I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
Ground Zero: October.
Personally, Andy thought Miranda Priestly had nobody to blame but herself.
She couldn't forget the look Miranda'd had on her face that night in her hotel room--both shocked and all-too-accepting, as if she'd known the divorce was coming but hadn't quite been ready for it yet. Probably true. The fight Andy had interrupted in the townhouse couldn't have been the first one by a long shot. Miranda had known her marriage was in trouble.
So why hadn't she been able to bend? Why hadn't she compromised with Stephen, tried to be more available to him? In the townhouse, in that one moment before they'd realized she was there, Andy had seen that Stephen was pretty clear about what he wanted: for Miranda to honor her commitments, for her to spend some time with her family, for God's sake. No, this hadn't been sprung on Miranda out of nowhere. So why hadn't she acted to prevent it? Or at least been on time for dinner once in a while?
It was a damned shame. But for Andy, the really alarming thing was what Miranda had said to her in Paris: I see a great deal of myself in you.
It could have been a compliment. It could have been a warning. Either way, it had freaked Andy the heck out, and she was still thinking about it. Her first instinct had been to leap out of the car and run for it, and never look back, because, no. No, she wasn't like Miranda. She wasn't going to be that person, that woman who was so willing to run everybody else into the ground for the tiniest of infractions, but who was incapable of seeing how she was wrecking her own life.
Everybody wants to be us.
Yeah. Not so much. Andy was going to get ahead. She was going to live her dream life while staying a halfway-decent person the whole time. She was going to be both successful and happy. It could be done. It wasn't impossible.
And if it killed her to prove it to Miranda, well, so be it.
She didn't walk away.
It didn't help that, by the time Andy got back to New York, Nate had already moved out of the apartment. A long-suffering Lily told Andy that Nate was staying with Doug. And that he'd gotten work in Boston. And that it was pretty much all Andy's fault and she didn't deserve him anyway.
Andy told herself that it wouldn't be a good start to her new life if she began it by alienating all her old friends, so she didn't tell Lily to go to hell. Instead she said, nicely, that she was willing to compromise. That Nate was the one who'd left, not her; that she still wanted to make it work. She was going to do what Miranda hadn't been able to, and reach out, and try to save her relationship.
But she decided she also wanted to be an honest person, and when they met for lunch, Andy told Nate about Christian.
So that was the end of that. He moved to Boston. Lily stopped taking her calls, and so did Doug, and eventually--quickly--Andy stopped making them. Sixteen years of friendship, erased by eight months of metamorphosis. It hardly seemed reasonable, or right, or fair. But if Andy had learned anything in those last eight months, it was that life was hardly ever any of those things, and that people were as changeable as the wind, even the ones you thought you knew. She supposed Nate, Lily, and Doug all thought the same of her.
So her new life was happening without her old friends. Maybe it wasn't such a surprise. But she cried, all the same.
"You're such an adorable little moron," Nigel said as he gave Andy an envelope of proofs.
"But everybody always says honesty is a good thing in a relationship," Andy whined, and knew she was whining. "And I mean, what if he found out some other way? From somebody else?"
"Like who?" Nigel asked. "Who else knew, besides you and Christian Thompson? I didn't know, and I was there."
"Miranda, maybe?" Andy said. "I mean--well, she knew I talked to Christian about the Jacqueline Follet thing--"
Nigel stared at her in disbelief. "You think Miranda would have called your ex-boyfriend and spilled the beans?" he said. Andy hunched her shoulders. "Stop that and straighten up. Slouching makes you less adorable, not less of a moron."
"I just didn't want to lie," Andy mumbled, but she straightened up. "I thought if I explained…I mean, you know, I was drunk and lonely, and Nate and I weren't officially together at the time--"
"And if he'd done the same thing?"
"I don't know!" Andy said. She'd been asking herself that same question, and didn't have a satisfactory answer yet. "I mean, I like to think I'd be okay with it--well, maybe not okay, but I said I was sorry, it's not like I--"
"Well, I'm sure you did your best," Nigel said, and pointed to the door. "But my five minutes of being the Supportive Gay Friend are up, thank God, and you're late."
Andy looked at the clock. Miranda had told Andy to get the proofs to her at nine. It was now 8:55, which meant, on Miranda Time, that Andy was five minutes late already. "Shit!"
"At least I like your shoes," Nigel called after her as she fled.
Late. Great. And she'd been doing so well this week. Since getting back from Paris, Andy had been taking and making the calls, and Emily had been putting away the coats and bags. Andy had the feeling that if Emily hadn't been on crutches, Miranda would have been sending her out to get coffee, too. But so far Andy hadn't screwed anything up. Until now.
But to Andy's surprise, Miranda didn't seem to notice that the proofs didn't arrive at her desk until 8:57. She didn't look well today: kind of wan and tired. Understandable, Andy supposed, and she fought down a pang of pity. She was not going to feel sorry for Miranda, who'd made her bed and had to lie in it. She was an employee, Miranda was her boss, and they were not alike, and that was all.
Miranda, sitting at her desk, opened the envelope and took out the proofs, looking over them with raised eyebrows. "Confirm lunch with Glenda," she said.
"Her assistant said she'll be at Nello's at one-thirty," Andy said.
"And when I get back I'll want to see René about the Sienna article."
"I called him last night, so he should have all the copy ready today."
"Mmm. Thank you," Miranda said absently. Andy froze. Miranda had actually said--
"That's all," Miranda said, and Andy hurried out of the office before she could really push her luck.
'Thank you.' Miranda had said that to her once before, when Andy had saved her bacon at the benefit by distracting Irv from Stephen's drunken insults. It had been a deliberate move on Miranda's part. It hadn't seemed like that today--more of an afterthought. As if she was distracted, and common courtesies just slipped out without her noticing. She probably hadn't even realized she'd said it.
She must really be in bad shape, then.
Emily glared as Andy sat down across from her. "That skirt looks great on you," Andy tried. Emily's expression only became more poisonous, and Andy sighed and looked at her monitor. She'd tried to make Emily feel better, she really had. She'd given her at least half of her Paris clothes, probably more, including the great-looking skirt Emily had on right now. She should have known it wouldn't be enough. But what the hell had Emily expected, anyway? Even if Andy hadn't suddenly become the new favorite, Emily couldn't have gone to Paris on crutches.
She tried to explain this to Emily that afternoon. Emily went as red as a tomato, growled "Fuck off and die," and hobbled to the restroom in tears. Andy ignored Nigel's advice and hunched her shoulders for the next fifteen minutes.
That night, as she sorted through the invitations for next month's brunch at the Ritz, Andy caught herself being glad that Nate wasn't around. It was much easier to get work done when she was by herself.
Another week passed. Miranda took to sending Emily home and keeping Andy late at night, as if she'd decided she didn't need two assistants dancing attendance on her at one in the morning. Andy watched jealously as Emily went home at nine o'clock sharp, while Emily looked hatefully at Andy for being so much in Miranda's good graces. Nobody won. Except Miranda, of course.
Andy was used to waiting around for the book anyway, so this wasn't such a big deal, but it was odd to have Miranda there too, every single night. When Miranda kept hanging around for the fourth night in a row--and wouldn't let Andy go home, even after the book had arrived--Andy started to suspect that Miranda wasn't so much busy as she was lonely. Well, no, Miranda was always busy, but no busier than usual, and nothing was going on that would require her to remain in the nearly-empty offices with her exhausted second assistant.
Andy wasn't sure that Miranda was getting all that much out of her company, either. Miranda never talked to her, except to issue orders. There was no conversation, no chit-chat. Andy hadn't expected anything else, of course. They weren't friends.
In fact, as far as Andy could tell, Miranda didn't really have friends. She had colleagues, like Nigel; she had business acquaintances, like Irv and Glenda; she had her social circle, like all the people she hung out with at parties and fundraisers. But Andy'd had a pretty good look into Miranda's social life by now (it was hard not to, considering), and as far as she could tell, Miranda didn't have anything like a real buddy. Fair enough: Andy couldn't imagine anybody wanting to be Miranda's buddy, either. Nigel was the closest thing to it, and look how he'd gotten burned.
She glanced over at Miranda, just in time to see her remove her glasses and rub her hands over her eyes. Her shoulders had a slump that put Andy's best efforts to shame. She looked utterly miserable, in a Miranda-ish way.
Andy cleared her throat. Miranda started and looked up. "Um," Andy said, wondering why the hell she'd even opened her mouth, "d-do you want me to get you some coffee?"
