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Bruised

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‘Andy, its Cass, can you ring me, please. Mum’s gone weird.”

 

               ‘Andy, me again it’s 12:30, mom just came home from work and locked herself in her study. She didn’t say a word but she looked weird. Call me or something please?’

 

               When Andrea woke up she had twelve missed calls and two voicemails on her phone all from Cassidy. She’d pulled a night shift at the paper updating the website content and she hadn’t gotten home until six, it was now almost four in the afternoon and it would seem she had missed some excitement. Pushing herself out of bed she stumbled to find some clothes to drag on, wedged her phone between her ear and her shoulder and waited for Cassidy to pick up.

               “Andy, finally! Where have you been?” Cassidy snapped the moment she answered the phone and Andrea couldn’t help but chuckle at the tone that was so very like her mothers,

               “I was working nights last night; I didn’t get in until six this morning. I’ve been sleeping.”

               “Oh.” The girl sounded deflated, “Sorry for snapping then but I’m not sorry for calling you all those times, I’m worried about mom.”

               “I gathered that Cass. Now tell me what exactly has happened that makes you worried.” Although it wasn’t common for Miranda to come home in the middle of the day to work from home it wasn’t completely unheard of for it to happen, especially if she was surrounded by incompetence at Elias-Clarke, if she was in that kind of mind set it wouldn’t be entirely unfeasible for her to ignore anyone who was in the house and get straight to work either but she’d hear Cassidy out before she passed final judgement.

               “The Police came last night to take my statement. They took one at the hospital but they wanted more details because they’ve caught up with Mark and he’s denying everything.” Son of a bitch! Andrea thought, “Mom insisted on sitting with me this time which was fine, I mean it was easier for her to hear exactly what happened that way than for me to have to sit and tell her on my own because I’ve been able to see that she wanted to ask me stuff but didn’t want to upset me or something.” That was one way to look at it Andrea supposed and she knew that there were questions that Miranda would want the answers too but wouldn’t want to distress her daughter by asking. “And she was ok and stuff, I mean she had the whole Editor-in-Chief face going on because there were people around but whatever she was ok, seemed pretty relaxed but then they asked about the bruises on my neck and I explained how I’d got them and what Mark had been trying to do when I got them and she went really still and she looked like she was clenching her teeth and she’d balled her hands into fists and well she’s barely spoken a word since, she’s barely looked at me since and now she’s back home in the middle of the afternoon and I know she’s not working because I can hear her pacing up there. I don’t know what to do Andy.”

               “Oh honey.” Andrea didn’t need to be told what Mark had been trying to do when he had Cassidy by the throat because she had a very good idea and it made her stomach churn, “Have you tried speaking to her, knocking on the door?”

               “I did, she told me she was really busy and locked the door again, I don’t want her to hate me.” Cassidy sniffed

               “She doesn’t hate you sweety, but you understand that hearing that someone hurt you like that and she couldn’t protect you is tough for her right?” Andrea asked with a sigh, she honestly thought she’d gotten through to Miranda on the whole flying off the handle thing, she understood it was hard to hear that about your daughter, it was hard for Andrea to hear and Cassidy wasn’t related to her, but Miranda needed to learn to curtail the dragon around her daughter. It worried her that Miranda seemed to have had such a violent reaction that it had pulled her away from work though, “Are you and Caroline still going out with your father tonight?” Andrea wanted to talk to Miranda but she didn’t want to do it with the girls around, knowing the older woman and her moods it could get pretty ugly, the twins didn’t need to hear it.

               “Yeah Roy is picking me up in like half an hour then we’re picking Caro up from school and going straight to dads.” Ok half an hour gave her time to brush her teeth and get a cab across town, she’d think about how she was going to approach Miranda on the way.

               “You get ready to go and I’ll be there soon ok. I’ll talk to your mom while you guys are out.”

 


 

               When Andrea reached the townhouse Cassidy was ready and waiting for her. Miranda had clearly given her the permission to wear a little more make up than usual and although the dark rings around her eyes were still visible they were a lot less obvious than if she was wearing nothing at all, she had a pair or large sunglasses on her head, obviously something else she had leant from her mother.

