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Gonna Break Your Heart

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No, I don't want to fall in love
(this world is only gonna break your heart)
With you.

"Wicked Game," as performed by Gemma Hayes

 


 

You’re at a benefit at the Waldorf and it isn’t a particularly large affair, so you notice Andréa Sachs almost immediately.

You have no idea what she’s doing here, how a junior reporter for a second-rate circulation could get invited to this event. And her dress is not designer - isn’t even a particularly complimentary shade of green for her skin tone - but something still loosens inside of you at seeing her again. Something you’d do well not to examine too closely, as it feels a great deal like nostalgia. Cloying sentimentality.

But then you see Christian Thompson beside her. Watch as he puts his hand on the small of her back and offers her that insufferably insolent smile of his, and that feeling within you dissolves. You watch two different people congratulate Thompson for something and he preens and preens, Andréa on his arm like some kind of enfleshed embellishment to his ego.

But this, at least, explains her presence. She’s here to serve as a decoration for someone else.

You’re disappointed in this, let alone that she’s here for him. Though really it serves you right for not knowing better; for having elevating this silly girl in the privacy of your memory. Thinking her perhaps different than the others.

There are no assistants with you tonight, only Nigel by your side. Tonight he is, for the most part, painless company, and an asset in any room. Especially as there are no more 'Mister Priestly's' waiting in the wings to stand beside you out in public. You have decided those days are over.

Andréa has to know that you are here - has to hear your voice among the dozens of others just as you hear hers. But she never makes eye contact, always seems to have her back to you in whatever cluster of people she’s among. After an hour of looking over only to see the elegant slope of her shoulders and the back of her head (her hair pinned up simply if not unflatteringly) you give yourself a stern lecture for having an inkling of interest to begin with.

You cannot fathom why you ever saw yourself in this girl.

Nigel’s making the rounds on his own now, as the the time you have to spend here is mercifully winding down. The next time you look to find him he’s standing in a group that contains Andréa, and he’s holding the young woman’s hands playfully, her head thrown back in laughter as he regales her with some apparently elaborate tale. She’s still laughing, pressing her forehead into his chest as she inelegantly guffaws, and it’s such a telling act of familiarity and affection that it gives you a lingering moment of pause.

Nigel has never spoken this woman’s name since she left you in Paris. Has never hinted at the friendship he’s obviously continued with the ex-assistant at whom he’s now smiled more in the last five minutes than he’s at smiled at you in the last year. And none of this seems to surprise to you, now that it’s staring you in the face, but apparently it you didn't realize it until it was.

Your powers of observation must be slipping, so you chide yourself accordingly.

“I’m on deadline,” you hear Andréa groan to Nigel.

“You can’t spare thirty minutes? For the man who saved your shapely behind repeatedly? It’s one drink, Six!”

“I can’t,” Andréa apologizes. “Not tonight. I shouldn’t even be at this. Except, ya know. . .”

“Christian’s big night.”

You glance back over them as Andréa nods in reply, her face the picture of strained feminine obligation. How painfully and unsurprisingly boring.

“I see your taskmaster’s here,” Thompson says to Nigel, having reappeared with a small group of smirking, similarly insolent people around him. You can't see Nigel's reaction but you can see Andrea's; watch with interest when her face appears annoyed rather than amused.

You aren't able to hear what’s said after that exactly, because you’ve been talking with someone else this entire time, straining to watch and listen to a conversation that is not your own while simultaneously appearing engaged. But from Thompson’s grand, mocking tone, you assume he’s making some clever joke at your expense, the group around him laughing heartily because people always find jokes about Miranda Priestly so terribly amusing - when they think they can enjoy them with impunity.

The group’s laughter comes to a strangled end, and when you turn again you see that Andréa has fixed her escort with an impressively icy glare.

“How fortunate you can take comfort in mockery when discussing someone of superior skill and talent,” Andréa says to her own escort, and in a tone you’d swear she's borrowed from you. Except everything about this rage is decidedly her own, not merely some poor impersonation of Miranda Priestly.

