In spite of her initial, readily apparent disdain, Andy began to suspect that Miranda might actually be enjoying herself. If nothing else, Miranda enjoyed flattery and she liked to shop, and the effusive gentleman expounding on the many varieties of olive oil had managed to capture her attention. Since budget was no obstacle, lesser brands were immediately discounted and the sommelier, for want of a better word, had begun introducing increasingly expensive bottles. Andy had no idea what to call olive oil aficionados, but when James encouraged Miranda to notice the ‘slight sweetness of the almond and vanilla notes,’ he might as well have been have talking about the really nice spanna that she’d had last year on her dad’s birthday.
“Andrea,” Miranda said, and Andy realized she’d been daydreaming.
“Yes! Sorry,” she said, smiling at James.
“Try this one,” Miranda said, nodding her head towards one of several dark green bottles open on the counter.
“I’d love to.” Andy glanced around for bread until she realized that James was holding out a little cup of oil for her to sip. She couldn’t think of anything quite so stomach-turning, but this evening had been entirely her idea, and Miranda, against all odds, seemed to be having fun, and there was no way she was going to ruin it. She took a cautious sip. It tasted good but felt odd on her tongue - too slick. It needed bread, desperately, Andy thought. Or pasta. Carbohydrates.
“It’s delicious,” she said, and wondered how much of it she actually had to manage to avoid being impolite.
“I’ll take that one,” Miranda said, as if Andy’s assessment had confirmed her opinion.
By the time they sat down to dinner, Miranda was an Eataly believer, inasmuch as she would ever be. “I quite like the concept,” she said. “Of course it’s hardly ‘Italy,’ and the name is pedestrian, but it’s not bad.”
Andy smiled, and expected to feel just as she had whenever she’d managed to impress Miranda, but there was no moment of pleased self-congratulation. Instead, she found herself wanting more - more Eataly, more time in this day, more nights like this one. It was, she realized, not unlike how she’d felt on her first date with Nate, when her overarching thought had been this is wonderful, how do I make it happen again?. It was a confusing similarity, but she pushed it out of her mind. She was hardly going to let herself diminish her pleasure in the evening. Besides, Miranda seemed to be ordering virtually everything on the appetizer menu, and her main goal in coming to Eataly had been the food, so she settled back to enjoy it. Besides, fresh oysters had been out of her budget for so long that she was determined to savor every bite.
“So,” Miranda said, picking up an oyster shell from the ice. “How are you?”
“Adjusting,” Andy said, taking a sip of her wine. “It’s weird living alone again.”
“I know the feeling,” Miranda said. “Of course I have the girls, but still, it’s strange. You have someone and their things in your life for so long, and then in the space of a day they just remove themselves from your life, clutter and all.”
“It’s a horrible feeling,” Andy said.
“It wasn’t so bad with Stephen,” Miranda said, “once the shock wore off, of course. He wasn’t the worst.”
Andy nodded sympathetically. “It must have been rough with their father.”
“Hardly,” Miranda drawled. “The divorce itself was difficult, but adjusting? Goodness no. I was simply relieved the first night I came home and my house was my own again, mine and my girls’.”
Andy hadn’t ever cared much for Stephen, or for either of his predecessors, to be perfectly honest, but she could appreciate how difficult it must have been to actually live with Miranda. It didn’t surprise her, but that still didn’t make it any less daunting.
“Maybe you’re just the type who isn’t meant to share living space,” Andy offered. “My friend Lily is like that, she just refuses to move in with her boyfriend and it’s been something like four years.”
Miranda took a long sip of her wine, and kept her eyes on the glass after she put it back down, watching the little beads of condensation slide down to dampen the tablecloth. “I don’t think so, Andrea,” she said, and if Andy didn’t know better, she’d have thought she sounded sad. But then their salads arrived, and Miranda began to ask about work, and the moment was gone.
As Roy sped across the city to her apartment, Andy reflected on the evening, and it occurred to her, as she juggled her keys and the box of pastry, that Miranda hadn’t actually mentioned who she’d meant when they’d gotten on the subject of the divorces. She supposed it could be her second husband, but Andy knew so little about him apart from the fact that he was French, that she imagined he hardly signified anything for Miranda. It had been an odd moment, an odd conversation, and it stayed with her, even as she dressed for work the next day.
She put it out of her mind, however, when Cassidy turned up at the building concierge promptly at 4:00, dressed in her school uniform and carrying possibly the coolest leather satchel Andy had ever seen. “I love that,” she said, guiding her towards the elevators.
“Thanks!” Cassidy said. “Zac Posen. I told Mom I wanted something professional, but chic.”
Andy stifled a smile. “You look way more professional and chic than most of us. This is us!”
