And there's no cure
And no way to be sure
Why everything's turned inside out
Instilling so much doubt
It makes me so tired
I feel so uninspired
My head is battling with my heart
My logic has been torn apart
It all turns sour
Say you'll stay
Don't come and go
Like you do
Sway my way
Yeah I need to know
All about you
- Bic Runga, Sway
The early hours of 2007 are dark and cold. The Boston rooftop seemed to be more snow and ice than cement and steel. Andy pulled the blanket tighter around her, wishing she could pull it over her head and burrow into the old couch to try and find some warmth.
Nate’s friends were scattered around. Andy could hear clips of conversations, jokes and laughter. She felt very distant from it all. Even Nate, sitting on the same couch as her, felt very far away. His arm was around her but his body angled towards the people at the table next to them.
Going to the party had been Nate’s idea. It was on the top of his friend’s building and the landlord apparently was cool with tenants using it for the celebrations. Nate’s friends really did seem like nice people, he certainly seemed to like them. He was bright and loud. Open in gestures and easy in his smiles. He looked like he did in college, old shirts pushed up to his elbows and crinkles around his eyes. Andy likes seeing him like this, comfortable in this place. It feels like she is clutching to the edges of memory though, and not holding onto a person, flesh blood and breathing.
Coming here had seemed like a good idea at the time. Only being a few weeks into her new job, she could not get time off to go home for Christmas but managed to slip out of the city for New Years Eve. Ever since Nate moved out of the city it had been hard to find the time to see each other. He had come and visited a few times but it was never for long.
It was easier to pretend they were still together when they could rely on the distance, and in New York it was easy around Doug and Lily and all those reminders of times where they had been such a good couple.
Here, surrounded by his new friends, new city, and new life, it had became very clear to Andy just how far apart they had slipped. She knows it is not even him she is reaching for anyway. She was trying to clutch at the girl he loved, scrambling to grasp at the person she was before New York City, before Jimmy Choos and before those bright lights blinded her.
Andy feels like she spent the past year constantly out of breath and out of sorts. Even now she still feels like she is running to catch up.
She had burst out of that car in Paris with such purpose and direction but found herself treading dark water instead. Trying to get out of France, finding her way at the Mirror, carefully mending ties with Doug, Lily and Nate. And on this cold rooftop, surrounded by people she should know but doesn’t, she feels more lost than ever.
“Scuba-diving, definitely. Right, Andy?” Nate turns to her.
“Hmm?” Andy looks up at him and the group.
“Resolutions for the new year?” Hannah, Andy thinks her name is Hannah, smiles at her.
“We’re trying to avoid the typical weight, love, and job ones”
“So far we are all going to take up falconry, learn sign language and go to Rarotonga in the fall.”
“Oh wow” Andy tries to match their broad, bright smiles. “Well, uh, I’m on board for anything tropical,” she manages, hoping they won’t hold her to anything in the fall.
Because after this she and Nate will go back to his place to sleep for a couple of hours but then she will get up, pack up the bag she bought and leave him like she should have done months ago. She knows he won’t try to stop her and she knows she won’t look back.
She will get on the train and hurtle back to her city, hoping the momentum can pull her forward and out of the dark.
The Mirror is challenging in all the ways Runway was not. Her brain thrives and aches and buzzes from ideas and plans and pitches. The first week had felt returning home, to things that matter and people who understand her. It was fast paced and manic at times but at the end of the day she knew she had done something more valuable than tracking down a misplaced earring or particular button.
Andy hates fashion. She does dress better than she did before New York, Runway made her respect clothes, but that does not mean she hates the industry any less.
She had spent half her time at Runway trying not to shake her colleagues by the shoulders, convince them of the futility of what they were doing, the damage they were causing.
She wanted to persuade Miranda most of all, but she knew that she would get about a minute into her tirade and the editor would cut her off, “of course I know Andrea, do you think I’m stupid? Now get me another Starbucks. You have three minutes.”
Here she can feel pride in what she is doing.
But in some ways she feels like she jumping over all the same hurdles again. People look at her with doubt in their eyes, judge her youth and dismiss her. But Andy has had the best training for this, she straightens her spine, sets her shoulders and looks straight ahead.
She puts in even longer hours than she did at Runway. Strives to make everything she works on as good as it can be. Does her best to get on well with the rest of the staff.
But sometimes even all of that isn’t enough to stop the wanting.
The Mirror may dedicate itself to the sort of stories Andy is interested in but even they are suffering from budget tightening, financial pressures and trying to keep up with the new age of journalism. Only weeks in and she realises sensation sometimes has to trump substance and there is not simply enough time to give pieces the depth they deserve.
Her thoughts keep drifting to all of the writers and editors she met over her time at Runway, at different meetings and under the bright lights of Paris. She knows that they have been doing this for years, have so much experience under their belts and she will get there one day too. But she was so mesmerised by their ideas, the way they looked at the world and how they could encapsulate that in words, sometimes neat and tidy and others long and eloquent. She wants to work with those people, do something more than chasing down stories that will turn pages so the advertisers don’t pull their funding.
Everything about Runway has been hard to shake.
Andy still dreams about Paris.
The lights. Girl after girl after girl in clothes even she was in awe of. Nigel’s happiness. Nigel’s sadness. Miranda in that grey robe. Christian’s hands. Miranda in the back seat of the car. Getting out of the car. Sometimes not getting out of the car. Sometimes an eternity of sitting in that backseat, wanting to run, no not only run but to grab Miranda’s hand and take her with her, away from the press and the divorce and anything that would make her cry. They would run away from this supposedly beautiful world that twisted people into all things ugly. She would take Miranda’s hand and run.
But they are just dreams and she always has to wake up.