               “Roy was just pulling up,” she said hanging her coat in the closet, “Is your mom still in her study.”

               “Yeah, I knocked to say I was going but she didn’t seem to care.” Cassidy shrugged, pulling her own coat on and sliding her sunglasses over her eyes,

               “Of course she cares. You go and have some fun, I’ll speak to your mom and I promise she’ll be back to normal by the time you get home.”

               “Thanks Andy, I’m really sorry if she yells at you.”

               “It wouldn’t be the first time,” Andrea chuckled kissing her on the cheek, “Tell Caro I said hi. We’ll go for lunch soon ok.”


 

               Upstairs Miranda heard the door slam and sighed, running her hand through her hair for the millionth time since she came home. Her staff must think she was cracking up, she spent the whole morning completely unable to concentrate, Nigel had to nudge her in the run-through to get her to share her opinion and even though she has seen better, much better, she didn’t have it in her to eviscerate anyone for their ineptitude. The concern on Nigel’s face was the last straw, she’d stormed out before anyone could pass comment, not that being at the townhouse was any better.

               The previous night had been hell, she had wanted to support her daughter and how could she do that if she didn’t know exactly what had happened to her. She’d been doing ok, but then talk had turned to the bruises on Cassidy’s neck, the ones she had been trying so hard to ignore because they meant that her baby girl had been close to asphyxiation, close to death and that was something she just couldn’t consider. What came next had made her want to vomit and kill Mark Dyer all over again, as if it wasn’t bad enough that he had beaten her little girl for saying no, he had also been intent on forcing her regardless, no girl should have to go through that, she’d spent the twins whole life trying to protect them from that. She knew she had reacted badly, that Andrea would chastise her for that reaction (that she cared about that would need to wait for another time) but it just hit too close to home, brought back to many of her own memories for her to process in the presence of her daughter. She was selfishly pleased that the girls were out with their father for the night, hoping that she could drink enough scotch to make sleep come easily and to help her forget, she would have to make an appointment with her own therapist, but for now making herself numb was the next best option.

               Knowing the housed was empty and she wouldn’t have to face her daughters questioning eyes she slipped out of the study, heading for the kitchen where her best scotch was hidden in the back of a cupboard. The shoes she had been pacing in all day were beginning to pinch so she kicked them off on the landing to be collected on her way back upstairs, her blazer had long ago been discarded, her shirt un-tucked and it’s top few buttons opened, she must look like hell, PageSix would have a field day if they could see her now.

 


 

               As soon as Cassidy was safely on her way Andrea had moved to the kitchen, she planned on coaxing Miranda out with a hot coffee and maybe the caffeine offering would stop her ripping Andrea limb from limb, maybe. She’d been so caught up in the preparations that she hadn’t heard Miranda coming down the back stairs and the gentle clearing of a throat startled her,

               “Care to explain what exactly you are doing rummaging round my kitchen without my previous knowledge or permission?” Andrea knew her mouth was flapping as she tried to formulate a response, she’d been so busy thinking about how to get the editor out of her study that she hadn’t really thought about how she would explain why she was there when the twins were out, “By all means move at a glacial pace, you know how much that thrills me.”

               “Cassidy called, I came to see Cassidy.” Andrea stuttered, clenching her hands behind her back to hide the fact they were shaking, she hated that Miranda in full blown dragon mode could still terrify her even though she had seen the other side of the woman most others thought heartless and knew this was all a front,

               “Except I know for a fact that Cassidy left five minutes ago to spend the night with her father and her sister, so I ask again. What are you doing in my house?” Miranda knew she was being over the top, knew that all she had to do was ask Andrea nicely why she was there but the sheer relief she had felt upon seeing the younger woman so comfortable in her kitchen was terrifying, the way some of the tension she had been holding all day had immediately leached out of her shoulders said too much about how much she still relied upon her even after all this time.