You keep the smile off your lips until later, in your car. Decide not to be angry that Andréa avoided you the whole evening, doing everything in her power to keep a room of people between herself and you.

Affection is transient anyway, and there are so many things you prize above it.

 

. . .

 

You don’t run into Andréa for a long time after seeing her that once, on the arm of Christian Thompson. You hear her name on occasion, in the halls of your own  magazine, after she has a string of success landing freelance work at a few top-tier publications.Some of your staff’s chatter is complimentary, others are speculative; they posit various theories of Andréa trading personal information about Miranda Priestly in exchange for publication.

It’s something you consider yourself. Andréa’s writing may, admittedly, show merit, but so little of publishing is determined by merit alone. You’d be a fool not to entertain the possibility. So you wait. And you watch. But nothing appears about you in the gossip columns other than the usual fabrications and marginally accurate guesses, and after a while you dismiss the thought entirely.

You do, however, occasionally attempt to bait Nigel into bringing Andréa up, but it never works. Not even when you leave a copy of the The New Yorker on your desk the week that Andréa’s article appears inside of it.

“Is there anything else, Miranda?” Nigel asks you, the palm of one hand pressed directly and presumptuously onto your desk. His fingers nearly atop the magazine that contains Andréa’s article.

This isn’t war he’s going to let you win. This is the point to which your friendship with Nigel has devolved; petty stand-offs about a third party to whom you yourself haven’t spoken in years.

You decide it isn’t worth the argument. Not worth risking the fragile, rustling bit of affection Nigel still feels, in spite of all he knows you’ve robbed from him.

“That’s all,” you tell him calmly. And he turns on his heel as you stare hard at his retreating back.

You spin around in your chair sometime later and face the city you’ve built your career in. Wonder if Andréa Sachs ever remembers this building, this office, with anything softer than revulsion

 

. . .

 

When you see Andréa at the annual publishing awards, it’s been five years since she quit your employ. Your breath catches slightly when you see her because she looks surprisingly exquisite in her gown, even if her makeup isn’t quite right for the cream silk she’s wearing. You’re strangely pleased to see her; so intent on speaking with her that you almost forget you’re bookended by assistants who are (no doubt) analyzing your every expression.

“Find out who that woman came with,” you tell the smarter, less elegant of the two. “I need water,” you say to the second, though you have a full glass in hand.

Nigel finds you because he always manages to find you, and he looks you at with a spreading smirk because he knows you’ve noticed she’s here.

“Do they now hand out invitations to this event on the subway?” you ask him, though the insults sounds flat even to your own ears.

“Her two pieces for The New Yorker are half the reason they’re up for that one award tonight,” Nigel says to you. “Are you going to tell me this is news to you?”

“No,” you admit. “I am aware.”

You’ve read everything Andréa’s written and you know how her talent has progressed. But you also know that she has no chance of being made a staff writer for The New Yorker , not even if hers are some of the better ideas the publication has published in recent memory. She’s simply too young, too inexperienced on paper, and this isn’t the way the game is played. A part you quietly worries that Andréa, in all her optimism, hasn’t figured this out yet.

You hope she’ll realize later that not landing something full-time there is actually a blessing in disguise. As much prestige as The New Yorker offers, it doesn’t afford its full-time writers any promise of real tenure. It’s a publication that rabidly and unapologetically eats his own; a practice of which you wholeheartedly approve. Normally. 

“She’s here with Peter Morehouse,” Nigel tells you, and your eyebrows draw up.

“I suppose even gay men desire the decoration of young, beautiful women,” you sneer. Mentally cringe a moment later when you realize you’ve called the girl beautiful.

“Peter does like to make an entrance,” Nigel says of The New Yorker ’s Editor-in-chief, if with a softness you find rather odd. “But I’m of the impression there might be an actual friendship there.”

“Friendship,” you repeat with mocking. “As if anyone’s with Peter’s level of professional success could conceivably commune with some struggling journalist.”