She goes to work every day and throws herself into it. But something tugs at her, something telling her that there is so much more than this and she knows it.
She thinks that the Andy before Runway would have loved this job.
Now she just keeps wanting more.
“Hey Andy where’s your bottle opener?”
“I think it’s the box by the oven. No, the one under that”.
People have been drifiting into Andy’s apartment all afternoon. It is her birthday and they come bearing presents, small boxes with bows and candy coloured cards. Doug and Lily have been here since the morning. They made her birthday pancakes in her trainwreck of a kitchen. The whole apartment is chaos really. She had only moved in a few days earlier and has not had a chance to properly unpack.
She had not been able to afford the place she and Nate had for a while and then she really could not afford it. So she and Lily spent a couple of weekends going up and around her neighbourhood and checking out advertisements. Despite the stress of moving, Andy had enjoyed having her best friend on her side again. It was even better that the place they managed to find – still not really what Andy could afford but close enough – was just a block away from Lily’s apartment.
Her friend is stooped over the kitchen bench, arranging a makeshift drinks bar made up from all the contributions of the guests. Doug bought a couple of his friends from work and even some of the people Andy was closer with at the Mirror had made an appearance. They were all stuffed into the tiny spaces, perching on surfaces between boxes and each other. The apartment is so small and so cramped but it is Andy’s and all her own.
She goes over to Lily and admires her handiwork.
“I’ll have the best cocktails you’ve ever had whipped up in just a minute” Lily grins.
Andy slings her arm around Lily’s waist and rests her head on her should, “glad you’re here, Lil”
Lily laughs, warm and low, “no trouble, birthday girl. Where else would I be?”
Where else indeed.
It takes Andy a while to get used to an editor who expresses their approval in ways other than just not at all or by continuing to set near impossible tasks. So when Greg invites Andy and a couple of the other reporters along with him to some publishing function it is not a trigger for anxiety and stress but a fun evening to look forward to.
The event itself is pretty mundane but Andy gets to talks to some other writers she really admires and meet people from other newspapers and magazines. She even gets swept up with some of the people from Elle who go to some party uptown after the function has finished up. One of the guys had recognised Andy as the overworked but kind assistant from Runway and he invites her along and they all share war stories about some of the absurdities of their jobs.
The party they arrive at is the kind of party she embellished her dreams of living in New York City with. A loft that is so big its cavernous open spaces should echo but instead are filled with people and martinis and intellectual conversation and halfway dancing and everyone calling each other ‘darling’. She feels out of place but finds herself enjoying it, bright lights and all.
It takes her almost an hour to realise that Miranda is here too. Of course Miranda is here.
She had looked up from her drink and instead of meeting eyes with the person she was talking to, she had caught of glimpse of silver hair and gold dress and felt the world tilt a little. So she swallows some liquid courage and goes over to where Miranda is holding court with some very influential looking people by the balcony.
“Andrea, well this is a surprise” her words are like silk and Andy fights a shiver.
The people around them seem take heed of some cue Andy has missed and move away.
Months away from Miranda has left Andy unused to the editor’s intense gaze. She feels like a particularly unsavoury layout, an out of place accessory or a clashing colour scheme. She resists the urge to adjust her dress or check her lipstick and barrels on with what she wanted to say.
“Miranda, about why I left…”
“Oh don’t waste my time. I know exactly why you left. You saw me, all miserable and alone, no husband no friends no life and you, with your pretentious notions of what success should be, rejected that as your future and took the completely mature option of running away from it. That is why you left”.
Andy wants to object, to pick up the script where she had left it but finds the words caught in her throat.
“Then why did you write me the reference? You could have ruined me.”
The wind seems to go out of Miranda’s sails for a moment too, but the moment passes so quickly that Andy is sure she must have imagined it.
“Just because you were a disappoinment to me as an assistant Andrea does not mean I believe that for all of your endeavours”.
Andy had not expected that. She had not even considered the notion that Miranda might believe in her, not in her limited capacity as an assistant, but as something more.
“Well, thank you. For the reference, it meant a lot.”
Miranda sighed and looked off in the distance. Andy’s time was clearly up.
“Anyway, it was nice seeing you.”
“I’m sure it was,” Miranda said, her voice almost bored.
As it turned out, Andy would see a great deal more of Miranda.
Over the next few weeks, Andy found herself at a number of events and after parties and found Miranda there too. It almost became normal to look up and give her a smile and get a disinterested nod back. She found herself looking forward to joining in conversations where Miranda was too.
Andy knew Miranda found these sorts of social occasions very tiresome and dull and that she never stayed long but still got a small thrill of seeing her from the other side. She didn’t have to watch for tics of impatience and indiciations that she needed anyone to get anything for her but could just watch such a dynamic person in action.
She was still not used to it though, this other side of Miranda. This Miranda who she sees not in the constant rush of Runway but in other people’s apartments, lofts and studio parties. She was still spectacular and grand though, airy and eretheral, only giving people snatches of attention and making them beg for more.
She seemed to tolerate Andy though. It is late on a Saturday night and the two of them are reclined against some glorified sofa on the balcony of some famous writer’s penthouse apartment. The wine has muddled Andy’s brain and it is odd for her to look down to the edge of the leather and see her feet next to Miranda’s, their high heels (hers shabby out of season and Miranda’s on point as per usual) slipping off as they hang towards the ground.
Miranda is taking a drag from a cigarette. Andy holds hers, not wanting to cough from inexperience in front of Miranda. She watches the small wisps of smoke form around Miranda’s face and then drift up into the night air.
“Christian Thompson is featuring in our next issue.”
The party is dying down and they are the only two people on the balcony but Miranda still talks as soft and quiet as ever.