Great. No, stupid. Stupid. If Miranda wanted coffee, she'd ask for it. You never offered to do things for Miranda. She didn't want to hear the sound of your voice when she was trying to--
"Decaf," Miranda said, and looked back down at the photos on her desk as if Andy hadn't spoken at all.
Andy made it back to the office in record time. New York sucked in a lot of ways, but you could always find something that was open for twenty-four hours, including Starbucks. When she got back, Miranda didn't look at her, but reached up and took the coffee directly from her hand. Her fingers brushed against Andy's, but she didn't appear to notice.
Andy's own fingers tingled as she quickly returned to her desk. Her stomach squirmed uncomfortably, because she couldn't help wondering how long it had been since Miranda had actually touched somebody, and if she'd done it on purpose or not.
They were in the car when Miranda said, "I'm going to need you to set up that appointment with Karl."
"I set it up for Tuesday at ten-thirty," Andy said. "Is, is that okay?"
"If that's when he's available," Miranda said, and Andy sagged with relief. Miranda didn't accept excuses from many people, but even she attempted to accommodate Karl Lagerfeld's schedule. "Juggle whatever you have to."
"I think I've got it all straightened out," Andy said, trying to sound confident.
"Mmm." Miranda glanced out the window. "Did you run into trouble with his assistants?"
Andy blinked. "Um, no," she said. "They were pretty nice. Definitely willing to, uh, juggle too."
"Good," Miranda said, and sighed as she smoothed out a wrinkle in her skirt. "He's hired some extremely disagreeable people in the past. I've spoken to him about it many times. I hope he's finally listened."
"Oh," was all Andy could think to say, because this was starting to sound a hell of a lot like actual conversation--small talk, even--and while she might be prepared to deal with any command Miranda threw at her, Andy wasn't equipped for this. "Well…yeah…they were nice," she repeated, feeling like a moron, and not a particularly adorable one.
Miranda looked at her with a raised eyebrow. The 'you can do better than that, surely' look. Crap.
"Especially when they heard I worked for you," Andy added, and attempted to smile. "So, um, I didn't have any problems."
"I'm glad to hear it," Miranda replied, and looked out the window again. She didn't say anything else.
That night, Andy got the weekly phone call from her parents, complete with the usual questions. They naturally wanted to know why she'd broken up with Nate. Or why Nate had broken up with her. Andy hadn't been able to answer that to their satisfaction yet; they'd liked him a lot, and although they'd never really accepted the idea of their daughter living with a man she wasn't married to, they'd kept their feelings mostly to themselves on the subject. Andy had been grateful for that. She wished they were showing similar restraint now. At least she'd never told them about Christian.
"But remember when you graduated college?" her mother said pleadingly. "You, the two of you, were saying hopefully, within the next few years--"
"'Hopefully' was the key word there, Mom," Andy said. "It didn't work out. He's in Boston now. That's all there is to it."
"Honey," her mom said, "we just want you to be happy."
"I'm happy," Andy said, and as she thought about Nate, her voice wobbled. She cursed herself.
"Oh, baby," her mom said, and Andy gave in and started bawling on the phone.
"I've never cared for yellow," Miranda said absently as she looked over a spread. "So garish. Even in pastels."
Andy looked around the office for Nigel, which was when she realized that he wasn't there, which was when she realized that Miranda was, in fact, speaking to her. Miranda was also looking at her now, which meant that a response was required. Andy thought fast. She didn't wear a lot of yellow, and she wasn't wearing any today, and there was yellow in the spread, so Miranda wasn't critiquing Andy personally. At least, not yet. She would if Andy didn't say something fast.
"They've done studies," Andy heard herself saying inanely. "Yellow's the color that makes people feel most anxious. Pink makes them feel calm."
Miranda raised an eyebrow, but didn't call Andy an idiot or tell her to shut up. Instead she just looked back down at the spread. Andy suppressed the urge to regale Miranda with information that sometimes prison cells were painted pink to keep the prisoners happy. It might be taken the wrong way, considering.
"Emily," Miranda called.
Andy winced as she heard the sound of Emily's desk chair rolling backwards, followed by the grunting noise Emily made as she laboriously hoisted herself up on her crutches. And she hadn't been dismissed, so she had to stand there as Emily hauled herself into the room, attempting to ignore Andy's presence the while.
"Emily," Miranda said again, still looking down at the spread, "studies have been done showing that yellow is a color that causes anxiety. Isn't that right, Andrea?"
Andy felt all the blood drain out of her face. She didn't know where this was going, but it couldn't be anyplace good. "Uh," she said feebly, "that's what I…I mean, somewhere, I read…"
"Therefore, Emily," Miranda said, continuing as if Andy hadn't spoken, "you will find information on these studies and bring it to me by tomorrow."
Andy and Emily stood before the desk in stunned silence.
"That's all," Miranda said. Emily turned and hobbled off without a word. Andy waited another second, which was just long enough for Miranda to glance up at her with a gleam of malicious pleasure in her eyes.
Andy knew that gleam. Miranda had worn it when she'd ordered Andy to tell Emily that she was being replaced in Paris. She'd practically snickered, as if she and Andy were co-conspirators in a delightful plot to make somebody else feel like shit. How fun.
Andy turned around and walked out of the office, feeling shaky. She didn't know what Miranda was up to, or why she felt like playing mind games today, but she resented being a made a part of them. God damn it, she was trying to be a good person. Successful. Happy. No mind games allowed.
Emily wouldn't look at her as Andy stopped in front of her desk. "Um," Andy said wretchedly, "I know some online journals--I'm, I'll help you look--"
Emily's lips tightened into a thin white line. Before she could reply, Miranda called out, "Andrea. Starbucks."
Andy winced, closed her eyes, and headed for the elevator.
Emily refused to speak to Andy for the rest of the day, unless strictly necessary.
Miranda, on the other hand, was speaking to Andy more than ever. In fact, she appeared to be speaking to Andy more than she did to anybody else in the office, except maybe Nigel. Granted, it was mostly the usual stuff--Starbucks, phone calls, errands, whatever--but every once in a while some random observation would slip in, some personal remark, some offhand comment, and Miranda never made those with anybody else.
She still wasn't looking well, and Andy knew, from working with her schedule, that she had several meetings with her attorneys planned. All things considered, Stephen was being pretty helpful with speeding the process along. He didn't seem to want anything, wasn't demanding half of Miranda's assets or anything ludicrous like that.
In fact, he'd abandoned Miranda's swanky townhouse on 73rd Street before she'd even gotten off the plane from Paris, and seemed to have no problem with the "separated" part of the one-year trial separation that New York state law demanded. He'd already taken an apartment somewhere else. Rumor was that he'd had it leased for two months before he'd even served her the papers. He wanted out, plain and simple. Which might have humiliated Miranda more than anything else possibly could, but nobody dared to ask. Miranda's drawn face told the story well enough.
A few days after the debacle with Emily, Andy was staying late again. So was Miranda. It was nearly midnight, and a harried-looking copy editor hurried in with the book. Andy took it, and carried it into Miranda's dimly-lit office with little hope that it would actually mean the end of her working day.
Miranda was partly hidden by her laptop. The harsh lighting from the screen did not flatter her: it showed every crease and wrinkle and hollow in sharp relief, and made her appear even more exhausted than she probably was. Andy wondered how long it had been since she'd spent more than seven hours at her house at a time, or if she even saw her kids anymore--the kids she'd worried so much about disappointing. Heck, maybe she was hiding from them. It seemed like she practically lived at the office now, and when she didn't, she was out and about on business. Even the 'fun' stuff, like lunches or parties, was business for Miranda.
"Here's the book, Miranda," Andy said softly, and laid it down on the desk.
"Mmm," Miranda said. "I wish Donatella would stop sending me emails."
Andy's mind raced. They were using a few Versace pieces in the shoot next month. Something must have gone wrong. "I'm sorry," she said. "Let me get in touch with Vincenzo, I'm sure I can get everything straightened out--" Miranda looked up at Andy, puckering her brow. "Um," Andy added, "it's about the San Francisco shoot, right?"
Miranda's lips actually quirked before she got herself under control and looked back at the screen. "It's about Vera and Carolina," she said dryly. "Apparently they snubbed her last weekend in Milan and would persist in talking about her behind her back." She snorted. "It's like being in junior high."
"…oh," was all Andy could think to say.