She’d sent around an email that morning explaining that today would be the first of Cassidy’s two-week internship, and asking that everyone be friendly and polite and to please, please remember to watch their language. It was fun to watch Cassidy move from desk to desk, introducing herself and obviously working hard to remember names and faces. Jim had even put together the same rookie welcome swag bag that he did for all new hires: a mug emblazoned with the Mirror’s logo, branded notebook and pen, and, to Andy’s surprise, a bag of M&M’s. Then she remembered why: in her swag bag, she’d gotten happy hour drink tickets. They’d even set her up with her own email address; she knew it was such a little thing, and had probably taken IT less than a minute to do, but Cassidy seemed so utterly pleased with it that Andy made a mental note to thank them.
She connected Cassidy’s laptop to the wifi while the girl settled in at her desk.
“So am I like your assistant, Andy?” she asked, fairly brimming with questions.
“In the sense of getting me coffee? No. But you will be helping me with the two features I’m currently working on, and any other assignments that get thrown my way.”
Cassidy bit her lip. “Does that mean I’ll get to write something?”
“We’ll see how it goes! I’d like to get you your first byline, but that might not be something we’ll be able to do in these two weeks. There’s a lot to learn.”
The next two hours went by quickly, with Jim sending her over a brief piece to copyedit before it published to the site. Since it wasn’t anything pressing - at least, Andy was pretty positive that blurbs about the drunken antics of Jersey Shore ‘stars’ were only of interest to themselves - she did it slowly, walking Cassidy through each step and introducing her to proper shorthand.
At five to six they gathered their things to wait outside for Roy. Cassidy seemed engrossed in her phone, entirely different from the way she’d been earlier.
“Caroline’s texting me,” she said, tiredly, after a moment.
“Is everything okay?”
“I guess,” Cassidy said. “She’s just really stressed.”
“Junior year is more difficult than senior year,” Andy said. “I hated junior year, there’s so much pressure. During your senior year, once the applications are all in, you can relax a bit.”
“She’s just not very happy,” Cassidy said finally.
“What does your mom say about it?”
Cassidy shrugged, and Andy had the impression that this wasn’t something they’d shared with Miranda. She looked up from her phone to smile at Andy. “It’s okay,” she said. “She’s just not having a good day. That’s all.”
“Good,” Andy replied, even though she didn’t believe a word of it. “I’m glad to hear it.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow!” Cassidy said when Roy pulled up, sounding just as she had earlier in the afternoon. “Thank you so much Andy, this was really awesome.”
She disappeared into the car and Andy watched as Roy sped away. She had to remind herself, as she walked to the subway, that she barely knew these girls and was hardly in a position to judge whether or not something was wrong. She hardly knew their mother outside of a professional context, for all that she had enjoyed their evening out. Anything she read into the situation was entirely conjecture.
“You went to dinner with Miranda Priestly?”
Andy couldn’t tell if Doug was incredulous or aghast. “We went to Eataly.”
“At least she didn’t fly you to the Dorchester for a private meal with Alain Ducasse.’
“I’m impressed,” Andy said. “Since when have you been a foodie?”
“Since when do you socialize with the dragon lady?”
Andy sighed, and sipped her espresso. Caffeine had won out that night. “Because I like her, and she asked me out. I mean, not out out, but she asked me to dinner, and it was nice. I’m helping her daughter with a school project.”
Doug shook his head. “I thought you were free, Andy.”
“Well, she came to my wedding, so that should have been your first clue.” Her tone was biting, but she couldn’t help it. She’d always been defensive when it came to Miranda, even from her earliest days working at Runway. That’s what Lily and Nate and even Doug had never understood: Miranda had never been just a boss. Andy had worked for plenty of capricious taskmasters, but Miranda had been different. She’d told her friends that it was because Miranda was uniquely good at her job and that she had things to learn from her. While that had certainly been true, she knew perfectly well that most bosses didn’t engender the kind of response she’d had toward Miranda, that need to defend to her parents and her friends.
“Touche,” Doug said. “I’m just surprised. What are you doing for the kid?’
“She’s my assistant for the next two weeks,” Andy said. “She’s doing a project on journalism, and she needed an internship. So her mother called me.”
“I’m surprised she didn’t just make her editor for the day at Runway.”
“Maybe she thought she’d learn more.”
Andy picked up the spoon on her saucer and began to fidget. “What’s up with you, anyway? I’m doing her a favor. There’s no need to give me such a hard time.”
Doug sighed. “I’m sorry. Things just haven’t been working out.”
“Trouble at work?”
“No, work’s fine. Boring. Fine. You know.”
Andy didn’t know, not really since Doug only talked about work when she asked him specific questions related to articles she was writing. Otherwise, she had no interest whatsoever in finance, and he hated discussing it.