You’ve known Peter for years. The two of you rose to power of your respective publications around the same time, and you went through your divorce from the twins' father a year after Peter split with his longtime partner. (Although following that public disaster, Peter seemingly made the enviable decision to give up long-term relationships all together while you, regrettably, talked yourself into still another marriage.) Your townhouses happen to be almost across from each other. Peter's daughter Hannah attends the same private school as your own girls.

Peter has everything in common with you and absolutely nothing in common with someone like Andréa.

“Inconceivable,” Nigel parrots back, but in that sarcastic tone that’s now forever on his lips when he’s alone with you.

“Her lipstick choice is regrettable,” you note with feigned disinterest.

“Her dress is flawless,” Nigel sniffs, and adjust his glasses.

“It’s acceptable,” you allow, and this earns you the first thoroughly sincere smile you’ve received from Nigel in longer than you can recall.

“Your Pellegrino, Miranda,” your assistant says, reappearing at your side.

“Pellegrino?” you repeat. “Why on earth why I need water when I have a full glass? Honestly.” And when your other assistant appears, no doubt bearing the information you’ve already acquired, you dismiss her with a mere jerk of your head.

It takes a while for you to corner Peter alone. There’s a room full of people tripping over their own feet if only to speak a sentence to either of you, and the few times neither of you is surrounded, Andréa is by Peter's side and they’re deep in conversation. Completely consumed, talking politics or biographies or little-known Mark Twain essays.

“You don’t believe that,” you hear Andréa say to Peter, in a presumptuous tone you would never stand for even Nigel to adopt with you.

“Andy, I do too!" Peter chuckles, and his use of that vulgar nickname makes you wince a bit. Sometimes it’s still painfully obvious that Peter hails from one of those rectangular states that starts with a vowel.

“You don’t,” Andréa tells him. “You’re just adopting that outdated thesis because you know it makes me so annoyed that my head spins off.”

“I’m not that contrary!” Peter defends.

“You’re nothing but contrary,” Andréa laughs at him.

People around them hear this and laugh along now, and you feel decidedly chagrined at Peter. Embarrassed on his behalf that he lets someone so junior to him in power take such liberties in public. Mock him in front of people whose fear and admiration he’s cultivated at lengthy, pained expense.

“Can I borrow your date?” a woman you recognize as being from Vogue asks of Peter, and Peter winks at Andréa.

“Just remember to leave with the editor who brought you,” Peter comments to her. “Especially if you get talking to Anna.”

Anna.  Bloody unlikely, you think.

You extract yourself from the conversation you’re engaged in but haven’t been paying any real attention to, gliding over to where Peter now stands alone.

“Miranda,” he smiles, and kisses your cheek. Actually kisses it. Only Peter dares.

“Watch the makeup, darling,” you admonish him. “I’m out of your price range.”

“You’re out of everyone’s price range,” Peter chuckles, behind his glass of wine. “That’s why you’re worshiped.”

“Speaking of worship . . .” you smirk, and glance meaningfully in Andréa’s direction.

“You of all people should know that Andy’s not capable of worship. She’s too honest for the things that worshiping requires."

Peter’s tone is light and yet it carries an accusation. You can’t help but to be annoyed at this, because as shrewd as Peter is in business, he’s usually a coward outside of the boardroom. Gave a fair chunk of his fortune to his ex just to satisfy the man’s bruised feelings. Let the details of his daughter’s birth be dragged before the press because he didn’t have the spine to legally crush a man he used to love. Peter’s idiotic kindness not even mattering in the end, his ex dying in a skiing accident in Aspen a year after the custody issues were laid to rest.

Whatever male company Peter has chosen to keep since, you’ve never met them and Peter only appears at public function with women everyone knows he’s isn’t sleeping with. Which is a choice you've always seen a fair amount of logic in, until now. Women being so decidedly less prone to public displays of behavior that prove socially and politically problematic.

“I recall Andréa acquiring my lattes as I prefer them,” you purse your lips. “I have no memory of her capabilities beyond that.”