Miranda closed her laptop without further ado. "Bring me my coat and bag and call for my car. Then you can go home."
"Okay," Andy said, and, her head spinning, she headed for her phone. She tried to be relieved about going home. It was less stressful than being as confused as all-get-out.
Still, even though she was as tired as usual, Andy had a hard time falling asleep that night. For no real reason. It wasn't because she was worried about Miranda, because she wasn't. That wasn't her job. Getting the Starbucks and confirming Karl, that was Andy's job. That was it. Miranda wouldn't thank her for her concern, anyway, which was good because Andy wasn't concerned.
She rolled over and thumped the pillow in irritation.
"She's talking to me," Andy said.
"Do tell," Nigel replied.
"No, I mean, she's talking to me. For no reason. Instead of just telling me to, to do stuff."
Nigel looked at her, then, while Andy tried not to appear panicked.
"She likes you," he said.
Andy opened her mouth, and heard herself say, "Oh, fuck."
"Indeed. Join the club," Nigel said, and gave Andy an ironic tip of his pen.
The next five days at Runway were frenetically busy. Two of the models for the San Francisco shoot had backed out and one had been fired. And Miranda was difficult to please, so the agencies were all offering dozens of potential replacements that had to be carefully screened by different layers of staff before the glossy 8 x 10s finally made it to Miranda's desk. The weather out there was acting up and everyone was worried that the shoot would have to be put off. Insurance might or might not come through. Irv was starting to make growling sounds about costs, and after her narrow escape in Paris, Andy suspected that Miranda might be forced to listen to them.
She was forced to do a lot of things. Most of them involved moving around a lot. Meetings, lunches, attorneys, late nights, and one afternoon sacrificed to Caroline and Cassidy's latest recital all meant that Miranda didn't have a single quiet moment, and therefore, neither did Andy. Even Emily had it easier than Andy did these days, since Miranda practically kept Andy in her back pocket. They often didn't leave the office until three a.m., only to stagger back inside at eight. And Miranda, who usually operated as well on two hours of sleep as she would on ten, looked to be on the verge of total collapse.
Everyone was worried. Emily even managed to put aside her anger while she and Andy worked together to keep things running as smoothly for Miranda as possible. Andy caught herself exchanging nervous looks with Nigel more than once as they watched Miranda struggle to remember a name or an appointment. Andy tried to be more vigilant than ever, doing her best to anticipate Miranda's every need or wish. This wasn't any easier than it usually was, and she was afraid she was going to give herself an ulcer.
By the end of the week, it was obvious--to Andy, at least--that Miranda wasn't just stressed out or unhappy. Something was really, really wrong. It was Sunday night, and she'd canceled her brief appearance at Marc Jacobs's party that evening in favor of staying in and working, which meant, of course, that Andy was working on a Sunday night as well instead of enjoying her weekend. Miranda had canceled lunch with Irv that afternoon too. She rarely did anything like that. But that wasn't all: more than once, Andy caught her staring off into space and appearing completely unaware of her own surroundings. Was she cracking up? No wonder, with the way her life was falling down around her and she wasn't even giving herself a moment of peace and quiet. Or anybody else, for that matter.
I'm not like you, Andy thought as she watched Miranda glance restlessly out the windows for what seemed like the thousandth time. Nope, not me. Definitely not.
It was twelve-thirty now, and even Nigel had gone home. Andy and Miranda were the only ones left in the office, and Andy had nothing to do. She couldn't call anyone, and Miranda had had the book on her desk for nearly two hours. To be fair, she wasn't just killing time tonight--Andy knew she was inundated with emails, with copy, with decisions she had to make. The San Francisco shoot was in a week, and everyone was panicking. But Miranda didn't actually need Andy for anything except, apparently, silent company.
Andy had a novel hidden in her desk drawer, though, and with a little luck, she could hide it in her lap and read it without Miranda noticing. She'd just gotten to the middle of the second chapter when Miranda called out, her voice hoarse (though she hadn't been talking to anyone), "Water!"
Andy sighed silently, tucked the book back inside the drawer, and hurried to pour the San Pellegrino. When she headed into Miranda's office, she froze inside the doorway.
Miranda was staring off into space, as white as a sheet of paper. She was biting the knuckle of her right index finger, her eyes wide. She looked petrified. Andy's stomach twisted just at the sight of it. She cleared her throat; Miranda actually jumped at the sound, and she stared at Andy as if she'd forgotten Andy was even in the office, let alone bringing her water.
Andy managed a little smile as she set the glass down on Miranda's desk, trying not to let her hand shake too visibly. Miranda looked at the glass as if she'd never seen anything like it before. "Here you go," Andy said brightly.
Miranda looked up at her blankly. It took every ounce of self-control for Andy not to ask, 'Are you okay?' For one thing, you never asked Miranda anything. For another, if you did, you didn't ask stupid questions when the answers were so patently obvious. Miranda was not okay.
Then Miranda spoke. "I…" she said, and dragged one shaking hand across her forehead, pushing her hair off it. "Thank you." Oh wow, that again? She took a careful sip of water. And then she set it back down, swallowed hard, and hid her face in her hands, breathing deeply.
"Miranda!" Andy said, but Miranda held up one hand for silence. Andy realized that she was trying not to be sick. How long had this been going on? For that matter, had Miranda even eaten dinner tonight? Andy realized that she hadn't been dispatched to get any food that evening, and Miranda had canceled her lunch, which meant she hadn't eaten since breakfast. If she'd had breakfast.
Then Miranda lowered her hands and raised her face, taking another deep breath. "Well," she said.
"Do you want me to call a doctor?" Andy asked timidly.
"No, not yet," Miranda said, and the 'not yet' made Andy's heart start racing in panic. She rubbed her hands over her face. "I…my God. I haven't even had a moment to myself in--I haven't been able to--"
Andy waited. When nothing else seemed forthcoming, she blurted, "Is there something I can do?" Miranda glanced at her. "I mean--get you something to eat, or--"
Miranda tapped her fingers on her desk and stared off into space again. She bit her lip. The haunted look was back in her eyes. Andy felt her insides start to squirm like snakes.
"I need you to go to the store for me," Miranda said quietly after a moment. Andy was trying to work out whether she meant Hermès, Blahnik, or Tiffany's--and how to tell Miranda that all three were closed for the night--when she realized Miranda had paused.
"Okay," Andy prompted, after Miranda hadn't spoken in nearly a minute.
Miranda drummed her fingers against the desk again, and appeared, finally, to come to a decision. "Bring me back a pregnancy test," she said.
The room seemed to dip and sway around Andy for a second. Miranda darted her a quick, very sharp glance, and Andy was operating purely on instinct as she nodded and said, "All right, be right back," her voice devoid of anything other than its usual helpful inflection. Then she was walking past her own desk, grabbing her purse as if in a dream, and then standing in one of the gleaming elevators.
Oh. Holy. Shit.
It made sense, Andy guessed, even if Miranda was kind of…old. The exhaustion, the nausea, the--whatever else. Andy didn't know much about being pregnant, all things considered. But Miranda had had children before. Surely she knew the signs.
Well, Andy'd had a pregnancy scare herself, in her senior year of high school. It had been the worst forty-eight hours of her life before her period had finally shown up. Was Miranda feeling anything like that? Surely not, she was a grown woman, right? Oh God, who was the father? Was it Stephen's? It had to be Stephen's. Because wouldn't Andy have noticed by now if Miranda was sneaking around? So it must have happened right before Paris, which had been over a month ago now. Apparently he'd loved her and left her.
There was an all-night pharmacy half a block away. Andy frantically scanned the aisle of women's products. There were several tests available, each one claiming to be the best on the market. Andy had a feeling that Miranda would be even less patient about this than she was about everything else, which meant Andy had to make a decision fast. So she grabbed two boxes: one promising "99.9% accuracy!", and another proclaiming, "Doctor-Recommended!" Because Miranda liked having backups and alternatives. Christ.
The cashier gave Andy a stern look as she checked out. The place was family-run, and Andy guessed he didn't approve of young unmarried women buying pregnancy tests. She wondered if he'd approve of older, soon-to-be-unmarried women using them instead. God. If Miranda was pregnant, if the kid was Stephen's, what would that mean for the divorce? Surely they'd halt it, or at least delay it, or--
It wasn't her problem, Andy tried to tell herself as she hurried back down the street, waving her pass at the night security guard when she passed back through Elias-Clarke's revolving door. Miranda's private life wasn't her problem, she had nothing to do with it, and she totally wasn't going to concern herself with anything about it.
