of them were sat there.

You want to hear about my life?’ Andy said in disbelief.

‘Well, you’re already privy to mine in much more detail than I feel comfortable with.’

Andy took a deep breath and released it. She hadn’t spoken to anyone about what had happened, not really. As she looked at Miranda, she realised her unwillingness to speak was because she was ashamed. She cared what Miranda thought. She may not have been Andy the Assistant any longer, but she recognized Miranda for what she was: a successful business woman who had never let anything stand in her way.

She had left in Paris because she had thought Miranda’s approach to life and career was wrong. She had thought she had all the answers, that she could have everything in perfect synchronicity without sacrificing the people around her as she had seen Miranda do. She had later realised how wrong she was, that you had to fight for yourself first. Nate had done it, and she had allowed him to, at the expense of herself.

Miranda hadn’t moved. She was watching Andy closely with those crystal clear blue eyes as she spoke. ‘Not so easy, is it?’ she said knowingly, a satisfied smirk on her face.

Andy realised what had happened a second too late. Miranda had weaved the perfect trap. The very thing she had been demanding of Miranda for weeks, and she herself was incapable of doing it. Miranda was right the other night, they weren’t friends. But perhaps they were a little more alike than Andy realised, and that thought alone made her suddenly uncomfortable.

‘You made your point,’ Andy sighed.

‘Perhaps. But you still haven’t answered my question. Why did you leave?’

‘Journalism wasn’t what I expected,’ Andy admitted. ‘I…got lost somewhere along the way. I lost my drive. Relationships with my friends and family were still strained after working for you, and things just spiralled out of control. When Greg, my editor, was fired, I quit. I couldn’t find it in myself to continue doing something I didn’t believe in under someone who had a very different view on journalistic integrity than I did.’

‘I’m sensing a pattern,’ Miranda said idly.

Andy shook her head in response. ‘It was different than when I left Runway,’ she explained. ‘When I left here I left with a purpose. After the Mirror, I had none. What I thought I wanted to do with my life was suddenly gone.’

‘And someone showed up to lead the way I take it?’

Andy leaned back into the sofa, letting one heel fall off as she tucked one leg underneath her on the cream sofa.

Miranda raised her brow as she took in the position.

‘Sorry,’ Andy said quickly, moving to return to her previous position.

Miranda held up a hand, halting her in her tracks. ‘Continue.’

‘Where was I?’

‘A knight in shining armour,’ Miranda said with no amount of amusement in her voice.

‘Right. Well, knight wouldn’t be the right word. Eight months of working for you and the two years of long distance which followed while I was here and he was in Boston had put a pretty significant dent in our relationship. When I quit, he told me to move, for us. It was an ultimatum more or less. I knew if I didn’t go, we were finished. I think we were both trying to get back something that was already lost, but I didn’t have anything holding me back from trying.’

‘Someone should have been there to tell you otherwise. If you hadn’t made the move after two years, you were never going to make it for the right reasons.’

‘Hindsight is a wonderful thing.’

‘That it is,’ Miranda agreed. ‘Satisfy my curiosity, if you would. How did you manage to get into Random House? I never received a request for a reference.’

‘I wasn’t willing to try my luck a second time,’ Andy chuckled. ‘And it was pure nepotism that got me in the door for an interview. A customer of Nate’s with deep pockets and a lot of connections.’

‘I see those idealistic morals didn’t last half as long as you expected them to.’

‘You taught me the importance of networking. I think I began to fall back on a lot of what I learned here at that time, funnily enough.’

‘Good. I’m glad that some of what I taught you has come to use. Publishing, it seems, has served you well enough.’

Andy shrugged. ‘It turned out to be a good fit for me. But, I think I had been so focused on the idea of being a journalist that I never owned it the way I should have, not until much later, maybe not even until now. When Nate got an offer in Washington, I gave up my position at Random House to work for a lesser known house.’

Miranda shook her head at that. ‘Silly girl,’ she admonished. ‘I take it similar circumstances led you to Chicago?’