“He is, without a doubt, a complete and utter tool.”
Andy snorts, unable to help herself.
“Oh and he will not shut up about you… Andy this Andy that, you let a good one go, you know who would do a great job of this – Andy Sachs” Miranda lets out a huge sigh after her mocking impersonation.
Andy manages to contain her laughter this time.
“It’s so strange hearing you call me Andy.”
“As it should, your name is lovely, why you would hack it up into some uncultured substititute I cannot begin to fathom. Names are very important in this world, Andrea.”
“It’s just what I’ve always been called, ever since I was born.”
“I wasn’t born Miranda.”
Andy goes still again, feeling the earth tilt under her.
“What were you born?” she prompts.
Miranda chuckles, but it is bitter, “Miriam. Miriam Princhek.”
Andy already knows this, she had done her research, but it is something else to hear Miranda say it herself. She would turn the information over and over again in her head for the next few days. Not so much the name itself, but the admission and truth of it.
Doug would interrorgate her when they meet up for coffee every few days about her work, her networking and all the important people she met. She would be able to recount the lavishness of it, all the people and places but her thoughts would get stuck on certain details that she could not say aloud.
Miriam. Miranda catching her eye across a room. Miriam. Miranda staying at parties for longer than Andy knew she should be scheduled to. Miriam. Miriam. Miriam.
Andy’s approach of throwing herself and more into her work usually reaped good results but it was at times like this that she wished she knew how to keep quiet. Simon had been under a load of deadlines and Andy more than eager to scalp off an unwanted assignment.
Andy had made her way to the courthouse, feeling pretty pleased with herself and her initiative until she then had to sit through the mind-numbingly boring in the way that only tax law can be boring closing arguments.
As soon as court adjourned she was up out of her seat and out the door. She would have tore her way out of the building in similar fashion if something had not caught her eye as she passed an almost empty hallway.
There is Miranda, small and quiet, leaning against the wall.
Andy marvels at how strange it is to see her so still, not in a rush of action either in the office or in some bustling social setting.
Her head shoots up, gaze once fixed on the floor now piercing through Andy.
“Uh, there’s a case upstairs I was reporting on.”
Miranda nodded, still appearing nerved. She swallowed, brushed a swift hand through her hair, “my court date finished early, and the Marc Jacobs showing has been moved, it’s the first moment I’ve had to myself all day” her voice catching on the end.
“Oh, um, the divorce?” Andy ventures hesitantly.
Miranda scoffs and shakes her head, “not today.” She runs another hand through her hair, “James, he, he is trying to get custody of the girls”. She looks away, “he and his wife and the new baby” she sneers, “are relocating to Los Angeles and he wants to take the girls with him”.
There it is.
Andy feels a strange, awful, creaking in her chest as she looks at the woman, carved of stone and marble, fading into the textures of the blues and grays of the wall behind her. She is suddenly in the hotel room in Paris all over again. Only now Miranda is made up and put together as she usually is and Andy does not work for her. Only now Andy can move.
“There’s a café upstairs, we could go up there for a while, get a coffee. My treat.” Andy feels ridiculous, offering to buy anything for a woman who has so much more than her. But Miranda seems to understand that the offer is not a financial one. She nods and the two of them turn and move back up the stairs.
Andy places their orders, not surprised that she can remember Miranda’s perfectly without hesitation and joins her at a table towards the back.
Miranda looks at her with such focus and intensity that Andy has to look away.
“That’s an awful sweater”
Andy looks down astonished. She thought the maroon knit was quite trendy – she had certainly paid enough for it.
“Don’t look so offended.”
“It’s just – it’s designer and everything!”
“Just because it has a label does not make it good, even you should know that, Andrea”.
Despite her mild bafflement, Andy is pleased to see that mean streak back in Miranda. Anything to take away from that sadness in her eyes.
Their coffees arrive and Andy is thankful that she can see even from the other side of the table that Miranda’s is steaming hot.
A quiet settles around them as they sip at their drinks and Andy starts to get nervous that she cannot handle Miranda without slipping into the assistant role or with a decent amount of alcohol in her system. She begins to babble, to tell Miranda about her new apartment and how surprised she is that for being surrounded by tall buildings on all sides she does not feel swallowed up by the city and how she never has despite how intimidating she finds New York.
But Miranda does not dismiss her inane comments. She sets her cup down and starts to speak, and from there it is a matter of drawing her out, thread by thread. She offers what a relief it always is to return to this city. That she gets restless whenever she is away for too long. That she cannot imagine her girls, her precious girls, living in somewhere so saturated with sun and how unhappy they would be away from all they know.
They are interrupted by Miranda’s phone, the barking of orders and the reminder of the time. Andy makes a move to pack up her things but stills under Miranda’s gaze. The look on Miranda’s face is no longer solemn, but very very serious.
“What is it about you?”
Andy does not know what to do with this question. Miranda apparently does not either because after a minute of it hanging between them she shakes it off, pulls out her phone, fires off a text and then looks up again, seriousness lifted.
“Are you going to that new restaurant opening next Saturday?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Well no I assume you’re not, despite you popularity I suppose you cannot be everywhere with everyone.”
“Maybe,” Andy starts, then strengthened by the softening around Miranda’s eyes, “maybe we could meet up again, something simple, like coffee. We don’t have to wait until the next party we’re both at to talk”.
“Hmm, I suppose that could work”.
Andy smiles and they walk down the stairs and out into the street together. Miranda even returns her wave, albeit small and while talking on the phone, before she gets into the town car.
All Andy does is want. She wants everything.
She thinks maybe the only other person on the entire planet who understands this wanting is Miranda Priestly.
