Dragon Lady, Ice Queen, Bitch in Heels, The Devil in Prada. Andy repeated the monikers in her head as she exited the elevator and walked swiftly down the hall of the twelfth floor of the Hotel Plaza Athenee, digging around in her purse for her room key.
She could still smell the heady mix of Miranda's perfume and the leather of the town car upholstery. They were smells which, no matter which city she was in, had become synonymous with her entrapment.
Stepping out of that car had felt an awful lot like freedom. The papers had been right about Miranda all along. Never had she seen someone so callously tread over the dreams of another. The look on Nigel's face would stay with her for days after this.
You did the same to Emily, an unwanted little voice reminded her even as she pushed it to the back of her mind and swiped to get into her room. It looked like a hurricane had swept through this morning, but she had little time to waste unless she wanted to come face to face with the Devil herself as she fled the scene of the crime.
She moved quickly, efficiently splitting the clothes borrowed from The Closet and those she had received this week into separate suitcases. She grabbed one outfit for the road and tossed it onto the bed before swooping into the bathroom and throwing her products carelessly into her toiletry bag, pausing only long enough to catch a glimpse of herself in the mirror.
She looked borderline insane. Her face was flushed and her eyes were wide. She had just committed career suicide, but she had to admit she felt more alive than she had in months. Alive, and terrified. The fear snapped her back into action - things were a little easier now that she had only a single task to complete: get out of Paris and away from Miranda-fucking-Priestly.
She grabbed her carry-on and threw the toiletry bag inside, along with the second outfit, and her underwear. She took a quick glance down at what she was wearing and pondered whether or not Miranda would have her arrested and stripped at Charles de Gaulle. Everything on her body belonged to Runway, all the way down to her sinfully gorgeous forest green I.D. Sarrieri lingerie. There was barely a thing in the entire suite that belonged exclusively to her. She had sold her soul to the Devil, and she hated to think that perhaps Nate had been right all along.
Well, what was done was done.
She dropped her carry-on on the bed before moving to the desk. She flipped open her Runway MacBook and cleared out her personal files before hedging a glance at her watch. She didn't have long before Miranda was due back from her post-luncheon event and she would rather swallow a handful of razor-blades than run into her in the lobby.
Andy pulled open the drawer of the desk and pulled out a piece of hotel stationary. She scribbled a quick note to explain the contents of the luggage and added a request that her Paris haul be passed on to Emily. She couldn't give her back Paris, but it was at least a start. She folded the note and scribbled Nigel's name on the front before grabbing another piece of paper intended solely for Miranda.
Her thoughts drifted to the woman in question, and decided that something short and blunt would suffice:
She wrote quickly, ignoring the tremble in her hand before dropping the pen and leaving the note where it lay.
She surveyed the room quickly, satisfied she’d done what she could before moving towards the door, subconsciously straightening the edge of the bed she hadn’t slept in as she picked up her bag.
Andy glanced back to soak up the opulence one last time before turning her back on her life as an assistant to Miranda Priestly.
Miranda Priestly, editor-in-chief of Runway and controller of all things fashion related from the streets of New York to the runways of Paris, was furious. Oh, she would get irritated often, angry occasionally, but furious? She was never furious.
She stalked down the hall, directly to the room of one Andrea Sachs with a room key clutched tightly in her fist.
When she reached the door, she knocked. Hard. 'Andrea, open this door at once!'
When she received no reply she waited all of three seconds before swiping the card aggressively, only to be met with a red light and a still locked door.
Miranda took a breath, counted to five and reigned in her urge to kick the door in. She swiped the card again, slower this time, and when she heard a telltale click she pushed it open, stepping in without a word and allowing the door to swing closed behind her.
The room was immaculate, much like the work performed by this particular assistant up until two hours ago. It was also, however, empty aside from two suitcases which sat conspicuously in the centre of the room.
That, she hadn't expected.
She walked over to the desk and noted the Runway issue laptop, a note with Nigel's name, and another next to it with her name printed clearly at the top.
She picked it up, and her eyes narrowed as she read the contents.
Of all the things she had thrown at the girl, it had been that throwaway comment which had finally pushed Andrea over the edge. Not Starbucks runs, or changeable lunch orders. Not four-in-the-morning phone calls, impossible flights, and not even Harry Potter.
No, it had been her insinuation that Andrea Sachs - the idealistic, smart, fat girl, perched up on her moral high ground - could possibly be anything like her.