Andy nodded. ‘I felt like I owed him something. I don’t know why, but once I set the precedent in our relationship that his career was more important than mine it seemed impossible to change it. He came to expect that I would place little value on my job. It wasn’t my dream career, so what right did I have putting it before his own?’

‘You had the right to expect that he would support you,’ Miranda said, ‘however, you needed to value yourself first and foremost, something you clearly weren’t doing.’

‘I know,’ Andy said quietly.

‘What’s done is done, Andrea. There’s no use dwelling on it.’

‘It’s hard not to sometimes.’

‘I won’t disagree,’ Miranda said.

They slipped into a comfortable silence at that and Andy found herself feeling strangely calm. It was an odd sensation to have around Miranda, who generally preferred her employees to on the edge of a breakdown at all times.

‘I suppose we should work on something,’ Andy said wryly, reaching for the manuscript she had cast aside.

‘Yes, I suppose we should,’ Miranda said, reaching for her glasses.

A couple of hours later they had culled a good portion of the book, outlined the new chapter structure, and put together a working plan for Miranda.

Although they had taken a big step backwards in completed content, for the first time Andy felt like they had made some truly significant progress. She was beaming.

Miranda looked at her and shook her head. ‘You’re too easily pleased,’ she chastised. ‘We have more work now than we had when we started.’

‘It might seem that way, but I think we’re on the same page now, more or less. Things might run a little smoother from here on out.’

‘Perhaps I overestimated your newfound cynicism.’

‘Or maybe it’s just newfound optimism.’

‘Whatever it is, it’s irritating. Get your things,’ Miranda ordered as she got to her feet and went to her desk to pick up her bag and the Book.

Andy hadn’t used anything beyond a notepad tonight, so she swooped up her bag and slung it over her shoulder as Miranda turned out the lights and led the way out of the office.

Usually, Andy was summarily dismissed before Miranda left the office. As they approached the elevator Andy remembered why it was easier to walk out on her own rather than wait for Miranda. She stood next to her, feeling strange being in a space that wasn’t the office.

When the elevator arrived and Miranda stepped in, Andy found herself pausing.

Miranda turned back to see her stand there dumbly and clearly caught at an impasse. She rolled her eyes. ‘Get in.’

Andy scrambled inside before reaching to hit the button for the first floor.

‘Do you have a driver waiting?’ Andy asked.

‘Yes. How are you getting home?’

‘The Subway.’

Miranda turned on her heel at that. ‘You can afford a $400 Tory Burch and you’re using the Subway?’ she said, brow raised in mild disapproval.

‘It’s a city, Miranda. How else do you think people get around? I live in Brooklyn, not the Upper East Side.’

‘Brooklyn?’ Miranda said, not bothering to hide the disgust in her voice.

‘Hey, Brooklyn has a lot of good points,’ Andy said, defending her new neighbourhood as the elevator car came to a halt at the first floor, the doors opening.

‘It’s an overpriced hovel,’ Miranda corrected as they walked across the foyer.

‘It’s New York, Miranda. Everything is overpriced.’

‘You’re a thirty-four-year-old Senior Editor, you should be able to afford an apartment on this side of the bridge. What on Earth were you doing while you were in Chicago?’

‘Getting a divorce,’ Andy said as they pushed open the doors in sync and walked out into the brisk night air.

Miranda stopped and turned to look at her. ‘Next time, get a better attorney,’ she said frankly before turning and walking towards her car.

Andy stood at the top of the stairs and watched her go, shaking her head. ‘Goodnight Miranda,’ she muttered as she turned and walked in the direction of the nearest station.

Chapter Text

There was an odd thing that happened in the coming weeks and months that Andy found equal parts comforting and disconcerting.

Her and Miranda were getting along.

Fortunately, she was distracted from looking at that too closely. Her work at Inception was moving at a rapid pace as she and Catlin set their sights on establishing the imprint as a go to for young, upcoming novelists across a variety of genres. Their team was working like a well oiled machine and gaining attention across Elias-Clark, something Miranda enjoyed harassing her about every time she heard her name or Catlin’s mentioned on the executive floors.