Andy is just beginning to understand what Miranda meant by “everyone wants to be us”.
They have only met up a handful of times since the morning at the courthouse, no longer for an hour each but Andy knows that their value should be measured in something far beyond minutes. She is collecting another side of Miranda to add to the puzzle in her head. She isn’t sure what she is trying to construct. She knows that it is no longer a boss to resent, or a woman in power to worship and fight for. Not a friend either, that would be too much of a stretch but anything less would still not capture it. Because for all that Miranda is unreasonable and mean and cruel, she is also smart and charming and sharp.
She finds herself storing away thoughts and stories to tell Miranda when she can. Even questions she had thought of while sitting behind her desk at Runway, things she wanted to pick Miranda’s brain about when she could not. She had thought she had lost that oppportunity after Paris, but here is Miranda, of her own volition, with Andy.
Like tonight, they are at Lily’s art galley. Her friend’s new exhibit hangs strong and proud on the walls. Andy is happy not only for Lily’s success but that Andy has managed to see her enough to know the process behind it. She blabbers about contrasts, about texture and lighting as Miranda walks quietly beside her.
“James is an artist.” Miranda says.
This makes perfect sense to Andy. Miranda’s first husband may be an absolute idiot but clearly must have a reasonably profficient artist’s eye to see how breathtaking Miranda is. Then again, Andy is no artist and even she can see it.
“Hmm, were you his muse?” Andy jests.
“He certainly had a reverence for beautiful women but that wasn’t what drew him to me. He said ambition suited me well, better than everything else. He loved me for it. I have to give him that, he was never whiny or bitched about being emasculated. Of course now he is doing his best to use my success against me,” bitterness twists through her mouth.
“Maybe we should use this on him” Andy suggests slyly, gesturing to one of the stranger sculptures at the other end of the gallery, a long rather spiky looking column.
Miranda snorts, “would be more effective than my lawyer, less expensive too”.
Andy decides that Miranda’s smile suits her best out of anything.
After the exhibition they go with Lily and some of her friends to a restaurant over the next block. Andy is surprised that Miranda is accompanying them. She seems more at ease, not in a rush but happy to stay and linger with Andy. So Andy buys them both a drink, leaves Lily to soak up her success with her people who get her world far more than Andy and settles down with Miranda in a quieter corner of the bar.
Andy thinks about Miranda’s comment before, about how ambition fits people, about how you wear it is a style choice in its own. She considers how her own feels unfamiliar around her times, like a dress she hasn’t worn before.
“It’s different for women” Andy hear herself say.
Her voice is swallowed up by the scrape of chair legs against wooden floors and the murmer of the patrons in the bar around them but she can tell Miranda heard her, sees her swallowing the spite filled statement with another mouthful of gin. It is not the first time they have talked about women in the workplace, but Andy has never expressed her frustration so strongly to her before.
“Don’t say that” she eventually says with the heaviness of a woman who has learned to live with her exhaustion.
Andy tries to interrupt her, to champion her cause, but Miranda continues, “yes it is different in certain ways but not in others. We are very lucky with our success Andrea, we have things many do not.”
Andy lets out a breathy laugh, “Wow, I never though I’d have Miranda Priestly telling me to check my privilege.”
Miranda just simply takes another sip of her drink.
“I’m not happy at my job”. It’s the first time she says the words but the truth of them do not stun her.
She expects Miranda to berate her, to remind her if she had just stuck around for a few more months at Runway she could have had anything she wanted. More hours, more backbreaking hours of no rest, no calories, no friends and she could have had the key. Instead Miranda sits her drink down and asks her suprisingly thoughful questions about her work, what she does and what she wants to do.
Andy finds herself rambling about her dreams. Usually she is restrained around Miranda’s, concious of her idealism and naivity.
“Well you have only been in New York a short while. Just over a year right?”
“I was here for years before anything seemed to happen. You think being an assistant for me was horrible? You should have seen some of the morons that were running this industry before your time.”
The thought seems to halt there, Andy is saddened at only getting a glimpse of what made Miranda Priestly.
“You are so very young” Miranda says, so softly and quietly that Andy wonders if she meant to say it at all. Andy can’t decipher the look in her eyes but feels herself falling into it all the same.
Someone drops a glass nearby and the moment between them too shatters.
Miranda looks away and smirks, “you will get there Andrea don’t you worry. I didn’t refrain from blacklisting you just for you to flounder about at some substandard newspaper.”
Andy doesn’t rise to the bait, simply pokes her tongue out at her and then finishes her drink.
“Would you like to drive to Ohio with me next week?”
The request naturally catches Andy off guard.
Long road trips with another person is not something she takes lightly, let alone with Miranda Priestly. Of course, Miranda is less of a distant enigma now, but a handful of afternoons and evenings spent together in different spots around the city hardly added up in Andy’s book to prospective cross country travel together.
Not only that, but the Ohio part of the equations takes her back most of all. When Miranda mentioned that she and Andy shared the same state birthplace Andy was sure it had been a slip of the tongue, an absent truth tumbled out while waiting for their coffee to arrive.
Andy does not realise yet that she knows far more about Miranda than anyone else, that soon she will know her better than anyone. But for now, Andy does not realise many things. She knows Miranda’s real name, now where Miranda was born but not yet knows that Miranda is in love with her (but to be fair, Miranda has not even realised that yet either).
“You mentioned you didn’t manage to get to see your parents for Christmas? I wondered if you might join if that would suit you”.
“Uh sure”, Andy mentally calculated how she could juggle her shifts to make the few days off work, starting with the minor details rather than cast her mind to how to survive that many hours in a car with Miranda.
Doug can barely comprehend the idea.