Miranda felt herself move towards the bed and sit down, still staring at the words in her hand. Andrea was gone. She was probably in a cab on her way to the airport right now. If Miranda knew the tenacious twenty-something like she thought she did, then she could well imagine she would race back to New York, give Emily a full and thorough handover, and have her desk cleared out before Miranda even stepped foot back in the city.
Christ, there would probably be some new, doe-eyed idiot perched at the second assistant's desk by the time she got back to the office.
Something uncontrollable began stirring in Miranda's chest as she crushed the paper in her hand. Laughter bubbled out of her mouth. It wasn't a cheerful sound, but rather something dark, and laced with a healthy dose of bitterness. It would seem that she had come so far that she couldn’t even pay someone to stay by her side anymore.
She reached into her clutch and pulled out her phone, dialing Emily. The idiot had broken her leg which meant she remained completely useless to her.
When Emily answered, Miranda didn't give her a chance to speak. 'Call Runway Paris and have them send me an assistant for the remainder of the week. Immediately,' she clipped before ending the call.
Taking a deep breath she got to her feet and ignored the twinge in her calf from storming so rapidly through the hotel. She folded the damaged letter, pulled her shoulders back and steeled herself before exiting the room and returning to her suite. There was, after all, work still to be done.
Emily sat back in her chair, stunned as she lowered the phone from her ear.
She couldn’t believe it.
To be honest, she didn’t think Andrea Sachs, of all people, would have the balls to do something that insane.
She winced as she adjusted her leg under the desk before pulling up the number for HR. Miranda would be back on Monday and she’d be damned if she was going to let her return to see an empty desk outside her office.
She had been positive Andrea was just having some temporary meltdown when she called, blithering something about going to the airport, or being at the airport. 24/7 with Miranda could send even the sanest individuals off the proverbial deep end.
She groaned and sunk her head into her hands.
As bitter as she was about Paris, there was little doubt in her mind that Andrea ‘do-no-wrong’ Sachs made her life easier. Much easier. Now she would be facing a few weeks, or possibly months of late nights and a doubled workload.
'Bollocks!' she cursed, slamming her fists down on the desk. She looked around quickly, realising there was no one there to witness her little outburst anyway. She was the only idiot stupid enough to be in the office before nine while all of the senior managers were away.
She pulled up the numbers for Runway Paris and scanned down the list looking for someone who would be willing to sacrifice an assistant on short notice. Miranda had sounded positively homicidal. What had Andrea said? She left a note. Fantastic. Add that to the divorce papers and she might as well just chop off her own head and offer it to the she-Demon on a platter because working for her was going to be unbearable.
As if on cue, her cell rang again and she looked down at her caller ID.
'I love my job, I love my job, I love my job,' Emily muttered as she plucked her phone up off the desk. 'Hi, Miranda,' she answered as she leaned her head back and closed her eyes, wondering what on Earth she had done in a past life to deserve this.
'Did you hear?' Serena whispered quietly into Nigel’s ear as they stood in the centre of Miranda's suite and watched her tear strips off the temp assistant sent over from Runway Paris. The girl had barely been in the room for five minutes, and yet Miranda had already found a number of apparently unforgivable faults.
Nigel shook his head lightly, signalling her to continue.
'It was after the luncheon,' Serena continued, voice barely audible. 'Andrea left her stranded on Place de la Concorde—amidst the paparazzo, no less.'
Nigel fought the urge to smirk. It was snarky and petty, but he felt he deserved it after today.
'Emily said she must have gone straight back to the hotel, grabbed her things, and then got on the first flight out. She left all of her couture behind, and a note.'
Nigel watched as the lip of the French girl standing in front of Miranda began trembling. He sighed and picked up his phone to dial Emily.
'There’s a rumour,' Serena continued quietly as he waited for Emily to pick up, 'that she even threw her phone in Les fontaines de la—'
Nigel held up a hand to cut Serena off. 'Emily?' he said. 'We’ll need a new girl tomorrow.'
Miranda’s last remaining assistant swore down the phone as he watched the temp’s tremble progress into full blown sobs. The waifer thin blonde then proceeded to turn and flee out the nearest door, Miranda rolling her eyes at the sight.
'Make that now,' he sighed before closing his phone with a snap.
Miranda looked up and they locked eyes across the room.
Her look said it all.