As for Miranda’s book, their little blow out over content seemed to have done the trick, and the book was coming together better than Andy could have imagined.

Talking about the fashion industry was something Miranda did much better than talking about herself. Her personality bled onto the pages without her outright permission, something Andy refrained from pointing out too often, lest Miranda become aware of the fact she was giving a lot of herself away.

For Andy, the most difficult thing to fathom was that she looked forward to her editorial meetings with Miranda, and not in a professional sense but a personal one. Miranda was sharp, witty and a good conversationalist, particularly in the later hours of the evening when she finally began to wind off. They had always worked well together, but being on more equal footing had brought about a change in their dynamics.

‘Does this seem weird to you?’ Andy asked one night as they both sat behind Miranda’s desk, side by side. Andy had appropriated the chair from the second assistant’s desk as she had begun doing whenever Miranda wanted to work at her desk, and not for the first time, Andy had migrated around to the other side. 

‘Hmm?’ Miranda hummed in question as she mulled over one of Andy’s suggestions and reread the paragraph in question.

‘This,’ Andy said, waving her hand in between them.

Miranda peered down at the minimal amount of space between them before looking back up at Andy.

‘I don’t suppose I’d noticed,’ Miranda said with a small frown. ‘Does it make you uncomfortable?’

‘No,’ Andy said, shaking her head with a wry kind of smile, ‘I just can’t say I envisioned the two of us managing to get along in a way that was this productive.’

Miranda rolled her eyes at that and turned her head back to the screen. ‘The only thing that has changed, Andrea,’ she began as she deleted a section and began typing, ‘is that you’ve stopped trying to prove to me you’re a grown-up and are actually acting like one.’

Andy snorted. ‘That’s rich coming from the woman who called my office and left a vague message with the sole intention of scaring the shit out of me.’

‘Five and a half inch Miu Miu peep-toes,’ Miranda shot back.

‘Was it that obvious?' 

‘You never favoured five and halves when you worked for me. I know how to spot a power play when I see one.’

‘They looked good though, didn’t they?’ Andy grinned.

Miranda smiled lightly at the screen. ‘Yes, they did,’ she said without turning her head.  

‘A compliment from Miranda Priestly, as I live and breathe.’

‘Don’t get used to it. I haven’t seen a single outfit worthy of one since that first meeting. Just because you’re working with millennials doesn’t mean you have to dress like one.’

‘Just be thankful I don’t have a sleeve of tattoos.’

‘Don’t mention tattoos in my presence,’ Miranda growled, hitting a key especially hard.

Andy winced. Cassidy had decided to go all out with a geometric pattern on the inside of her forearm a couple of weeks ago. Miranda had been livid, especially given that she found out about it via a blow by blow account of the process on her Instagram story.

The rant Andy had been subjected to that evening was legendary. Apparently tattoos in general were a sore subject. Andy had heard, in great detail, about how it was impossible to find a model without tattoos, and how much additional time had to be invested and wasted in make-up before a shoot to have tattoos covered up.

‘Is she still in hiding?’ Andy asked, not particularly willing to revisit the subject.

‘If by hiding you mean avoiding all of my calls, then yes.’

Andy’s stomach chose the perfect moment to intervene as it rumbled in protest. She looked down at her watch and realised she hadn’t eaten since a late lunch at four p.m. and it was now well after nine.

She pushed back from the desk and got up to find her bag.

‘What are you doing?’ Miranda asked, looking up from her laptop.

‘Looking for emergency supplies,’ Andy said, pulling out a cereal bar in triumph.

Miranda stared at it. ‘Put that down,’ she ordered.

‘I’m starving,’ Andy protested.

‘Well order something and have it delivered. You are capable of using a phone still, are you not?’

Andy suddenly felt a bit stupid.

‘Have you eaten?’ she asked Miranda, not feeling entirely comfortable at the thought of eating in Miranda’s office if Miranda herself wasn’t eating.

Miranda glanced at the clock on the wall. ‘No, I suppose I haven’t.’