“Miranda,” Peter breathes out forcefully. Plasters a fake smile upon his face because people have begun to stare at the two of you. “Lay off her.”

It’s as openly menacing a tone as you can ever remember Peter using in social setting, let alone with you. Isn’t it fascinating that he’s using it defend the likes of Andréa Sachs?

“We both know you can’t make her one of your full-time writers,” you hiss. “What is this public outing supposed to be? Some kind of consolation prize?”

“That’s rich,” Peter says, and tosses back his wine. “Miranda Priestly worrying about the career of an assistant she fired years ago.”

“She wasn’t fired,” you correct him without thinking. And it’s unfortunate thing to say, a regrettable thing to highlight, but people spouting factual inaccuracies simply chafes you beyond reason.

“I know that,” Peter amends softly.

“Good,” you say, and sip your water.

“Miranda,” he begins again. Rolls his eyes heavenward, as if his own floundering, trivial excuses can be bolstered by Divine power. “I genuinely like Andy. And she knows exactly what my friendship does and doesn’t mean for her career.”

You find that hard to believe. Improbable that a young woman of not even thirty years of age can know the doors that will slam shut on her if she’s too closely linked with Peter Morehouse. The stench of nepotism that follows any woman too closely associated with a powerful man.

“She has a future,” you tell Peter, despite your better judgment. “I will not take kindly to you impeding it.”

“Be careful, darling,” Peter tsks at you. “That sounded dangerously close to an expression of loyalty to another person.”

“Hm,” you scowl halfheartedly. Allow Peter kiss your cheek again.

 

. . .

 

“Six!” Nigel calls to Andréa, more loudly than strictly necessary. He has, rather unfortunately if quite understandably, surpassed his three-drink limit on this occasion. “Look at you in that tiny black dress! So scandalous of you, Miss Ohio.”

“Dear god,” Andréa mutters, seemingly taking a look at Nigel’s appearance. Those flushed cheeks of his. “How much have you had?”

“Enough,” Nigel singsongs, and Andréa takes him by the hand. Looks at you with a pained expression.

“You may have him,” you say to her, giving your most condescending smirk.

“Thanks,” Andréa rolls her eyes.

You’d normally strike a person down for that. But as it's the closest thing to casual conversation the two of you have exchanged in the eight months that she’s been showing up to these events with Peter, you choose to let it pass.

It’s a party for another editor that neither you nor Peter particularly care about. Merely a social expectation that you’ll show up to this crowded, poorly decorated apartment in a historic building on Riverside Drive, and in which everything is expensive if in hideously poor taste.

“Did I just see you pawn your drunken lieutenant off on Andy?” Peter asks you a few moments later, saddling up beside you.

“She took Nigel on of her own volition,” you reply. Motion with some irritation for the first waiter you’ve seen in ten minutes to replace both of your empty glasses.

“At least the wine is drinkable,” Peter says, looking around.

“I’ve already put in my time,” you tell him with satisfaction. “I have every intention of making my exit shortly.”

“Who will keep me company when you leave?” Peter pouts dramatically, wrapping an arm around you. The man is such an unrepentant flirt.

“Isn’t that why you have Andy?” you ask him. Affect your best mid-western drawl for that insufferable truncation of an otherwise beautiful name.

“Funny that you always sound jealous whenever she comes up,” he comments, raising an eyebrow.

“You must be joking. What in heaven’s name could I possibly want with a man whose ego is as big as mine?”

“Want with me? Nothing, I’m sure,” Peter concedes. “But that’s not what I meant when I called you jealous.”

You’re just about eviscerate Peter for whatever he’s just implied when Andréa returns, now sans an inebriated Nigel.

“I put him in a cab,” she announces with a sigh. Sips at the red wine she’s drinking and then looks down at it in disdain. “This Cabernet is awful,” she whispers to Peter, obviously dismayed.

“The Pinot gris that’s floating around is middling,” you find yourself telling her, and nod to your glass.