“Oh my god Andy! Is she going to murder you and dump your body on the side of the road?”
Even Lily, who understands the concept of a Miranda who is not the fire breathing boss to Andy, cannot quite grasp the idea.
“Is this some weird ‘Thelma and Louise’ scenario? Am I going to have to bail you out of jail after you two destroy some poor unsuspecting clearance clothing store or run down someone in sneans?”
Her parents are overjoyed at the news though (she conveniently leaves out who the person is she is catching a ride with) and the thought of going home is enough to spur her along.
So there she is standing at the corner of her street Thursday afternoon, suitcase leaning against her legs, waiting for Miranda.
Andy half expected to find Roy behind the wheel when she gets into the gleaming Mercedes but no, there is Miranda, sunglasses and all, in the driver’s seat.
“Hey” she smiles as she puts her bag in the back seat and slips into her own.
“I thought I’d take the first few hours and then see how we go.”
She pulls out into the traffic and Andy tries to make herself comfortable against the leather seat.
“Have you driven this way before?”
“Yeah, Nate and me drove his parents’ car with a trailer when we first moved here. Oh gosh, never driving with a trailer in the city ever again. No matter how much I liked our furniture, it was not worth it.”
“I took a bus the first time I came here, the longest ride of my life.”
Andy feels the questions bubble up in throat again, the way they always do when Miranda lays herself bare even in the slightest.
“When was that?”
Miranda laughs, “a very very long time ago. I had just graduated high school. I had saved up enough money and I was out of there.”
“Woah, you’re brave. I was scared enough coming here when I finished college.”
Miranda laughs again, but this time bitterly.
“It had nothing to do with bravery, Andrea. It was a necessity. It doesn’t mean I was not terrified. I had never been in a city so big. It certainly is strange to feel so alone when surrounded by so many people.”
Andy is instantly very aware of how they are the only two people here in this space, alone together for the first time in a long time.
“Well, I think you’re very brave,” Andy says with a small smile
“Oh yes, I’m fearless now” Miranda replies glancing over at her quickly so Andy can see the mischief in her eyes.
“Who else would wear some of those collections – I’ve seen you rock shoulderpads not even Emily would go near” Andy grins.
Miranda just shakes her head with a chuckle.
Suddenly Andy wishes that she could jump through time. That she could be in Miranda’s home town, same age, same dreams, two mid western girls with their heads looking up into the sky, wanting so much more than what they could see around them. She would take Miranda’s hand and run.
The drive is long but thankfully Miranda lets Andy play with the radio, only expressing her irritation when she keeps channel surfing. Miranda talks over most of the music anyway. Andy becomes very knowledgeable about the upcoming trends of the season and also a number of people Miranda does not like anymore.
They could keep driving through the dark but decide that it is probably best to stop for the night and then get through the last few hours early in the morning. They manage to find a decent looking motel. Andy calls her parents while Miranda sorts out their rooms.
Miranda gives Andy her key, a list of instructions for what to do in the morning, even tacking a quiet good night on the end, and retreats to her room.
It’s very late but Andy feels wired as she plonks her bag down and tries to get ready for bed. It is probably the soda she bought when they stopped for gas. She can’t sleep. The heat does not help either. She tries to tinker with the clearly broken air conditioner but gives up. She lies on top of the thin blankets, sweat sticking to her arms and forehead before pulling herself up in frustration and charging out and down the hallway.
She has caught Miranda by surprise. Her make up is off when she answers the door and when Andy stalks into the room fuming about humidity and faulty electrics she sees her suitcase sprawled open and overflowing, a messiness she would not have associated with Miranda.
Miranda huffs and complains about the intrusion but allows Andy the couch.
Andy lies back on the cushions, her body sinking in all the wrong places and tries not to listen to Miranda’s breathing.
It is a whole other thing to be in a car with Miranda for a long period time than it is trying to sleep when she is just across the room.
She is buzzed, wired and still cannot sleep even though the air around her is cool.
Miranda’s breathing is even and quiet but Andy is pretty sure she is not asleep.
This suspicion is confirmed when at about ten minutes past one she hears feet hit the floor and sees Miranda cross the room over to the kitchenette. She must realise Andy is still awake too because she makes no effort to be quiet as she rattles around making a cup of tea.
“Do you want one too, Andrea?” Miranda’s voice is rough from tiredness.
“Yes please” she sits up from the couch.
They don’t turn on the lights but sit at the small table by the window, the flourescent lights of the motel and vacancy sign casting blue and red through the thin curtains.
Andy does not pretend not to stare as her eyes trace the lines of Miranda’s bare shoulders, the skin that her dark grey nightgown does not cover. Miranda stares out the gap in the curtains.
Andy waits for her to speak. It does not come for a long time, both of their teas are gone and the hour grows even later.
“I hate coming back. I hate that it is where I am from and that I can’t forget it.”
Andy only thinks of good when she thinks of home, of love and family and comfort. She cannot imagine not thinking of that.
“Then why are you?”
“I have business to take care of, my sister she, it doesn’t matter”. Her chest rises and falls as she takes deep breaths and continues not to look at Andy. “I have to take care of my family, Andrea, it is what I must do.”
“Why did you ask me to come with you?” This is what has been bubbling at the back of Andy’s throat ever since she got in the car, ever since the phone call, ever since Miranda talked to her again after Paris.
The silence stretches it out. Andy measures it in heartbeats as hers is surprisingly slow and steady considering the butterflies rattling in her ribcage. “You wanted to go home,” Miranda says at first – and there it is, that glimpse of kindness Andy knew was there. Two hearbeats. “Though it was not an entirely selfless suggestion, no.” Four hearbeats. “You, you make things easier for me Andrea. I don’t know how…” A flutter. “I even noticed it when you worked for me, but now, especially now, I seem to find everything much less difficult when you are here.”