If he was looking for an apology for her current behaviour, or for what she had done earlier in the day, he was going to be waiting a very long time.
Nigel turned away and shook his head, lowering himself onto the nearest sofa in the suite. The weight of his career was suddenly resting heavily on his shoulders and he was exhausted.
There was little satisfaction in knowing that loyal little Andy Sachs had just set fire to her dreams of a career in journalism. He hoped it wasn’t out of some misguided sense of justice solely on his behalf.
No one walked away from Miranda Priestly and lived to tell the tale on the streets of New York. Regardless of her reasons, there would be little he could do for her if Miranda decided to blacklist her from every publication on the Eastern seaboard. Not to mention the Western, Northern and Southern. The girl would be lucky to get a job back in Cincinnati if Miranda decided to destroy her.
He felt a shift next to him as Serena took a seat, pulling him back to the present.
'Emily’s organising a replacement,' he said to Miranda, indicating to the door with his head as he pulled his notes from his bag and the Devil herself took a seat before them.
Miranda sniffed in displeasure before turning her attention back to work. 'Tomorrow,' she said simply, waving a hand even as he pulled an exceptionally well organised folder, courtesy of one Andy Sachs towards him.
So, business as usual then.
Nigel was beginning to think that maybe Andy Sachs was the smartest of them all.
When she returned to her suite later that evening, Miranda locked the door and walked straight to the sideboard and to the bottle of scotch resting there.
She grabbed the bottle and a glass before making her way toward the balcony, kicking off her 4 and a half inch heels as she went. She slid the door open with her toes and made her way to one of the chairs, pouring a quadruple measure before setting the bottle down and taking a seat.
It wasn’t warm out.
She didn’t particularly care.
It had been the day from hell.
Well, the second consecutive day from hell if you included Stephen’s little surprise yesterday.
What is it they say? Bad things always come in threes? Her luck would have it that tomorrow her daughters would decide to up and leave her too, and then she would truly be alone.
She had seen the look in Nigel’s eyes this afternoon. He was the only person she considered a friend among her peers, and she highly doubted he would call her the same right now, if ever again.
He had been blind-sided and she knew it. Not only had she stripped him of a position he rightfully deserved, she had also trampled all over his pride in the process. She had been too busy worrying about the execution of her plan to even think about giving him a warning.
He had handled it admirably, she thought as she lifted the glass to her lips.
Regardless, in hindsight, she should have given him some warning. It wouldn’t have been impossible. She should have had Andrea do it. The girl had proven she could be trusted.
Well, until this afternoon that was.
What a mess.
She had built an empire, achieved greatness that very few women of her generation ever managed to achieve and yet, for all her hard work, the world still deemed her fit for punishment.
While her colleagues boasted doting wives and happy children to go home to, she was heading towards her third divorce, and once again the root cause of it all was her job.
Why was it that men continued to be able to build both their professional and personal lives successfully, without fear of recrimination for tough decisions and personal sacrifice, whilst she was splattered across page 6 and painted a monster?
Behind every great man is a great woman, she reminded herself. Not the other way around.
Today would have been viewed as a strategic victory for them. For her it just secured her status as the vicious, vindictive ‘Ice Queen.’ Lord, how she hated that particular moniker.
Regardless, she would not apologize for her actions. She refused to toe the line of everyone else’s insipid expectations. She would not yield. No one knew the things she had done to get where she was; the sacrifices she had had to make.
She cursed Stephen and his God-awful timing, but above all else she cursed that silly slip of a girl who had somehow managed to tilt her world on its axis more than anyone else before her.
She was completely justified in her actions.
She did what anyone in her position would do to protect their livelihood, and yet Andrea had sat there, judged her, and had found her wanting.
She felt righteous anger flood her veins as she gripped her glass until her knuckles turned white.
She pulled her cell phone from her coat pocket and hit a familiar speed dial. The number clicked straight over to voicemail once again and she tossed the phone aside in frustration.
As it clattered across the table she felt her anger increase.
How dare she, Miranda thought.
She was nothing more than a silly little twenty-something who’s wide eyed optimism would be crushed under the weight of the real world in no time.
She slammed her glass down on the table and stood up, walking to the railing of her private balcony to look out over the Paris skyline.
The light from her five star penthouse suite guided her way, shining light out into the darkness.
Everyone wants this, she reiterated to herself.
As she looked to her left, the darkness coming from the room adjacent to her own seemed to mock her.