‘Well, if you want, I can get something for both of us.’

Miranda looked at her, considering the proposal. ‘Nothing heavy, and no spice,’ she said after a beat before turning her attention back to the laptop.

Andy picked up her phone and started scrolling through the options, eventually settling on a couple of simple dishes from a local organic restaurant.

When the food arrived, Miranda looked on with approval. ‘I was expecting Chinese,’ she said drolly.

Andy rolled her eyes. ‘I did remember who I was ordering for,’ she said as she tipped the delivery guy and carried the food towards the sofas.

Miranda got up and joined her.

As Andy dished everything out onto real plates from the office, she could feel Miranda’s eyes on her.

If she thought about it too hard, she supposed the idea of eating with Miranda was a little weird. However, everything about this situation had been weird from the beginning and as Andy handed Miranda a plate with grilled fresh tuna, asparagus and cherry tomatoes, Miranda decided to make it weirder.

‘Well, my cardiologist will be happy,’ she noted.

Andy paused, her hand midway towards her own plate which was waiting on the table.

Miranda hadn’t spoken about what happened last year, but Andy knew better than ignore an opening from her. Miranda didn’t like to approach personal topics directly, instead she preferred to segue into them and expected Andy to pick up the slack. 

‘So the rumours were true?’

Miranda carefully sliced a piece of tuna and speared it with her fork. ‘Hardly, although they had some basis in fact.’

‘Heart attack?’

‘Minor,’ Miranda confirmed. ‘Thankfully it occurred at home and not the office, it would have been impossible to keep the incident quiet otherwise.’

‘And now?’

‘As you can see, I’m perfectly fine. Aside from the dietary restrictions and the constant pestering from my doctors about reducing stress.’

Andy snorted, her mouth full of roasted chicken.

Miranda looked at her and rolled her eyes. ‘Yes, it’s all very funny.’

Andy swallowed quickly. ‘I’m sorry, but I’m just trying to imagine someone telling you to cut back your working hours,’ she laughed again.

‘You’re impossible.’

‘I do try,’ Andy sassed, before cutting another piece of chicken away from the bone. ‘How did the girls handle everything?’

Miranda fell silent, and Andy looked up to see an odd look on her face. It took her a few moments to put things together, but when she did, it was with a dawning realisation. ‘They don’t know, do they?’ she said in disbelief.

Miranda shook her head.

‘You were alone,’ Andy said, the horror in her voice unescapable.

‘You always were perceptive,’ Miranda said quietly, confirming her worst nightmare.

‘Fuck,’ Andy said shakily, running a hand through her hair.

‘Quite.’

‘So you decided to write the book?’ Andy asked.

‘Yes, more or less.’

Andy let out a breath. ‘That answers a couple of questions I had lingering.’

‘I’m sure you’ll find plenty more to replace them, knowing you.’

‘Why didn’t you tell them?’ Andy pressed. She was a daughter. If her mother had done that to her she would be furious.

‘They’re in their early twenties, Andrea. Caroline is in California, finally away from my shadow, as is Cassidy in London. Imagine if they had come running back here in the middle of semester. Those ambulance chasers would have sniffed something out, not to mention it would disrupt their lives. I spent years keeping them out of the limelight, and by some small miracle they haven’t been on the media’s radar. They don’t thank me for it, but I gave up the remainder of my forties and the better part of my fifties to ensure my personal life wasn’t something that page 6 could use against my family ever again,’ she said bitterly.

Andy winced, distinctly remembering the fallout from Miranda’s third divorce. It was vicious. It appeared the media had gotten worse in the years between Miranda’s second and third divorce, or perhaps Andy was just much more aware of it having worked for her. You couldn’t escape it. Her face was everywhere, details of the settlement splashed across every tabloid newspaper, horror stories of how impossible she was to please, that she was an absent mother, rumours about her sex life, you name it – they printed it. It seemed like Rupert Murdoch had a personal vendetta against Miranda, which wasn’t altogether unlikely. It went on for months. She couldn’t imagine the impact it had on her daughters, who would have been barely twelve at the time.