“Good to know,” Andréa says. Plucks Peter’s glass of Pinot out of his hand and trades it for her own glass with an innocent smile. “Thanks,” she winks at Peter.

You try not to glare at her lack of manners.

“Well,” Peter says. Gives a bark of laughter. “I guess I better fetch another glass of drinkable wine, now that mine has been stolen.”

Peter gets only a few steps before he’s surrounded by people ‘only wanting a word’, and you’re abruptly grateful for Andréa’s company since it affords you some protection. Rare is the idiot who’ll disturb you when you are already engaged in conversation. This is half the reason you insist on Nigel’s company to almost everything.

“Are your fifteen minutes almost up here?” Andréa asks you knowingly. Affords you the same detached, courteous tone she’s used with you the dozen times you’ve had your inevitably brief exchanges at these events.

“Already elapsed,” you reply. Allow yourself to sound relieved.

It’s here that you spot Christian Thompson in a nearby room, right in Andréa’s line of sight.  So you wait for a reaction from her that does not come, which tells you that she has, finally, acquired something of a poker face.

She doesn’t say anything more to you, and this makes you more uncomfortable than it should. The girl did work for you after all, and she keenly knows how you detest small talk. Odd that you now worry that her silence has everything to do with our own preferences and nothing to do with yours.

“I read the piece Runway ran on the changing market of luxury consumption,” Andréa turns abruptly and says to you, when Thompson begins to wave to her. "Not your usual fare."

"Is that the only article you dained to read in Runway?" you ask her pointedly. Are delighted when she gives you a cool sideways glance. It appears she no longer blithely tolerates being tested.

Good.

"No," she admits to you after a long pause, sounding rather torn. "I read a fair number of issues cover to cover."

"You’ll understand if that surprises me," you tell her. But apparently your smile isn't the menacing one you meant to produce, as her lips twitch into the smallest of grins.

"The Hermès spread you ran the other month had more yellow in it than I thought you'd ever allow in an entire issue."

This gets your attention.

"Blame Nigel for that shoot," you narrow your eyes. "That was his mangled inspiration."

"It turned out beautifully," Andréa sighs, sounding wistful. Perhaps something more painful than wistful. "Aspirational in that anguished way that only you can produce."

It's a compliment that shouldn't mean much, coming from someone who had such a limited view of your publication. Irrational that it feels like the entire universe has paused for you, just because this woman managed to see into your intentions.

"It came out as best as I had hoped," you allow. Find yourself brushing her arm softly, as if in thanks.

Peter comes back at this exact moment, and you ignore his amused, insufferably jovial expression. If you've managed to indulge Andréa in two minutes of small talk, he should consider it a favor to him.

"Where's your wine?" Andréa asks him.

"Not worth going through two more rooms to get it," Peter glowers.

"Time to go?" Andréa asks hopefully, and Peter takes his white wine back from her, finishing it one tip of the glass.

"I'm calling a retreat, ladies."

"By all means," you agree. Allow yourself to be navigated by Peter's hand against the small of your back.

"Your coat," Peter apparently remembers, turning to Andréa. You and Peter both had the same the presence of mind to hang onto to your own.

"Willing to let it be collateral damage," she mutters. "Let's just get out of here."

You get outside to find that Peter's car is waiting but yours is not. When you phone your second assistant to demand an explanation, she sputters some nonsense about having expected you to stay later.

"Miranda, just come with us," Peter tells you. "You live across the street from me - literally. It's no trouble."

You're a stubborn person, so of course you don't relent easily. Not to mention that standing outside in the cold for any length of time means you can feel reasonable for firing someone over this.

"Miranda, it's freezing," Andréa implores. Looks ridiculous standing outside of Peter's car because she isn't even wearing a coat over her paper-thin Michael Kors dress. She's already shivering, this week proving unseasonably cold for early October. "You can still fire her. Your prerogative. Please, just get in already."

Peter's car is smaller than yours, its backseat not built for three adults. Andréa's in the middle, apparently trying her best not to touch you, but this means she's comically squishing against Peter.