               “Ok.” Andrea let out a sigh and pushed a coffee over the island towards her, one that she was intent on ignoring until she realised it would be the first perfect coffee she had had in three years. She didn’t know how Andrea had done it but not one assistant since had managed to get her coffee order exactly right. Cradling the mug in both hands and inhaling the aroma she waited for Andrea’s explanation and tried to get the dragon under control. “I woke up to a few voicemails from Cassidy, she was worried, about you, said you were acting strangely and that you’d come home from work early and locked yourself in your study. She was worried that you hated her again after you heard what happened last night. I told her I’d come and talk to you although it surprises me that we need to have this conversation again after last week?”

               “I don’t need anyone telling me how to bring up my girls. Least of all an ex assistant who turned her back on me during one of the busiest weeks of my life.” Miranda’s voice was soft and dripped venom, the dragon very much present, how dare Andrea talk to her that way in her own home, “If that’s all, you know where the door is, you should have no trouble walking away again.”

               “I’m not done.” Andrea snapped, finding some of the backbone she needed to interview criminals and get answers from uncooperative policemen, she relished the slight surprise on Miranda’s face before the older woman pushed it away, “We both know I am no longer your assistant and we both agreed that we wouldn’t bring up Paris again in an argument. I know you don’t need to be told how to bring up your daughters but something about all of this is clearly bothering you and it’s affecting how you interact with Cass, that is going to affect how well she recovers from all of this. I’m not hear to tell you what to do, I’m here to listen. I wish you’d accept that I’m not running away again.” She was tired of having Paris thrown in her face, she knew she’d done a stupid thing and she had offered the older woman an explanation that she was yet to ask for, if it was possible Miranda Priestly was more difficult to deal with now that she had been three years ago.

               “I apologise again for throwing actions long passed in your face.” Miranda allowed, she felt the fight seep out of her, Andrea really was too nice, too forgiving and she thought maybe it was time that she let go of some of the editor facade around the younger woman. After all she had seen her family at possibly their worst time and had stuck around to help and the way Miranda’s whole body relaxed in the girls presence, the fact she felt more relaxed than she had in years told her in stereo what she had known since Andrea walked away in Paris. Andrea Sachs was more than just an assistant and Miranda wanted her in her life, as more than just a friend if she could. “Hearing my worst fears of what that monster did to my daughter confirmed has affected my rationality somewhat.”

“Honestly, I understand that, but Cassidy thinks you hate her for something that wasn’t her fault and that isn’t ok.”

“No, I agree that it isn’t. Could we perhaps, move to the den, I find myself feeling the need to explain myself and it’s going to be a long explanation, I don’t really want to do it standing.” Miranda knew she needed to exercise some of her demons and she knew she could trust Andrea never to use them against her, after all hadn’t she given her plenty to take to the press that final day in Paris if she had wanted to and yet she hadn’t. It had been a long time since she had opened up about what she was about to tell Andrea, in fact the only other person who knew even a little bit was Nigel but they had been friends for almost 20 years. She truly hoped she wasn’t about to do something she would regret later.

 


 

In the den Andrea allowed Miranda to choose her seat first, happy to take the sofa across from the arm chair when the editor lowered herself into it, then she waited. Miranda was silent while she finished her coffee though her right hand constantly fidgeted with anything it could touch. Andrea had never seen the older woman looking so nervous, had never seen her looking nervous at all, it was disconcerting and oddly endearing.

“You know you don’t have to tell me anything.” She offered, all she wanted was for Miranda to be able to deal with Cassidy better, she never expected her to start spilling secrets, “We can start on that catching up instead?”

“No.” Miranda shook her head and looked up at the brunette, finding comfort in her honest and open face, her reassuring smile, of all the people she’d ever have in her life she knew that Andrea was the one she could do this with, “No, you’re right I need to be more supportive of Cassidy and I can’t do that while I’m carrying this around with me. I’d rather talk to you than my therapist Andrea but I understand if you’d rather not be involved.”

“Miranda, I’m already involved.” Andrea said gently, honoured that Miranda would open up to her about something that was obviously very difficult for her, “I’ve never not been involved, you just didn’t know it until last week at the hospital. Trust me.”