‘They’re finally coming into their own,’ Miranda continued, ‘it wasn’t the time to disrupt that.’

‘They’re still your daughters,’ Andy said. ‘What if it had been worse?' 

‘I was in the hospital and diagnosed within an hour,’ Miranda said, ‘I was conscious the entire time. Had it been worse, I wouldn’t have had a choice. Caroline is my next of kin.’

‘Do you have anyone here?’ Andy demanded.

‘I’m sorry?’ Miranda said.

‘In New York? Caroline is a plane ride away. Who do you have here?’

Miranda looked mildly uncomfortable at that, and Andy was beginning to get a picture of Miranda that she hadn’t had before. Miranda had always been surrounded by people, but as Andy thought back, none of them were friends. Miranda barely had time for her marriage, let alone maintaining friendships outside of the industry. After Stephen, she hadn’t remarried, and had stood proudly alone at the Met Gala year after year. Nigel and her had been kind of close, but he was long gone and she had no idea who served in his place now.

Andy found that she didn’t like the thought of Miranda alone.

In fact, she hated it.

‘Next time, if there’s no one else, call me,’ Andy said. ‘I’m not family, but I can hold the fort until family arrives.’

‘I’m sincerely hoping there won’t be a next time,’ Miranda said. ‘And I appreciate the offer, Andrea, but it’s entirely unnecessary.’

Andy watched as Miranda turned her attention back to her plate. ‘Regardless of whether it’s necessary or not, the offer stands if you find yourself ever in need of it.’

Miranda paused and glanced up. ‘Thank you, Andrea,’ she said gently.

They ate in silence for some time after that and eventually returned to work.

As they travelled down in the elevator later that evening, Miranda turned to her. ‘As pleasant as this evening was, I’m not fond of eating in the office.’

‘I’ll remember that for the future,’ Andy said apologetically.

‘I wasn’t implying that you should starve,’ Miranda said. ‘Simply that, given the time of our meetings, we could look at moving our location to the town house. Today’s conversation has reminded me that I’m supposed to be spending less time at the office as opposed to more.’

Andy gaped at Miranda before regaining control of her features. ‘Sure, it makes very little difference to me.’

‘Good,’ Miranda nodded as the elevator doors opened and they walked out together.

As they reached the cool night air, Andy turned to Miranda. Tonight had been full of surprises, and she was feeling a little unsure of herself in Miranda’s presence. Heart attack confessions and an invitation to the town house was a lot to process in a single evening. It was as though Miranda had made some kind of decision about her that she wasn’t privy to, although it looked an awful lot like trust.

‘Well, goodnight,’ she said, for a lack of anything better to say.

Miranda stepped forward, leaning in to brush Andy’s cheek with a light air kiss before moving away. ‘Goodnight, Andrea,’ she said gently before turning and walking towards the town car.

Andy stood there, feeling a little dumbstruck as Miranda disappeared into the black Mercedes without looking back.

 

*

 

As Miranda sunk into the backseat of the town car, she caught herself in a feeling she hadn’t experienced for some time.

Contentedness.

She couldn’t remember the last time someone had put themselves in her corner so readily as Andrea had this evening. Her offer was ludicrous, of course, but the way in which she had offered it, so passionately, had had something of an impact on Miranda.

Too much of one, she thought.

Moving their meetings to the town house had been a rash decision. Sharing meals in her office had already pushed Andrea outside of her usually strict employer-employee relationship boundaries and into the unknown.

Things had gotten away on her this evening, much like every other evening.

She sighed and stared out the window as the car pulled out into the late evening traffic. She was content, but feeling mildly put out as though this contentedness was being forced upon her against her will.

Andrea had, unfortunately, always been different. Even a decade ago she caused her to do things that were out of character, and now it was worse. The woman made her blurt out things she would never usually say, to anyone.

As they pulled up to the town house with it’s lights out, the cold darkness which filled the windows staring back at her, it wasn’t hard for her to see why she had latched onto the natural warmth offered by the other woman.