She kept telling herself this until she arrived back at Runway and saw Miranda whirl around from the window to face her as she trotted inside. Trembling, Andy set the plastic bag down on the desk.
Miranda glanced at it, sat down, and began working at her laptop again without another word. Andy gulped and headed back to her desk. She'd never be able to concentrate on her novel now, and she hoped Miranda would send her home soon. Surely she would, because of course she'd want to go home herself and--
All of a sudden, there was a flurry of movement and the crinkle of plastic, and Andy watched in speechless horror as Miranda stormed past Andy's desk and into her executive washroom, the pharmacy bag clutched in one white-knuckled hand.
Here? She was going to do it here? Now? With Andy right in the reception area? Fuck. Oh, fuck. Andy did not want to be here when Miranda came out of that bathroom. Miranda probably wouldn't want her to be, either. She'd probably kill Andy when she emerged, to ensure her silence, or--should Andy just pack up and leave? Would that be the best thing to do, and tomorrow she could come in and pretend like nothing had ever happened? That might be a good idea, actually, because with Miranda, you never referred to personal things, ever…
Even as she thought about it, Andy knew she wasn't going anywhere. And so the minutes crawled by. Andy thought for sure that she had to be hallucinating the amount of time Miranda was taking, until she looked at her watch and realized that yes, Miranda had been in the bathroom for nearly twenty minutes. What the hell was going on in there? Had Miranda fallen and hit her head? Had she forgotten how to pee? Was she trying to drown herself in the sink?
Just as Andy was wondering if it would be a really bad idea to check on her, the door opened, and Miranda emerged. One look at her face told Andy everything, but before Miranda could meet her eyes, Andy bent down and pretended to study the surface of her desk. If Miranda caught her staring--
Miranda returned to her own desk. Andy still didn't look up. Eventually, Miranda said, her voice thick, "Andrea."
Andy got up and headed on unsteady legs to the door of Miranda's office. "Yes?" she whispered.
"Tomorrow," Miranda said, staring vacantly into the distance, much as she had that night in her Paris hotel room, "arrange an immediate appointment with my physician. And contact my attorney as soon as his office opens. Eight a.m. Sharp."
"O-of course," Andy said.
"Call my driver," Miranda said, and rubbed her forehead again. "Let's go home."
'Let's go home'? But Andy didn't ask questions, and dialed Roy right away. Then she helped Miranda put on her coat, gave her her bag, and walked her to the elevator, fully prepared to wait for the next car, as usual. But Miranda muttered, "Get in," and so Andy found herself sharing an elevator with her boss for the second time in their acquaintance.
Andy had learned her lesson now, and stood stock-still in the elevator next to Miranda, trying to be invisible, not speaking a word. She wouldn't have any idea what to say anyway. Not now, for sure. What the hell did you even say to someone at a time like this? Congratulations, condolences, what? She didn't even dare glance over at Miranda.
"I don't believe this," Miranda said.
"I don't--" Miranda repeated, and Andy finally turned to look at her, just in time to see Miranda close her eyes.
"I'm sorry," Andy whispered. Then she heard herself blurt, like a total idiot, "You know, whatever I can do--of course I'll…" Her voice trailed off.
Miranda ignored her completely. "Page Six," she muttered, and laughed bitterly. "They think they're having a good time now? Wait until they hear about this."
Andy bit her lip. Miranda looked at her, and her eyes narrowed. "What?" she asked.
"Nothing," Andy said quickly, shaking her head.
"Say it," Miranda said.
Andy gulped. Okay, then. Okay. "So…you're going to keep it?"
Miranda was silent for so long that Andy wondered if she'd heard. Then, just before the elevator doors opened at the lobby, she said, sounding bewildered, "I don't know."
They stepped into the lobby. Miranda headed for the doors, apparently without noticing that she'd just become utterly and irrevocably human to Andy at last. Andy followed her out onto the sidewalk and, once they'd reached the car, held the door open. "I'll make all those calls as soon as I get here tomorrow," she promised.
"Get in the car," Miranda said without looking at her, and slid in herself.
Andy stood on the sidewalk, stunned, for a moment. Even as she walked around the car and reached for the door handle, she considered sprinting down the sidewalk. Miranda had decided that she must be silenced; Miranda was going to have Roy drive them down to the docks, kill Andy, and then dump her body in the river. Or, worse, Miranda was going to think of something else Andy had to do before going to bed at long last and trying to process this crazy day.
But all Miranda did, as Andy buckled her seatbelt, was lean back against the headrest, close her eyes, and say, "Take me home, and then drop Andrea off at her apartment."
"Yes, ma'am," Roy said as he smoothly pulled into the street.
Huh? Andy was getting personal chauffeur service? "What about your dry cleaning?" she asked timidly.
"Tomorrow," Miranda said without opening her eyes.
"Okay," Andy mumbled. No more questions. Just ride in silence; just let Miranda rest. She needed the rest. She needed a lot of things, most of which Andy couldn't give her, but surely Andy could manage a quiet, peaceful car ride.
When they'd gone about four blocks, Andy dared to look at Miranda out of the corner of her eye. Then she blinked in astonishment. Miranda had slumped against the window. Her eyes were closed, and she was breathing deeply. She'd fallen asleep.
Well…good, Andy thought, and she watched Miranda sleep, hypnotized by it. Miranda didn't look peaceful, exactly, but she was…still. Miranda never held still, not for a minute. Even during the long flights to and from Paris, she hadn't slept, but had kept everyone busy with last-minute commands and instructions to be fulfilled mid-flight, or upon landing.
Andy looked up and met Roy's eyes in the rear-view mirror. She blushed without knowing why. But Roy's own eyes were wide, and she realized he was just as astonished as she was. Almost ten years of driving Miranda, and apparently he'd never seen her go to sleep in the car before.
When they got to the townhouse, Miranda was still sound asleep, and Andy realized it was up to her to wake her. She reached out timidly, and realized that she didn't have the courage to touch her. You didn't just touch Miranda, water glasses notwithstanding. So instead she cleared her throat loudly and watched Miranda twitch into wakefulness, inhaling sharply through her nose. Then Andy looked out her window so that Miranda could pretend that Andy hadn't noticed her sleeping. Pretense. Andy had gotten pretty damn good at that, too. It was a skill she'd never wanted to acquire, but she hadn't been able to help herself. She wanted to survive, after all.
When she heard Miranda unbuckling her seatbelt, Andy turned her head, and managed a weak smile as she said, "Thanks for the ride." Miranda might have changed her in a lot of ways, but Andy would be damned if she had to forego the basic courtesy her mother had taught her.
Miranda looked at her with her brow furrowed. Her hand fumbled a little as she unbuckled and she blinked sleepily. It would have been cute, if it had been anybody else; as it was, it was a little bit scary. Without a word, Andy unbuckled her own seat belt, got out of the car, and hurried around to open the door for Miranda, wishing that Roy had thought of it first. It was cold tonight.
By the time Miranda was on her feet and on the sidewalk, she appeared a little revived, perhaps because of the cool air. She gave Andy a quick glance, as if waiting for something. Andy had no idea what, but she blurted, before she could stop herself, "Um…they could be wrong. The tests." Miranda narrowed her eyes. Andy winced and hunched her shoulders. Yeah. Okay. Shut up.
Miranda turned and mounted the steps to her townhouse without a word. Andy, still cringing, got back in the car, but Roy didn't drive away until they'd both seen Miranda get safely through the door.
"What's going on?" Roy asked as he pulled away from the curb.
Andy didn't consider telling him the truth even for a moment. Instead, all she said was, "She had a really long day."
"She's had lots of them lately," Roy said. "I've practically taken to sleeping in my uniform, just so I can be ready to go whenever you call me."
"At least you get to sleep," Andy said snidely, but Roy only chuckled, not taking offense.
"True enough," he said. "Try and get some sleep tonight, okay? You look like you're dead on your feet lately, too."
"What else is new?" Andy asked, and Roy chuckled again.
But Andy had a hard time following Roy's instructions that night. She should have been tired, but instead she felt worked up, practically trembling with nervous energy, and she prowled her apartment, unable to lie still in bed. What was Miranda going to do? What would happen now?
Andy finally made it to bed at three, but it was even longer until she actually went to sleep.