“I set up Arthur with a rebound date,” he said after a few minutes. “You know, after what happened with you.”
“But Arthur and I weren’t dating. We didn’t even have a real rebound date. Why would he need a rebound date from my non-rebound date? We had a nice time.”
“That’s not the way it’s supposed to work,” Doug said. “He hated the girl and isn’t talking to me, and my whole idea has gone to crap.”
No wonder he’d been so weird. “You had an idea?”
“I thought it would be the next big thing: interim now, forever future. Like Match, but for people on the rebound.”
Andy smiled, hopefully encouragingly, even though the pitch had sounded better when Arthur had been making fun of it. “You can’t just have one setback and abandon a whole idea, Doug. I mean I could definitely see a niche market for it. The OK Cupid guy is doing pretty well for himself.”
Doug furrowed his brow and knocked back the last of his drink. “Maybe I need some distance,” he said.
“Could be,” Andy said. “But anyway.”
“So Miranda Priestly,” Doug said, abruptly. “What’s she like off the clock?”
“Surprisingly fun,” Andy replied, and settled in to catch Doug up.
The next few days passed without incident. As she’d expected, Cassidy was endearingly excited to learn, and had proven to be rather useful around the newsroom. On Tuesday Jim had set her the task of monitoring the Mirror’s Twitter page, encouraging her to interact with readers and discuss the stories. She’d been friendly and funny as their Twitter intern, but Andy was still surprised when, late Wednesday during the editorial meeting, she timidly proposed a Twitter chat for that coming Friday and Jim actually considered the proposal as carefully as he did any other.
“What would a Twitter chat achieve for us? Or rather, why should you spend time facilitating that when you might be needed elsewhere?”
Cassidy took a deep breath. “Because we are running a review of the new Donna Tartt novel on Friday. From a marketing perspective this would be good because we could promote the review, and because it’s on the weekend, we could get readers interested in the book insert on Sunday.”
Jim nodded. “How would you get readers to participate?”
Cassidy glanced at her notebook. “We could promote it today and tomorrow. We could use trending hashtags on Friday - “ she began.
“I don’t see how that encourages more meaningful interaction than what we’re doing,” Jim said.
“What if we asked for Tweet reviews?” Cassidy asked quickly. “We could run the best of them on Sunday, maybe pick like five. We could tell everyone to check the paper on Sunday to see this week’s winners.”
This week’s winners, Andy thought, impressed. Cassidy thought ahead, already talking as if her pitch had been accepted. She wondered if young Miranda had been something like this, when she was just getting her start.
“I like it,” Jim said. "You can talk to Dana after the meeting and she'll let you preview the insert."
“Thank you!” Cassidy exclaimed. “I mean yes, I’ll do that right away.”
Andy smiled for the rest of the editorial meeting, especially when she caught Dana, the arts editor, drafting notes for Cassidy. She was proud of the girl, especially so because she’d conceived this idea and pitched it entirely on her own. She’d known Cassidy had school newspaper experience, but that kind of initiative would serve her well when she was a freshman among many upperclassmen on staff at the college paper.
“Cassidy,” Jim said, as the meeting broke up, “you’ll need to file your story no later than noon on Saturday.”
Cassidy looked between him and Andy with a huge grin. “Yes sir!” she said, even though Andy could tell that what was really going through her head was oh my god I have to text Caroline.
“I think this calls for a celebration,” Andy said as they left the meeting. “You first byline! I’m so proud of you.”
“It’s really nice of Mr. Elliott to let me do it,” Cassidy said.
“I’m not letting you do anything,” Jim said from behind her, and Cassidy whirled around. “You’ve done a good job moderating the Twitter feed over the past two days, and you pitched a good idea that builds on what you’ve proven you can do. That’s why you’re getting your first byline. You earned it.”
Cassidy looked like she was about to cry, but she managed a big smile. “Thank you sir, that means a lot.”
It occurred to Andy, watching Cassidy type furiously on her laptop, drafting an iMessage to Caroline, that it must mean a lot to her. Here was a kid - not really, she needed to stop thinking of her as such, especially since she much preferred this intelligent, creative teenager to the bratty kid she'd been - who had always had whatever she wanted, whenever she asked. It must be a powerful thing to be told that she’d earned it.
Andy decided, right then, to text Miranda and see if they couldn’t meet somewhere to do something special. She kept it vague, telling Miranda only that Cassidy had exciting news, so that Cassidy could make her own announcement. Miranda replied within ten minutes, with an address and a time. Andy stared at her phone for several moments.
80 Spring St. (Broadway & Crosby), Miranda had written. 7.30.
Andy felt her eyes widen.