"Andréa, do feel free to move over,” you chide. “I'm sure that Peter would prefer to exhale freely."

"I'm perfectly comfortable," Peter disagrees. Rests his head against Andréa's. "It's warmer this way."

You turn to face out the window because such a display of physical affection doesn't sit comfortably with you. Keep your eyes trained to the side as Andréa yawns and Peter begins to talk to her in a contented tone.

"Hannah wants you to have breakfast at the house," he tells her. "You should just stay the night."

"I don't have any of my work with me," she replies. "I can't."

"I can send someone over to fetch your things for you tomorrow morning. Maybe Simon."

"Simon isn't setting foot inside my apartment," Andréa insists. "If anyone goes, I prefer it to be Mary."

"Why don't you trust Simon?" Peter asks, and from the tension in his voice you sense this is the beginning of an old argument.

You begin to think it would have been preferable to wait for your own car, out in the cold.

"Simon's done nothing to earn your loyalty," Andréa tells him. "He's incompetent and lazy, and I don't trust him to keep his mouth shut if someone from Page Six offered him a big enough bribe."

"Andy!"

"I mean it," Andréa pushes. "You're in no position to be taking in stray cats."

"She's right, Peter," you say, although only God knows why you think to wade into this. You don't even know the employees they're discussing. "Not everyone's as loyal as Andréa and you'd do well to protect yourself more."

Peter looks positively beside himself when you spare a glance in his direction, though you expect Andréa to be grateful for the help, certainly pleased by your compliment. You don't know what to make of it when you note that her expression is completely blank.

"I saw Caroline's dance recital last month," Andréa changes the subject. "Peter invited me to go watch Hannah and I spotted Caroline in the next class."

"To be accurate," Peter chimes in, "Hannah clamored for Andréa's appearance and Andréa was kind enough to accept the invitation.”

"Caroline's a beautiful dancer," Andréa comments softly. "I was surprised that she recognized me and waved."

"I suspect your Harry Potter acquisition made quite the lasting impression," you admit.

"Harry Potter acquisition?" Peter asks. And you abruptly regret your last comment, now having to relive that particular memory.

"Just a last minute travel accessory for the girls," Andréa replies to Peter, her tone deceptively light.

God. She manages to make it sound so casual. You almost believe for a second she doesn't seethe with anger, remembering the cruelty you so contentedly inflicted on that occasion.

"Sorry you didn't get to have any worthwhile conversations at the party," Peter says to Andréa, after the car’s turned onto 76th Street.

"I did, actually," she corrects him. But she doesn't elaborate and he's left to wonder, Andréa meeting your inquisitive gaze for the briefest moment.

"Who wants a night cap?" Peter asks, sliding out of the stopped car.

You should decline because The Book is probably waiting for you. But then it occurs to you that the girls are with their father. And your own house feels so painfully empty when they're away.

"If we must," you agree. Follow the two of them up the stairs and into Peter’s home.

Andréa lets out a long yawn, once inside of Peter’s foyer. "I think I'm too tired for a drink," she says. Kisses Peter on the cheek and begins to walk toward the stairs. "You two have fun."

"Sweet dreams," Peter calls to her.

"Goodnight, Andréa," you bid, because failing to say something would be impolite. Stand in the same spot and watch her climb the stairs until she gets to the top and turns around. Blows you a little kiss before she trudges down the hall.

Blows you a kiss. How ridiculous of the girl to even contemplate such a thing. You turn around and Peter is staring at you with an odd expression on his face.

"I’ll require a cognac to erase the memory of that horribly decorated apartment," you say, and Peter nods.

You try not to look around his home because you have been here many times before. No need for you stare into his dining room and wonder how many times per week Andréa eats there, likely sitting across from Peter’s child.

Odd to picture her sitting in this very room, in her pajamas and bare feet, writing away on her laptop. Keys clicking away under slender fingers and the soft light of morning.

 

. . .