She stumbled into the office at seven-forty-five in the morning. She'd had a couple of weird dreams, and when she'd woken up again at six-thirty, she'd given sleep up for the night and just rolled out of bed. She wasn't surprised to see that Emily was already there, and that Miranda wasn't. She hoped Miranda wouldn't show up at all, that she'd take the day off, for once. If there was ever a good reason…
But Miranda called Andy at eight-thirty and said, "I'll be there in an hour. Have you scheduled those appointments?"
Andy nodded, before realizing that duh, Miranda couldn't see her over the phone. "I got your doctor to fit you in at four this afternoon, and your attorney will see you tomorrow at ten."
"Fine." Miranda hung up.
Andy looked up to see Emily watching her curiously. Of course Emily was aware of every minute change to Miranda's schedule, just like Andy was. And apparently she was trying to overcome her antipathy for just long enough to ask what was going on.
"Well, you know she hasn't been feeling well," Andy said feebly, and shrugged, as if that was all she knew.
Emily sniffed, but seemed to accept the flimsy explanation. She probably didn't think that Miranda would confide anything more substantial to Andy, anyway. What would she do if she knew the truth? Expire from jealousy, most likely.
It was weird, really. Miranda seemed to want Andy to be--well, someone to talk to, even as Andy was trying desperately not to care about her. And Emily, who'd lie down in New York traffic for Miranda…well, Miranda had called her stupid, and that said it all. Life was pretty fucked up sometimes.
"It's about bloody time, isn't it," Emily muttered, looking as if it cost her quite a lot to speak to Andy civilly. Mostly civilly. "Well--I'm sure it's nothing."
"Right," Andy said, trying not to smirk, because that would be really inappropriate, no matter how funny it was to imagine Emily's face if she knew the truth. Then again, if Miranda decided to keep the baby, everybody would know soon enough.
At nine o'clock, Andy left Runway and hurried down to the corner market in search of Miranda's breakfast. Last night, after pacing until she was ready to drop, she'd sat down at her laptop and Googled "pregnant women diet." From there, she'd wandered through the mazes of the internet until she'd learned that pregnant women should increase their food intake by 150 calories a day, and should expect to gain about twenty-five pounds before giving birth. Andy tried to imagine Miranda carrying around an extra twenty-five pounds. Then she tried to imagine Miranda being pregnant at all, which led to the idea of Miranda actually having sex to get pregnant, and her brain promptly screeched to a halt while she got the willies.
She looked over her list. Fruit, toast, milk, eggs, melon--all that stuff was supposed to be good for you. But if Miranda was gagging on mineral water, it'd be better to stick to something she could tolerate. It had been a while since Andy had been dispatched to get her scrambled eggs, so those were probably a bust, but maybe Miranda could keep fruit down. So Andy bought a banana, a couple of good-looking plums, and a pear. Miranda didn't like apples, and the strawberries looked gross, so Andy avoided those.
On the way back, she made the usual stop at Starbucks. She'd also learned that pregnant women weren't supposed to drink more than two cups of coffee a day. There was no way she was going to try to tell Miranda that.
By the time Andy had finished her shopping, and returned to Elias-Clarke, there were only five minutes until Miranda was supposed to show up. In fact, as Andy entered the revolving door, she thought she saw Miranda's Mercedes rounding the corner, and quickened her steps. When she reached the Runway offices, she hurried into the kitchen and washed and arranged the fruit as nicely as she could on one of the plates. She placed it on Miranda's desk with the coffee just as Miranda was walking through the door, already talking a mile a minute on her cell phone.
"…no, I've told him I'm not going to budge. Well, you'll just have to arrange it, won't you? I'm not dealing with it." She tossed her coat and bag on Emily's desk, and Emily gave Andy the usual look of hatred. This time, Andy didn't even try to disguise her eyeroll, and watched Emily's face go bright red as a result. "What else am I paying you for?" Miranda continued as she swept into her office without looking at either of her assistants. "This is your job--" She stopped as she saw the plate of fruit. Andy held her breath for a moment. Then Miranda continued, almost without missing a beat, "Call me when you've resolved this. Which will hopefully be before ten o'clock tomorrow morning."
Oh. The attorney. Andy did not envy him having Miranda as a client. "Goodbye," Miranda said, snapped the phone shut, and in the same breath, said, "Andrea."
Andy swallowed hard and entered the office. Miranda held up her Starbucks. "Is this a regular coffee?" she demanded.
Andy blinked. "It's--yeah," she said. "I mean, it's your usual--"
"Decaf," Miranda snapped, scowling at Andy and giving her the worst ever how-could-you-be-so-stupid look.
Andy's jaw dropped. Then she looked around to make sure they were alone, lowered her voice, and said, "But I looked it up, and you're supposed to be able to have two cups of regular coffee a day if you w--"
Miranda looked at her.
Andy swallowed. "Okay," she said, and pointed at the fruit. "Is, is that okay, or do you want something else?"
Miranda glanced at the fruit again. "Acceptable," she said, and at that moment her stomach growled. Her cheeks went red. Andy quickly turned around before Miranda could see her smirk, and raced out to Starbucks. When she returned with a decaf latte, Miranda had already worked her way through the banana, one of the plums, and half the pear.
"Steak at noon," Miranda said without looking up from her laptop screen. "Call Nanette and arrange a pedicure for me on Thursday morning. Tell Paul I need to see the photos for the Native American jewelry feature. Make sure we have McQueen tomorrow at eleven--confirm with Marcia, Kelly's useless. Then call my ex-husb--" Miranda stopped, winced, and growled, "Greg, and remind him that he's picking up the girls tonight." She glanced at Andy. "That's all."
For the rest of the day, Andy kept an eye on Miranda while trying to look like she wasn't keeping an eye on Miranda, because for one thing, if Miranda figured out what she was doing she'd rip her a new one. For another, it wasn't her problem, really, and she didn't care, really. But she kept trying to see if Miranda looked different--thicker waist, stuff like that. She couldn't find anything really obvious.
At three o'clock, Miranda called, "Coat. Bag. I'll probably be out for the rest of the afternoon. Andrea, come with me."
Andy couldn't stop herself, and shared a surprised look with Emily. Then Emily hobbled to the closet to get Miranda's things, while Andy called for Roy and quickly packed up her own bag.
When the car pulled up and they got inside, Andy expected Miranda to give her some kind of errand--like, go to Alaia after Roy dropped Miranda off, or something--but all Miranda said was, "To Dr. Latchley's office. Andrea, I trust you brought something to take notes."
Andy stared at Miranda, before she managed, "Um. Yes. Sure." Then she fumbled in her bag for her pad and pencil.
"You won't need them until we get there," Miranda pointed out acidly, and turned to gaze out the window.
"Right," Andy said, and snapped her bag shut, blushing. So…okay. Miranda wanted Andy to sit in on her doctor's visit. Wanted her to take notes. All right. Andy could do that. No matter how incredibly weird it seemed, Andy could do that.
"So," Miranda said, without turning to look at Andy, "you 'looked it up.'"
"Um," Andy said. "Yeah. I found a lot of websites. But, um--maybe I should get a book?"
"Maybe you should," Miranda said. Andy gulped.
Sandra Latchley had a very nice office, especially for a GP--the kind that bespoke rich patients. As Andy suspected, Miranda was there chiefly to have her suspicions confirmed, and then to get a referral since her former obstetrician had recently retired.
Andy was not actually expected to follow Miranda into an examining room, so she just lingered in the waiting room. Thank goodness. The thought of Miranda Priestly in one of those paper gowns was actually embarrassing. In the meantime, she fidgeted.
After she'd waited for about an hour, a nurse came down the hall. "Andrea?" she called, and Andy stood up. The nurse gave Andy a polite smile. "This way, please."
A fully-dressed Miranda was sitting in Dr. Latchley's office across the desk. Dr. Latchley had various papers and charts in front of her. She smiled welcomingly at Andy. Her brown eyes were warm and kind, and Andy hoped against hope that she'd had a soothing effect on Miranda. "Have a seat," she said.
Andy managed a smile of her own as she lowered herself into a hard leather chair. She'd had her notebook and pen at the ready ever since she'd sat down in the waiting room, just so she could be available at a moment's notice, and Dr. Latchley looked amused as she sat alert and attentive. "All right," she said. "Miranda has said that she doesn't mind you hearing whatever I have to say, so now that we're here, shall we begin?"
"Please," Miranda said. "I'm on a very tight schedule."