Andy’s heart stops all together at that.
So Andy helps. Not as an assistant or ex-assistant but as someone Miranda Priestly treasures and values. She cleans up the cups, does not make her talk about what lies ahead of her tomorrow but lies down beside her, talking quietly about her own plans for the weekend at home until they both fall asleep, not too close but not too far apart.
When they both rise with the sun, they are slow and quiet.
Andy goes back to her room to change and get packed up. When she returns Miranda has already checked them out and has a cup of coffee from the café down the road in hand for her. Andy smiles at the gift.
“For you” Miranda says simply and gently.
Andy smiles and thanks her, blushing even more when their fingers brush.
When they get back on the road Andy takes the wheel. She tries to concentrate on not mishandling Miranda’s fancy car and not glancing over at the woman herself dozing off slightly beside her.
As they cross the state line into Ohio Miranda seems to wake up more. She still hasn’t told Andy where exactly she is from, where she is going to. She is just about to ask when Miranda speaks.
“You can take the car to your parent’s house, my stop is before yours. I suppose I can trust you not to skip out of state and leave me stranded in this hell hole.”
Andy gapes a little. She wants to question her on this but Miranda eyes slip out of focus again as she tilts her head towards the window.
She is unsure how she will explain the car to her family but she pulls over when Miranda tells her to outside of a gas station and a handful of shops on the side of the road. She pulls her suitcase out of the trunk and stands and waits for the taxi she called. It is strange to climb back into the car without Miranda, to leave her here.
Andy wants to ask why doesn’t she just drive her, what could be around this back country worth returning to.
But she doesn’t.
“Okay, I’ll pick you up from here on Sunday.”
“3 o’clock and not a minute later.”
She just gives Miranda a wave and continues down the highway, trying not to look back.
Two days later Andy will return. Full of home cooked meals, warmth, hugs and love. She will find Miranda just where she said she would be. She will not ask her how her weekend was, just help her with her bags and not say a word when Miranda’s hand reaches out and rests, almost impossibly lightly, on top of her own as they make the long drive back home.
Andy is writing more than she had ever before.
She writes articles, ideas for articles, thoughts for major features.
She writes messages to Miranda, responses to invitations, anecdotes about her day, inquiries about the girls.
There is a lot she is not writing though.
She wants to write to Miranda and ask her to go away with her, somewhere where there are beaches and never ending summers, so she can see what she looks like in the tropical sun.
She wants to write Miranda a proposal to start up a magazine with her, Andy writes and Miranda edits and they take on New York with their ideas and their brilliance and the wonder that is when they are together.
It has been a good couple of weeks. Seeing her family enveloped her in a happiness that has not been easily worn down. She and Miranda’s busy schedules have allowed them only a couple of dinners, but they even had one with the girls last weekend.
So when the staff office party rolls around Andy decides to let loose a little.
The chicken wings are soggy, the beer warm, and there are too many people squeezed into the office space. She likes these people, she really does. The job may suck at times but they are all here for good reasons.
A couple of hours into it and she is more than half way to drunk.
Her hands think it is a good idea to take her phone out and before her brain can protest she is texting Miranda to come and join the festivities.
She double takes when she sees the reply but somehow it is not just her beer goggles that are seeing Miranda agreeing to come and saying she is ten minutes away.
“Everything all good there, Sachs?” Dean calls out.
“Absolutely,” Andy manages and grabs the drink out of his hand, knocking it back.
Turns out that she does not have to keep an eye out for Miranda’s arrival. The editor stands out amongst the group of crumpled over worked writers, the sharp lines of her outfit call attention to her even if the group didn’t know who she was.
Thankfully Andy is too drunk to worry about how to explain her presence, people seem to accept “this is my friend, Miranda” “hey guys this Miranda, she works in publishing too” (she gets several expressions of ‘no, duh’ that go right over alcohol soaked brain) and everyone appreciates the flash whisky Miranda bought with her.
Miranda talks to Dean about some new novel while Andy smiles dumbly at just how pretty Miranda is in her pale pink blouse and silver dangling earrings. Miranda catches her eye every so often and just smirks.
Andy manages to spill a plate of cheese nachos over herself so she and Miranda end up in the too small bathroom, her perched on top of the closed toilet lid and Miranda leaning over her with a packet of some sort of fancy wet wipes.
“Do all fashion forward people carry the necessary resources to solve this sort of clothes related disaster on them at all times or are you just wonder woman?” Andy wonders aloud, proud that her words only slur slightly.
“I do have children you realise” Miranda drawls. Andy just nods, her forehead brushing against Miranda’s shoulder as her hands dab at the stains on her top.
Miranda's face is really close to hers and Andy is pretty sure that she is not being very subtle about staring at her mouth.
"I didn't expect you to come, you didn't have to."
"Well you asked me so I did." Miranda said simply, like the prospect that Miranda Priestly would do anything for Andrea Sachs is still not groundbreaking.
"I'm happy you're here" Andy meant more than the party, she meant she was happy for the phone calls and late nights and coffees with Miranda and was grateful for all the other ways they had integrated into each other's lives.
"Me too" Miranda breathed with a small smile that made Andy think maybe she meant all that too.
The party winds up in the small hours of the morning and Andy sobers up just enough so that Miranda can escort her back to her apartment without much incident.
“Please don’t mock my shitty place” Andy moans, tiredness rolling over her as she leans against the door.
“Judge? Who, me?”
But the hour is too late and Andy’s brain too fuzzy for sarcasm so Andy just unlocks the door and leads them into the apartment.
She walks right into the bedroom, manages to kick off her shoes and slumps straight into bed.