She was lonely.

Her peers in the industry were scattered across the globe. The team she had built and worked closely with in the early days had moved on to bigger and better things. She had friends, but they also had schedules which contended with hers.

She enjoyed having her own space, however, the house was designed for a family. When she married the first time, she imagined having a partner in taking over New York, the second time she imagined someone to have and raise children with, and the last time she simply hoped to have someone to come home to at the end of the day and perhaps grow old with.

Out of all of them, Stephen had been the greatest disappointment. She had thought she had learned by then, but he had turned on her faster than the rest. The last divorce had left its mark. She actively chose to be alone after that, and everything had been fine until the girls moved out and left for college.

As her driver opened the door and she stepped out, she realised the idea of a semi-frequent visitor was not entirely horrible.

Andrea may have a lot to gain from this book going to print, but Miranda struggled to convince herself that every conversation they had had since they begun was an act designed for personal gain.

Perhaps age was making her sentimental.

Perhaps she would live to regret it.

She chose not to dwell on it too much as she walked up the stairs and opened the door.

Chapter Text

Andy stood outside Miranda’s formidable town house and felt the phantom absence of an armload of dry cleaning and the Book.

It was odd to be approaching the house with nothing more than her bag slung over her shoulder.

It was almost nine in the evening and she was struck by how strangely calm everything was.

Money could buy you many things, including the illusion of peace in an otherwise hectic city.

Andy pondered the house for another moment before squaring her shoulders and making her way up the stairs and pressing the buzzer. She waited awkwardly on the steps until Miranda herself appeared and pulled open the door.

She was still in full work regalia and looked like she had barely stepped in the door herself.

‘Did you get it?’ Miranda asked in lieu of a greeting as she stepped back by way of invitation.

Andy appreciated Miranda’s ability to cut through any awkwardness by simply bypassing polite greetings altogether.

‘We did, but it was above what I wanted to pay for it. We got caught in a bidding war which was the last thing we needed this quarter,’ Andy grumbled as she stepped inside. She had been dragged to an early working dinner with Catlin tonight to land an author whose agent was out to make one hell of a profit out of his untested protégé.

‘I hope he’s worth it,’ Miranda said as she led Andy inside.

‘You’re not the only one. I’m not a huge fan of taking risks this big.’

The foyer had been redecorated sine she was last here. The colours were deeper and richer than she remembered. The art work had changed along with it, but the tables filled with fresh flowers were still dotted all over the place.

‘I’m assuming you’ve eaten?’ Miranda asked as she led her past the staircase and in the direction of the library.

‘You would assume right,’ Andy said as they entered the familiar space. Absolutely nothing had changed, except for a portrait of the twins on the wall which Andy assumed was recent.

Miranda took a seat, noting Andy’s interest. ‘They’ve grown since you were last here.’

‘They’re women,’ Andy said, shaking her head in disbelief. ‘I suddenly feel old.’

Miranda rolled her eyes. ‘Yes, Andrea. You’re so very very old.’  

Andy laughed as she moved to sit down, letting her bag slip from her shoulder. ‘It’s been a long time since I’ve been here, hasn’t it? I don’t think it struck me until just now.’

‘I suppose it has.’

‘It’s nice to be back,’ Andy said honestly as she leaned back into her chair. It felt exactly the same. She could recall quiet evenings spent here with Miranda, going over details for the next day. They were always the most peaceful moments of her job as an assistant in the later months of her time with Miranda. They were the moments which stood between the hectic day behind her and the unhappy household ahead of her. Nate, by that time, was nothing more than a collection of sullen silences or an exhausting argument to come home to.

This library had been her bubble.

With Miranda.

Which, upon reflection, was quite remarkable. She looked across and realised that back then, she probably wasn’t the only one seeking a little peace.

Miranda caught her eye and a look of understanding passed between them. Andy was caught off guard by a sudden bout of shame at the way she had left Miranda alone in Paris to deal with the fall out from her divorce.

You can do your job.