“Being involved with my girls is much different to being involved with me, you know from personal experience the terror I can be and I’m sad to say I can be equally awful with the people I call friends.” Miranda sighed, she wanted to do this, to tell Andrea, but she wanted the girl to be sure that she wanted it too,

“Don’t you think I’ve seen that over the last week? Don’t you think if it bothered me I would have walked away by now? Miranda when I worked for you I saw the icon, Miranda Priestly, the Editor-in-Chief, the Dragon Lady, I saw you at your worst or don’t you remember Harry Potter? But in that time I also saw Miranda the woman, the mother, the wife. When I walked away in Paris I was walking away from the icon, I hoped the woman would grow to forgive me some day, I’ve missed all of you.”

“The woman forgave you long ago and she never even realised it.” Miranda allowed, later she would blame the days stress on her utmost honesty but for now she would go with it, it would be cathartic, “And she has missed you too. That is the first satisfactory coffee I’ve had in three years.” Andrea snorted and shook her head, throwing Miranda a grin,

“Why Miranda Priestly I almost felt like that was a compliment!”

“Hmm well, don’t get used to it, there won’t be many more.” Miranda shot back though her own small smile was present on her face, “But honestly, Andrea, I missed far more about you than the coffee, I have greatly appreciated your presence over the last week and you seem to have made quite an impression on my girls, I am only sorry that you keep being called upon to deal with me when I make a mess of being a mother.”

“I wouldn’t be here if I did not want to be Miranda, I want to help and I can see there is something bothering you that reaches beyond what has happened to Cassidy. Along with remembering your coffee order I still seem to be able to read you rather well.” Andrea said honestly, well past being surprised that Miranda was opening up to her and simply embracing the opportunity.

“You always could.” Miranda nodded, it had been one of the things that had made the brunette such a brilliant assistant,

“And I hope you feel you can still trust me.”

“You would not be here, in my house if I did not Andrea. What I’m about to tell you is something that I have only ever shared with Nigel, not even my ex husbands have an inkling.”

“Then I am honoured that you trust me, take your time, I’ll still be here when you are finished.” The young woman watched as Miranda took a deep breath and straightened out her posture, becoming every inch the Editor-in-Chief as she prepared herself to share all.

“Contrary to popular belief.” She began, “I have not always been the Miranda Priestly that the world sees today. I was not born in this country or with anywhere near the money I have made for myself. The opportunities I have had in life were achieved through hard work and a determination to have a better life than my parents. They were poor and I was born into abject poverty in England. When I was nineteen I found myself in a situation much like Cassidy but I had run away from home at seventeen to find the life I wanted and had no family or friends to support me too. Thomas would hit me then tell me he loved me, that I was beautiful, that I would go far, something not even my parents had told me before. He made me believe that in order to survive I needed him.” Miranda paused, took a deep breath and pushed herself to her feet, moving towards the drinks cabinet. Selecting a bottle of scotch and two tumblers she returned to her seat, pouring them each a drink and placing the bottle and Andrea’s drink on the table between them before taking a long pull on her own, allowing the liquid to burn down her throat and calm her somewhat. “It went on for a year, he would come home from a bar drunk and angry, when he was like that I couldn’t do anything right. It didn’t stop until I woke up in hospital after three days unconscious, Thomas had been in a rage like I had never seen, at the time I didn’t remember much of what had happened. It astounds me that no one has ever passed comment on the fact I haven’t changed my hairstyle for the last twenty years, the figurehead of the fashion community and I have ignored every trend in style and colour but the truth is, it is the only style I can guarantee will cover this.” Taking a deep breath and averting her eyes Miranda pushed back the signature forelock so that Andrea could see the side of her face that was usually hidden. Even through the days make up Andrea could make out the jagged line that ran from just above Miranda’s temple to her ear.

“Son of a bitch.” She breathed, her hand tightening round the glass so tightly that if it hadn’t been the highest quality crystal it probably would have cracked under the pressure, she felt as angry at the thought of someone laying a hand on Miranda as she had about Cassidy, the intensity of her feelings when it came to the white haired woman no longer scared her, but the woman in question looked shocked t her outburst. “I hope he got what was coming to him.”

“And more,” Miranda nodded, allowing her hair to fall back into place and draining her glass, “When I came round at the hospital the doctor told me that after leaving me for dead in my apartment he’d gotten into his car and, after causing a minor road accident, wrapped himself around a tree.”