“Don’t you want to take your make up off?” Miranda asks, Andy feels the bed dip slightly beside her.
“Nah, I’m good. I’ll be enough of a mess in the morning anyway” her words are slightly muffled by the pillow.
The bed is so soft and Miranda’s prescence beside her so comforting Andy can feel herself drifting off. Her body still has enough energy though to shift and roll over so she can see Miranda. She reaches for her arm, wrapping her fingers around it and tugs gently.
“C’mon, stay, promise I don’t have bad morning breath, even with a hangover” she says.
Miranda’s eyes are bright against the dim light of the room. She places her hand over Andy’s on her arm, stroking it lightly before detaching it.
“Hmm, not tonight” she says standing up.
Andy wants to fight, but has a much bigger battle with sleep to contend with.
She is so tired that even the next morning she is not sure if Miranda’s lips actually brushed against her cheek before she left or if that was just a dream.
New York City has been grey, cloudy and cold.
But tonight Andy is lighting candles and casting a warm glow around her apartment.
She is trying to capture some of the goodness of the summer that felt like it faded away entirely.
There have been more budget cuts at the Mirror, more staff cuts and let alone Andy’s concerns about what she is writing about she has to be concerned about even keeping her job.
No matter how overworked Andy is feeling though, Miranda is worse.
She has not seen her much this month. The divorce is winding up thankfully but that has meant more meetings and court hearings to finalise the details. James is still pushing the custody case. When Miranda talks to her on the phone, which is all they’ve managed to do lately, Andy can even hear the tiredness of her voice. And Runway isn’t helping either. The September issue drained her and now more photoshoots are not working out and the board will not get off her back and just let her do what she needs to fix the problems.
So Andy is lighting candles, cooking an extravagent meal for her that she went out and bought expensive ingredients for. The smells from the kitchen fill the whole apartment deliciously.
She and Miranda had a fight.
It was probably the brewing frustration at both of their lives that lead to such a strain, to such a split and tear.
Andy had called Miranda at a bad time, someone had been fired and there was no possibility of her getting home before the girls went to sleep that night.
She remembers snatches of their conversation, Miranda’s cruel words and her own anger.
Suddenly it had mattered very much to both of them that they were together but not together and neither knew what to do about it.
Andy put the sauce on to simmer and tried not to think of the accusations that Miranda had levelled at her, her own that she had thrown back at her. The stress of speaking the same language but using the wrong words.
“What do you want, Andrea?”
She clattered around trying to find the nicer set of cutlery from her auntie she knew was somewhere. It had been days now since the confrontation and they had not really spoken. Andy had sent an apology emails of sorts, extending the invitation for tonight so they could say what they really meant in person and not have it get lost in translation over the phone.
“You, more of you, all of you.”
It comes out ragged and twisted.
She sets the table, arranges the flowers she bought carefully in the vase in the centre. Andy is no great cook but she is reasonably confident with the recipe Nate left her. She knows Miranda's tastes, detail from countless orders as an assistant and then substance and preference and mood from these past few months. Miranda will be cold and tired and heavy from the weight of all she has to carry and so from the stove springs warm smells of warmth and comfort.
She hears Miranda gasp.
“Sorry, I just, sorry.”
So tonight Andy is lighting candles, cooking an extravagent meal and wearing a dress she bought exactly for the occasion, for Miranda. It is a deep purple and the material feels soft against her skin.
She told Miranda seven thirty, thinking it would give her plenty of time to get across the city from the office.
But Miranda is not there at seven thirty, not even at eight or nine.
Andy sits at the table trying not to cry.
It is almost midnight there is a knock at the door.
Miranda is there, small and quiet. There’s a creaking in Andy’s chest, strange and awful.
She steps to the side, gestures Miranda inside. This seems to set Miranda in motion.
“I’m sorry I missed dinner, the art department has been a fiasco all week” she halts in the middle of her explanation as she takes in the room, the mood lighting, tinkling acoustics and Andy all made up.
“Oh” it comes out almost a sob.
Andy shrugged, “I wanted to romance you.”
Miranda’s hand flies to her mouth and she tries to a stifle a noise that is half a laugh and half something ragged.
“Don’t worry, honestly” she grabs for Miranda’s hand, cradling it between her own. “You can have something to eat if you want and then get some sleep – I will wine and dine you another night”.
Miranda’s shoulders sag in relief.
“I love you” Miranda says then, her voice steady and sure.
“I love you too”.
Andy tugs on Miranda’s hand and their mouths meet in the middle, tasting each other for the first time. When they finally part, Andy gets out a plate and makes Miranda eat something. Then it is just so easy to get up, clean up and get ready for bed together.
“And now, here is Miranda Priestly in the newest, most exciting look of 2007,” Andy says in a mock announcer voice as Miranda comes out of the bathroom in one of Andy’s old t shirts. Miranda just rolls her eyes but Andy giggles, still thrilled at the sight of one of her tattered and worn tops on Miranda’s body, how different it looks on her.
Miranda gives her shoulder a playful shove and she gets in under the covers with her. Andy flicks off the light and lies down on her side, mirroring Miranda. They both too tired and too fragile still for anything much more but Miranda spends a long time running her hands up and down Andy’s side. Her fingers trace her ribs, map a path around her shoulder, across her collar bone and splays her palm against her sternum. Even in the dark, Andy can see the wonder on Miranda’s face and pulls her forward to kiss her. She nibbles at her lips then brushes softly at her temple, the top of her cheekbones and at her jaw. At some point they both drift off to sleep, Miranda’s arm wrapped possessively around Andy’s waist and Andy’s face tilted towards Miranda’s.