The words that had had frustrated her so much at the time made significantly more sense now.

‘I’m sorry,’ Andy said, turning more fully in her chair. ‘I don’t think I’ve once apologized for how I left back then.’

Miranda crossed her legs and leaned back into her chair. ‘You had your reasons, I’m sure.’

‘I did, but my timing could have been a lot better.’

‘As could everyone’s at one time or another,’ Miranda shrugged. ‘Life moves on. Or not so much in this case,’ she said as she gestured to their positions.

Andy smirked. ‘I loved it here,’ she admitted. ‘It was peaceful. And still is.’

Miranda looked around and took in the room before getting to her feet. ‘Follow me.’

Andy did as she was told and followed Miranda’s lead by grabbing her things.

Miranda climbed the the stairs to the first floor and Andy could distinctly recall the one and only time she had dared to step foot on these stairs.

This time, by invitation, she was led into a spacious living room. The room was softly lit by a series of well placed lamps and the three large arched French doors which overlooked the street took up the entire front wall of the interior, although they were currently obscured by a set of ivory curtains. The right wall in it’s entirety had been converted into a series of bookcases, while the left served as a gallery. Above the fireplace was a picture of Miranda with the girls, the three of them a few years younger and looking very relaxed.

‘If his career in fashion had never taken off, Demarchelier would have made an exceptional family photographer,’ Miranda said.

‘Patrick took this?’ Andy asked, moving closer to inspect it. ‘It’s beautiful.’

Miranda came and stood next to her, close enough that their arms brushed.

‘We’ve had quite a few taken since, but this remains my favourite,’ Miranda said, her voice quiet and contemplative.

‘I can see why. You all look so…’ Andy paused, looking for the right word. It came to her after a moment. ‘Free.’

Miranda tilted her head at that, but didn’t comment further, eventually moving away from Andy to take a seat.

The space she occupied was clearly well used. A blanket hung slightly askew over the back of the chair and a novel rested on a small table next to it.

Andy decided to take up residence on the sofa to the right.

‘I prefer this room to the downstairs library,’ Miranda said by way of explanation once Andy had joined her.

‘I can see why,’ Andy said, turning to look up at the wall of books behind her, ‘although I’m struggling to understand why the downstairs is called the library.’

‘Original floor plans. It also used to be one of the only rooms in the house without a television. However, I rectified that after my last divorce.’

Miranda had tossed out the televisions. All Andy could remember was the way her kitchen had been gutted of utensils.

‘It gets easier, after the first one,’ Miranda noted, her eyes pinning Andy in place with a look that was far too meaningful.

‘Does it really? Because right now I’m pretty convinced that I’m a one and done kind of girl. I don’t know how you managed to do again. Twice.’

‘You will move on. Eventually.’

‘If my mother had her way, it would be now. She’s terrified I’ll never have children.’

‘Do you want children?’

Andy glanced up at the picture above the fireplace. ‘Maybe? I don’t know. With the right person, yes, if the timing is right for both of us.’

‘The cook wasn’t that person?’

‘No, and it took me far too long to realise it. I worry that I destroyed both of our chances. My family is still pissed as hell about the divorce. My mother can’t understand why I left. My reasons were too vague for her. Apparently I should have just shut up and had the kids he wanted,’ Andy blurted. ‘I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, Miranda.’

‘He will survive and you’re still young. I had the girls at thirty-seven. And in regards to your family I would advise you not to listen.’

‘You don’t know my mother,’ Andy groaned.

‘No, but I had one once.’

That gave Andy pause. She looked at Miranda intently.

Miranda caught her eye and have a minute shake of her head. ‘Not tonight,’ she said quietly. 

Andy gave her a single nod before her eyes drifted to take in the entire picture. Miranda sat with her legs crossed in a tight charcoal skirt and blazer ensemble which, by the cut, Andy guessed was Armani. The outfit told her that Miranda had likely had board meetings today. She had a tendency to lean towards conservative when she was required upstairs.