"Well, so am I," Dr. Latchley said calmly. "So let's get down to it. Miranda, you are indeed pregnant. We can't conclusively prove it until you're about ten weeks along and we can actually hear the baby's heartbeat, but our lab tests are pretty close to infallible. And given that the tests you've already done were…"
"I know I'm pregnant," Miranda said, sounding irritated. "What next?"
"Next I refer you to an obstetrician. This is difficult--with insurance costs, there aren't very many around these days. I recommend Dr. Viswanathan. She's very good, and well-known. I can get you in the door, but you'll need to make all your appointments well in advance." She gave Miranda a knowing look. "And keep them." Miranda glared.
"What's her first name, please?" Andy asked, ready to write it down. Dr. Latchley smiled again at her, and gave her a business card, which Andy carefully filed in her bag. "And--how's that going to work? You'll make the initial call, or--"
"I will tell her to expect your call," Dr. Latchley said. "We're old friends. Call her office tomorrow morning, and you should be able to set something up."
"Thanks," Andy said, scribbling away. "Any receptionist in particular I should try to talk to?"
"They're all very nice, but if you get ahold of Mary, tell her I want to know how her dogs are doing these days."
"Dogs…are…doing," Andy muttered, writing it down. "Mary. Okay." She looked up to see Dr. Latchley grinning at her, and Miranda looking at her like she was an idiot. Andy flinched.
"In the meantime," Dr. Latchley said, turning back to Miranda, "I've got a basic caresheet here." She pulled a pale pink sheet of paper from a folder. "This lists dietary and exercise recommendations, as well as typical symptoms you should expect. Of course, you've gone through all this before." She glanced at Andy and smiled again, taking out another sheet. "Would you like a copy?"
"Yes, please," Andy mumbled, face still on fire, not looking at Miranda. She looked especially at the dietary information, which was pretty much the same stuff, she was relieved to see, that she'd found online.
"You'll want to pay careful attention to your diet; older pregnant women are much more likely to develop gestational diabetes, along with other complications. How have you been eating?" Dr. Latchley asked Miranda.
"Quite normally," said Miranda, the great big fibber. Andy gave Miranda a look of outrage, which Dr. Latchley saw before Andy could hide it. Fortunately, Miranda did not appear to notice.
"And what's 'normal'? What did you have for lunch today?" Dr. Latchley asked.
"Steak. I almost always do," Miranda replied.
"You'll want to cut back on that," Dr. Latchley said firmly. Miranda glared, but did not look surprised. "Protein's good, but red meat isn't the greatest. What about breakfast?"
Miranda darted Andy a quick look. "Fruit," she said.
"Bananas and pears and stuff," Andy added. "And plums."
"All right," Dr. Latchley said. "But you need more variety. I suggest melons, too. Eggs are great--"
"No eggs," Miranda said flatly. Her cheeks went a little green.
"--and milk. Lots of dairy," Dr. Latchley finished. "Caloric requirements are on the sheet, although Dr. Viswanathan will be able to go into more detail with you. You might also want to consult a nutritionist, or a personal trainer if you have concerns about exercise."
Miranda already had a nutritionist and trainer, of course. Andy made a note to call them and set up appointments as soon as possible.
"And above all else," Dr. Latchley added, sounding stern for the first time, "get adequate rest. I know you're a busy woman, but you have to be prepared to take it easier than you normally would." She tilted her head at Andy. "She's young and chipper. Put her to use. Get her to do things for you."
Andy's jaw dropped, but all Miranda said was, "An excellent idea." She smiled thinly. "Surely she must be good for something."
"Do you have any other questions?" Dr. Latchley asked.
"Can she have coffee?" Andy blurted before she could stop herself. Maybe it was payback. 'Good for something,' indeed. "Regular coffee? Because I read two cups were okay--"
"Two cups are okay," Dr. Latchley said absently, looking down at her paperwork while Miranda sent Andy a Glare of Death. Andy squirmed. "But try to limit your caffeine intake as much as possible."
"Thank you," Miranda said sweetly, and stood up. "We really must be getting back."
"Of course," Dr. Latchley said, and stood up too. She extended her hand to Miranda, who took it rather gingerly before letting go again. "Please call me if there are any problems. Oh--and congratulations."
Miranda didn't even manage a thin smile this time. Instead she nodded curtly and left the office without another word. Andy quickly turned to the doctor. "So," she said urgently, "this sheet--this is all the stuff I should know? Or, you know, should I look out for anything else…?"
Dr. Latchley gave Andy a really amused smile. "Your first child, I take it?" she asked.
Before Andy had time to splutter a response, Miranda called, "Andrea," impatiently from the hallway.
'Good luck,' Dr. Latchley mouthed, as Andy hurried out the door. She'd need more than that, Andy reflected gloomily as she caught up with a scowling Miranda. But Miranda did not berate her as she led the way out to the car.
"Roy, you will take me home and then return Andrea to Runway. Andrea, you're in charge of Dr. Vis-whatever," Miranda said as Andy opened the door for her. Miranda slid inside and Andy shut the door. Then she hurried around to her own door, knowing that Miranda hated even the five-second delay between bullet-rapid instructions.
"Remember that the girls and I are going to London for Christmas, and work with that," Miranda said the moment Andy opened her own door. "I've been promising them this trip for ages."
"Right," Andy said. "Right." She buckled her seatbelt and whipped out her pad and pencil again.
"God. London," Miranda muttered. "Get in touch with Joseph Finch--he's our family physician there. Then call Cara. I told her she could have Christmas off, but obviously I'm going to need her now. She will simply have to 'see her family' some other time." Feeling very, very sorry for Cara, the twins' long-suffering nanny, Andy wrote that down, too. "Confirm that we have Praeger, Lawson & Day tomorrow at ten."
"I called them at two," Andy said. "You should be good to go."
"'I'?" Miranda asked.
Andy blinked, swallowed, and said, "We."
"Arrive at their offices at nine-thirty," Miranda said. "Don't bother stopping by Runway first. And don't be late."
"Right," Andy said, already anticipating sleeping in.
"Then get in touch with my personal trainer and arrange for her to come to my home this weekend. Early Saturday morning will work, and I mean early. Make sure that Emily's made the arrangements for my Christmas presents; she's had the job for months, but these days I don't trust her to breathe without her mouth open. And tomorrow afternoon I want you to go to Dior with Lucia. Bring me back a full report--hers are quite unsatisfactory, lately." The unpleasant gleam in Miranda's eyes suggested that Lucia's reports wouldn't be unsatisfactory for much longer, and neither would Lucia.
"Got it," Andy said, her pen flying across the paper. Her wrist was cramping again. She was going to have a repetitive stress injury by the time she finished at Runway, she just knew it.
"Good. That's all." Miranda turned and looked out the window, her hands folded in her lap. She didn't look appreciably calmer after her doctor's visit--maybe, in spite of everything, she'd been hoping she was wrong, that she wasn't pregnant after all. Andy looked out her own window, remembered her own scare, and decided for the fiftieth time that she wouldn't trade places with Miranda for all the Birkin bags in the world.
When the car pulled up at Miranda's home, Andy made to get out of the car, as she had the last time. Miranda waved her off impatiently and unbuckled her seatbelt. Before she got out of the car, she gave Andy an intent, penetrating look; against her will, Andy shivered.
"Be discreet," was all Miranda said, and then she was gone, climbing the stairs to her townhouse.
"What's going on?" Roy asked as he pulled away from the curb.
Andy decided that telling Roy everything wouldn't be a good start to 'being discreet.' "Er. Stuff," she said weakly. Roy rolled his eyes in the rear view mirror. "Look, you heard what she just said. It's my job if I don't keep my mouth shut." And probably any job Andy might contemplate in the future, too.
"Right," Roy sighed. "Guess I'll find out eventually."
Everybody would, soon enough, Andy thought. Unless Miranda decided to end the pregnancy. Andy supposed Miranda would talk to Stephen about that first, though. After talking to her attorney. God, telling her attorney about her pregnancy before telling the baby's father…it was a weird world. Assuming Stephen was the father. Andy hid her face in her hands and whimpered.
"You okay back there?" Roy asked, sounding alarmed.
"Fine," Andy mumbled. "It's just Miranda."
"I hear you," Roy said. Their eyes met in the mirror again, and against her will, Andy shared a laugh with him.
Playing it safe, Andy arrived at Praeger, Lawson & Day the next morning at nine-fifteen. Good thing too, because Miranda swept through the door not five minutes later and gave her a look that was almost approving. Andy immediately jumped to her feet and hurried to the reception desk, telling the harassed-looking secretary, "Hi. Miranda Priestly's arrived for her meeting with Mr. Praeger."