There is no attempt to detangle when they wake in the morning. The closeness is savoured, so new and so long waited for. Their love making is lazy and slow like the Saturday morning, warmed by the sun and comfort of a slept in bed.
“I want, I want, I want” Andy’s breath hitches on the words, her throat straining with the pounding of her heart.
“I know, I know, I know” Miranda breathes in response planting kisses along Andy’s skin.
The words sound like bells in her ears.
Spending all this time with Miranda has made Andy realise that her affintity with clothes is not just the attention to detail required of her job but a love, deep and true. Miranda adores clothes.
Clothes have always been a conundrum to Andy. She thinks they must be like poetry or music to Miranda, who can compose style with such ease and flare but so often Andy feels deaf and blind to it all.
She knows it's important - how could she not?
She knows the value of a bracelet Miranda gives her or when she offers to pick out an outfit for her.
So she is trying. Going to work seems like a lot less of a tiresome chore if she has gotten ready at Miranda’s that morning, picking out a blouse or shoes from her extensive wardrobe and doing her makeup in the master suite vanity. Miranda has to leave early too but she always lingers around Andy. Chatting to her quietly while she and the girls eat breakfast. Touching her cheek lightly before she goes to do her make up. Brief touches at the back of her neck as she does her hair. Andy lights up at the small touches, at all the attention.
She knows, is sure, that Miranda loves having her around, loves how Andy makes her feel. But Andy is not sure if Miranda truly realises how happy she makes Andy.
So for the sure to be dull event she has to go to tonight to get an interview for the weekend edition, where she will have to plaster on a fake smile and make inane small talk, she treats herself. She buys herself a dress, a dark and bold red with barely there straps, showing off so much of her shoulders she is grateful for those hours she has managed to fit in at the gym lately.
Miranda looks up from the book, her eyes growing wide.
She stands up and reaches for the fabric, holding a bunch by the waist so gently, her mouth opening in awe. She looks up at Andy and grins, “hmm wonderful choice, darling”. Her hands then move away from the dress, slipping behind to caress across her exposed shoulderblades, raking her nails lightly against the skin. Andy watches the adoration on Miranda’s face shift in degrees and glows in response.
“You make me so happy” she whispers, leaning her head against Miranda’s. She hears Miranda’s sharp gasp and the nails at her back dig in.
“How long do we have before you have to go?”
Andy grins, already toeing off her shoes and pulling the clips out of her hair.
Miranda guides her back up against the wall, hands reaching down and then dragging the material of the dress up and over her hips.
“Hmmph, get rid of this” she hisses against the crook of Andy’s neck, nibbling at her collarbone and then tracing across it with tongue.
Andy leans back and hoists the dress up and off, letting it fall to the ground without a care.
James dropped the custody suit and so Miranda let him look after the girls while she was away for the different fashion weeks.
Andy is glad. The legal battle had put so much strain on Miranda and she seemed a great deal lighter with it set aside.
James was staying in the city though so the girls could still go to school, which meant that Andy could see them a couple of nights a week. Caroline and Cassidy had initially had been sceptical about the woman they had once terrorised as an assistant being their mother’s girlfriend but seemed to tolerate her now.
Tonight they were at a frozen yoghurt place a couple of blocks from their dad’s place. Cassidy is talking around mouthfuls of chocolate and fruit toppings all about her latest favourite band and Andy has to keep Caroline pointed looks to stop playing on her phone.
“How was your day, Andy?” the question finally comes after two hours of her picking them up.
She smiles, “it was pretty good. I got offered a new job.” She makes the annoucement sound small but in fact it has been filling her up all day, sparking and crackling inside her. She had called Miranda almost immediately after getting the call from the new magazine, starting up and looking for fresh talent. Even though she had been on her way to a show, Miranda had taken the time to celebrate with her, telling her how proud of her she was. Andy treasured the words, holding Miranda’s belief in her close to her heart.
She had bolted after work, and after handing in a particularly satisfying letter of resignation in, to Lily’s and jumped around like little kids in the middle of her living room.
And now she was with these two new people in her life, who she loved so much already because of who they were raised by. They smiled back at her, “that’s awesome, Andy. Hey, can we go to the movies tonight?”
She laughed and nodded, in no rush for their night to end.
She and Miranda stand on the steps of her parents house. The snow is piled up around the drive and Andy tugs her coat tighter around her.
The girls are with their father in LA for the holidays so she booked Miranda a plane ticket with her back to Ohio for Christmas with her family. Miranda had tried to insist on paying – “but this will be the first time I will have to fly coach in almost ten years Andrea” – but Andy had stayed firm.
Her parents have only had a small amount of time to get used to the idea of them as a couple. Almost as long as the rest of the world. Andy had rung her parents, broke the news, dismissed their concerns, put on her make up, dress and high heels and attended a fancy ball with Miranda. They were splashed across gossip sites and magazines almost immediately. Andy loved one particular photo, the one that seemed to get the most coverage, the two of them on the red carpet, arm in arm in complementary gowns and wearing matching smirks as cameras snapped and flashed around them. It was framed on the mantle piece and on Andy’s desk in her new office.
“They’re going to love you.”
This is a lie.
Andy’s parents love their daughter but still do not accept the idea that the once tyrancial boss is now caring girlfriend. It has been weeks of tip toeing around the subject while talking on the phone, veiled barbs and Andy trying to pretend it does not hurt her as much as it does. At least her brother will be home with his wife and the new baby though so they won’t be the centre of attention.
“It’s going to be fine.”
This is not a lie. It’s a promise.
Andy is no longer untethered, she feels anchored within herself and even better for having Miranda, true and solid, beside her.
The sun broke through the clouds. Andy moves forward and opens the door.