Despite the severity of the suit, the white blouse underneath was showing signs of a long day and was open at the third button. Andy could picture Miranda walking into the house and reaching up with a single hand to slide that last button loose and allow herself to breathe.

The urge to keep talking with Miranda this evening was overwhelming. She wasn’t sure whether it was the setting or the woman herself, but she wanted to sink into the sofa and simply have a conversation. Being around her made her feel grounded, like there was someone out there who had been to the other side and come back unscathed. Well, perhaps not unscathed, but still standing.

‘Something on your mind?’ Miranda asked.

‘Just thinking about how easy this is, with you.’

‘Would you like it to be difficult?’

Andy shook her head. ‘Does it bother you?’ 

Miranda considered the question for a moment. ‘It should.’

‘I should probably stop bringing it to your attention then.’

‘That would be wise,’ Miranda noted.

Andy laughed lightly at that.

 

*

 

It was well after eleven when Miranda closed the front after Andrea.

She paused for a moment with her hand on the wood, shaking her head in bemusement before making her way through the house and turning off the lights.

They had done next to nothing this evening. That in and of itself was some form of warning sign that she knew she should pay heed to.

Things between them had become friendly. There was no doubting that. Not only had she invited Andrea into the town house, but she had invited her upstairs into her home. It was a space she shared with very few people, and never employees.

She had even felt a sliver of disappointment when she had realised the time, although it had been entertaining to watch Andrea scramble in embarrassment when she’d realised how little work they had done.

Andrea was, after all, meant to keep her on track. Instead, she had been sitting there watching her intently all evening, as if trying to puzzle something out while their conversation flowed from one topic to the next.

The situation was strange, she supposed.

Andrea Sachs, with her pixie cut and round tortoiseshell glasses seemed quite content to slip off her electric blue Jimmy Choo’s and tuck her legs up underneath herself on Miranda’s fifteen-thousand-dollar sofa. She had been sitting there wearing a pair of tailored black dress pants which were clearly A.L.C. and an off the rack black ribbed turtleneck t-shirt, looking for all the world as though she spent every other day in Miranda’s home.

What was worse is Miranda didn’t wish to disturb this apparent natural state of being for the woman. She liked her being comfortable here. Which was a problem in and of itself.

There were so many things that were wrong with this situation. However, what worried her the most was her overall lack of concern about the break neck pace at which Andrea had butted into her life like she belonged there.

As she continued the climb to her bedroom she realised that the last person to manage such a thing had been her first husband, Samuel.

She faltered on the steps.

Samuel had been a whirlwind. No, a hurricane. Their relationship had been passionate, intense and extremely volatile. It had left her strung out and exhausted by the time it was over.

After that, her choices had become decidedly more calculated.

Mitchell had been a strong and stable father figure. He represented someone much better than her own father to have children with. He was a good man, but he had been too calm and too kind for her. Her personality overwhelmed and exhausted him eventually. She had had to let him go. She wasn’t good for him.

Andrea reminded her of all of them. Pushy like Samuel and prone to bouts of tempestuousness. Willing to butt heads with her over absolutely everything. Blunt and honest, but at times so sickeningly nice. Too open, with those expressive brown eyes telling everyone within a quarter mile what she was thinking. Too caring. Too worried about everyone else and their opinions. Yet, still a business woman, like Stephen. For all his faults, he had had a brilliant mind.

It didn’t take much to put and two together and she admonished herself when she realised what she had been doing.

Andrea presented the perfect companion for her, without the complication of romance and marriage.

She considered that for a moment, drumming her fingertips on the railing.

No, she thought, as she continued the climb and made her way to her bedroom, Andrea was Andrea. She was unique, not a facsimile of her ex-husbands. A…friend of sorts at a time in her life when she needed someone around she could trust.

The fact she needed anyone was irritating and she sighed as she removed her blazer and tossed it on the end of the bed. 

The heart attack had done quite the number on her. It had all but triggered some kind of horrendous mid-life crisis. It was utterly appalling, but there was no denying that perhaps it had given her Andrea, and no matter how she looked at it, she wasn't ready to give that up.

Not yet.