"That meeting isn't until ten o'clock, ma'am," the secretary said, giving her the barest glance before returning her attention to her frantic typing. She clicked her mouse, and the printer behind her began spewing out paper.
"Well, yes, I know," Andy said, "but she's here now."
"That's fine," the secretary, whose nameplate read 'Betsy,' said, still not looking at Andy. "Please help yourselves to bottled water, juice, or coffee. We also have a cafeteria on the third floor if you haven't had breakf--"
"No, no," Andy said quickly. "I mean, she's here now, and she wants to start the meeting. Right now. I'm her assistant," she added, like that was supposed to make a difference.
Betsy gave Andy the kind of look that said she hated her job, not just this morning, but every morning, and every afternoon and evening too. "Mr. Praeger is not available," she said flatly. Then she turned her back on Andy and began gathering the printouts. The body language was pretty final.
Already cringing, Andy headed over to Miranda, who was tapping her foot impatiently by a large potted plant. As soon as Andy was near enough, Miranda saddled her with her purse and coat. "Well?" she said.
"Um, the secretary said we can't go in yet," Andy said. Miranda's eyes darkened. "But there's a cafeteria," Andy added quickly. "Have you had breakfast?"
"Yes," Miranda said, and stalked over to the reception desk. Andy followed her, hampered by her new burden, and arrived in time to see the secretary give Miranda a look of pure hatred. She also looked frightened, though, and picked up her phone. "Mr. Praeger," she said, "Miranda Priestly has arrived, but I know your meeting with her isn't--" She stopped, and scowled. "Yes, sir. I'll tell her." She glared at Miranda. "You can go on up. Eighth floor."
Miranda kept looking at her.
"…Ma'am," the secretary mumbled.
Now satisfied, Miranda turned on her heel and strode towards the elevator. Apparently, getting knocked up hadn't robbed her of the ability to scare the crap out of random strangers. Andy staggered after her, doing a tricky balancing act by carrying two heavy coats and bags on four-inch heels over slippery marble floors. By the time she caught up with Miranda, Miranda had already pressed the call button and the elevator's doors were sliding open. She jerked her head, and Andy followed her inside.
Miranda mashed the button for the eighth floor. "You let her say 'no' to you," she said.
"Oh," Andy said, "um--"
"I am disappointed in you, Andrea."
Andy gaped at her. "Wh-what?"
"When you are dealing with anybody, especially a secretary," Miranda practically spat the word, "you do what it takes to get what you want. You do not decide to curl up and die."
"But--I mean, I did ask her, more than once, and she just--"
"You never 'ask.' And you never say anything more than once. We dictate the terms, Andrea, not them. Always. I hope I never have to remind you of this again."
"No, Miranda," Andy mumbled, wishing she could hide her face in the pile of coats in her arms. "Sorry."
Thankfully, at that moment, the elevator stopped at the eighth floor. The door opened to reveal a slim, suited man waiting in the corridor, smiling at them. He was of middle age, with salt-and-pepper hair, and was obviously accomplished, wealthy, and distinguished. This did not stop him from looking at Miranda with something like fear in his eyes.
"Miranda," he said as Miranda and Andy exited the elevator, and bent forward to kiss the air to either side of Miranda's cheeks.
"Preston," Miranda said without preamble, "your secretary's conduct is appalling. She was deliberately unhelpful and rude to my assistant who, for reasons known only to her, was attempting to be polite. Isn't that right, Andrea?" Andy gaped at her again, and Miranda waved her hand at her. "Find somewhere to put those things."
"Allow me," the man said, and before Andy could protest, took Miranda's coat and bag, leaving Andy with her own. They smiled at each other, sharing the instant camaraderie of two trauma victims. "I'm Preston Praeger. And you?"
"Andy Sachs," Andy said.
"A pleasure. Miranda, I'm so sorry about Betsy. I'll speak to her later today. Ladies, this way?" He led them down the hallway. Andy couldn't help but notice the stark contrast between this place andRunway. The Runway office walls were either made of glass or painted in cream, the floors either pale marble or carpet. Everything had the feeling of being transparent, like gossamer, like you were floating in air. This place was like something out of a Victorian novel, with red carpets and heavy wooden doors and black marble walls. Andy half-expected a butler with a British accent to step out of nowhere.
"I've spoken to Sam Johnson," Mr. Praeger was saying as he led them down a side corridor, to an open doorway at the end. Shiny leather chairs sat to either side of the door. "Looks like everything is in place. And so far Stephen's been willing to compromise--"
"Oh, yes," Miranda said bitterly.
"--and to be punctual." Mr. Praeger looked over at Miranda with an attempt at a smile. "I'm willing to bet that three hours from now, we'll be fairly close to a resolution of terms."
"I'm not so certain of that," Miranda said. "I'll need to speak to Stephen alone."
It took some effort for Andy not to stop dead in the hallway. Stephen was going to be here today? This wasn't just Miranda and her lawyer? Which meant…shit. Shit. It meant Miranda was going to tell Stephen today, with Andy in the same building, which would be about a million times worse than waiting for Miranda to finish taking a pregnancy test in the bathroom. Law school. Why hadn't Andy gone to law school?
Then again, law school hadn't done Mr. Praeger any favors, considering. He was frowning at Miranda. "I'm--are you sure that's a good idea?" he asked carefully, leading them through the open door. It was a conference room, with an enormous oaken table surrounded by several plush chairs. "So far he's been, um, resistant to--" He glanced over his shoulder at Andy.
"I know what he's been," Miranda said, and seated herself in a chair precisely at the middle of the table. She folded her hands on the wooden surface, and drummed her fingers. "This is important, Preston."
"If you're sure," Mr. Praeger said, and hung Miranda's coat on a coat rack by the door, setting her bag carefully down on the carpet.
"Where would you like me to sit?" Andy asked.
She'd addressed the question to Mr. Praeger, but Miranda tapped the table with her right hand and said, "Here."
Mr. Praeger raised his eyebrows, and said to Andy, "I see my position has been usurped." Then he smiled to show there were no hard feelings. "Miranda, I've a few matters to take care of in my office before our meeting starts. Did you have any particular questions for me before I go?"
"No, thank you, Preston," Miranda said, and turned to Andy. "Bring me my bag."
Mr. Praeger and Andy grimaced at each other behind Miranda's back, as Mr. Praeger picked the bag up from the floor and passed it over to Andy. Then, with the air of a man who had received a brief reprieve, he left.
Andy handed Miranda her bag: a python drawstring from Michael Kors. Andy wasn't sure that today was a good day for Miranda to appear snakelike, all things considered, but she'd be damned if she opened her mouth on the subject. Miranda opened the bag and rummaged inside until she came up with a bottle of Tylenol. She shook the bottle, which gave a hollow rattle. "Almost out," she muttered. "Get me some more when we're done here."
"Okay. There's also some in your car," Andy offered timidly. "In the, um, box below the driver's seat. You know, just…for future reference."
The box had been Andy's own idea, which she'd come up with on the very day after they'd returned from Paris. She privately called it the Miranda Care Kit. More than painkillers, it also had travel-sized hairspray, hand lotion, and sample sizes of Miranda's favorite makeup products, all nicked from the beauty department with Nigel's rather impressed permission. There were also Band-Aids, a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer, and a couple of those little foam pads you could stick in your shoes to make them more comfortable. Whenever they were out, Andy had all these things at hand since Miranda invariably needed at least one of them, and Miranda never appeared to question where they came from. Andy made a quick mental note to add some anti-nausea medication at the first possible opportunity. She might need a second box.
"We are not in my car," Miranda said, and glanced at the sideboard, where there sat a pitcher of ice water and some glasses. Andy hurried over and poured Miranda a glass of water, before sitting down herself, wondering if she could get away with slipping off her shoes underneath the table. Maybe. She'd give it a few minutes. Miranda took two tablets from the bottle, chased them down with water, and then rubbed her forehead.
"I am not looking forward to this," she muttered.
Neither was Andy, but she tried to appear sympathetic. Not that Miranda was looking at her. Then it occurred to her that she ought to know something, and she cleared her throat. Miranda glanced at her. "Uh," Andy said, "does Mr. Praeger know? I mean, have you told him about, you know, on the phone…" She waved her hand vaguely. Miranda raised her eyebrows, as if she had no idea what Andy was talking about when she totally did. Fine. If she wanted to play it that way: "You know, the baby," Andy said daringly.
Miranda's eyes narrowed, and Andy wondered if she had, in fact, gone too far. "It is not a baby, Andrea," she said quietly, dangerously. "It is an embryo. A thing. And until I decide otherwise, that is what it will remain." Andy nodded wordlessly. "And no. Preston does not know. Yet." Miranda drummed her fingers on the table, and looked away again, staring at the wall. "No one does."
Except the doctor, of course, who didn't really count, and…Andy. Andy felt the knowledge like a blow to the stomach. Jesus. She didn't know why that was so shocking--it made sense, considering how little time had passed since Miranda's discovery. But the idea that Andy was in on this before Miranda's husband, or her other kids, or hell, even her lawyer…that was weird. And wrong. And weird.
Then again, Miranda probably didn't even regard Andy as a person. Maybe in Miranda's mind, nobody did know, because Andy didn't count any more than the doctor did. That'd make more sense, even as the thought made Andy feel oddly miserable.
She looked at a clock on the wall: nine thirty-five. She had time to make a few calls, check in with Emily and see how things were going at the office. Emily had been less than happy to learn that Andy would be out of the office this morning, but Emily was never happy these days, so whatever. She took out her phone.
"What are you doing?" Miranda asked. Andy nearly jumped.
"I was just going to call the office," she said feebly. "You know, see if--if things are okay, or--and then I was going to call Kate Spade's and make sure that those satchels for Tuesday are ready to g--"
"Kate Spade," Miranda said, and snorted. "Did you see what she was wearing at the benefit?" Andy winced and nodded. Unfortunately, she had. It had been-- "Some sort of bizarre caftan with fuchsia tights. One more public appearance like that and I think I'll have to decide that her bags and shoes are no longer 'charming.'" Andy winced again. Kate Spade was a well-known designer. It was scary to think that Miranda could destroy even an established person's career without a second thought.
Then Miranda glanced at Andy. "You looked acceptable," she said, her voice neutral.
Andy's jaw dropped, before she recovered herself and managed a smile. "Thanks," she said. "Nigel found the dress in the Closet. I really liked it." She bit her lip and dared to add, "I asked if it would fit, and he said we'd be in business with a little Crisco and fishing line."
"Mmm." Miranda continued to regard her with that same intent, contemplative gaze that made Andy squirm. Then she turned to look back at the wall with a sigh. "Well, you've lost weight. That's something."
Thanks a lot. Like Andy had been a total whale to begin with. But what now? Should she actually make those calls, or did Miranda want to keep talking? Did she just want to stay distracted until Stephen showed up? Andy couldn't blame her.
Time to take a chance. Andy said, "Well, I've been doing this low-carb thing. Seems to be worki--"
"Stop talking about food," Miranda said through gritted teeth.
Whoops, miscalculation. Andy looked carefully at Miranda. Morning sickness? Miranda didn't look green, but that didn't necessarily mean anything. Without a word, Andy got to her feet, and refilled Miranda's water glass from the pitcher. Miranda glanced up at her as Andy put the glass down in front of her, and Andy did her very best to look helpful.
"Bring me something from the cafeteria," Miranda said. "Yogurt. Plain."
"Right," Andy said, and hurried out, remembering how grateful Mr. Praeger had also been to escape. It took her fifteen minutes to complete the errand, and by the time she got back, the meeting was due to start in ten. Miranda took the yogurt without a word of thanks and devoured it almost resentfully while Andy looked off into space and pretended not to be there.
"I already had breakfast," Miranda said, and tossed the empty plastic cup into a nearby trashcan with unerring aim.
"Well, the doctor said that dairy is good," Andy said timidly. "Calcium and stuff."
"I hate this," Miranda said. "Oh, my God. If it's twins again…" She shuddered. Andy winced and tried to imagine Miranda, not just pregnant, but pregnant with twins. She'd have been as big as a house. "Don't get pregnant, Andrea."
"N-not planning on it anytime soon," Andy said.
"Planning does not always enter into it," Miranda said darkly, and sipped her water again. Andy had the sudden, horrible feeling that Miranda might actually start talking about her birth control when, mercifully, voices sounded down the hallway. Stephen and his attorney had arrived early, and Mr. Praeger was coming with them.
"…no interest in anything 'private,'" Stephen was saying. Next to Andy, Miranda stiffened. Andy's desire to vanish into thin air redoubled.
"Well, we can talk about that," Praeger said jovially as he led the way into the conference room.
"My client said no, Preston," Stephen's lawyer--must be Sam Johnson--said. He nodded at Miranda as he and Stephen seated themselves across the table. "Ms. Priestly." Miranda pinched her lips and did not return the nod.
"Stephen," she said neutrally.
"Miranda," he replied, just the same. Then he glanced at Andy, and raised his eyebrows. "You again?" he said with a small, mocking smile. "Just can't get enough of listening in on our squabbles, can you, young lady?"
Andy felt as if all the blood in her body had just rushed to her face. Humiliated, she stared down at the table. Great. Just what she needed--for Stephen to remind Miranda of--
"I asked her to be here," Miranda said coldly.
"I figured that much," Stephen replied. He glanced over at his attorney. "Sam?"
"I see no reason not to begin," Mr. Johnson said, opening his briefcase.
"Stephen," Miranda said, "I'm sorry, but we really do have to speak alone. For just a moment."
Andy wondered if anybody else heard the nearly-hidden urgency in her voice, the note that was almost pleading. Stephen didn't seem to. "Miranda," he said, sounding tired, "we've been through this before. I just want--"
"Not this, we haven't," Miranda said. "We need to--"
"No," Stephen said. "Now, Sam--"
"There has been a new development," Miranda growled, narrowing her eyes. Finally something seemed to get through to Stephen, who blinked and frowned at her. "Just a few minutes, Stephen," she added, and now everybody could hear her plea. Something deep inside Andy twinged with sympathy for her.
"Okay," Stephen sighed after a moment. "Let's give it ten minutes, Sam."
"Stephen," Mr. Johnson said warningly.
Stephen held up a hand. "Ten minutes. Okay? And then we'll move on."
Andy was on her feet practically before he'd finished speaking, gathering her coat and bag with shaking hands, feeling absurdly as if she didn't want to leave a single trace of her presence behind that might intrude on Miranda's privacy. An astonished Mr. Praeger held the door open for her. He and Mr. Johnson followed her out of the room.
"What's going on?" Mr. Johnson demanded of her as soon as the door shut behind them.
"Don't answer that," Mr. Praeger said at once, like Andy needed the instruction. Instead, she shook her head mutely, and plopped down in one of the shiny leather chairs beside the door. She could just barely hear the low murmur of voices speaking in normal tones, but couldn't make out any words.
"Come on, Sam," Mr. Praeger said, and sighed. "Ten minutes. There's coffee in my office."
"I'd prefer Scotch," Mr. Johnson said ruefully. Mr. Praeger chuckled.
"Wouldn't we all," he said. He glanced at Andy. "Would you like to come along?"
Andy shook her head. She didn't trust either of them not to try to pry information out of her. Besides, she wasn't sure her knees would support her right now. And…and privacy aside, she didn't like the idea of leaving Miranda all alone in there. Even if Andy wasn't actually in the room.
Mr. Praeger and Mr. Johnson had barely rounded the corner when Andy heard the voices inside the room rising in volume, climbing towards shouts. Her stomach squirmed even more. Maybe she should have gone with the lawyers. Maybe she should get up right now, run for the elevator, and catch the first flight back to Cincinnati.
Stephen seemed to be doing most of the yelling. Even through the heavy door, Andy could catch tiny snatches and phrases. The one that stuck with her the most was Stephen shouting, "…on purpose!" Miranda's voice said something in reply that Andy couldn't catch. Probably just as well.
On purpose. Andy could understand why he'd feel that way. Miranda Priestly was the most cunning, conniving person she had ever met, bar none. Stephen might well believe she'd done this just to trap him in a failing marriage. Andy half-believed it herself, now that she thought about it.
But then she remembered the look on Miranda's face when she'd come out of that bathroom, and knew that Stephen was wrong. Sure, Miranda was trying to use the pregnancy to her advantage now. That was her nature. She couldn't do otherwise. But there was no way Miranda had wanted this, had planned this.
Ten minutes seemed to take forever. The voices were still raised when Mr. Johnson and Mr. Praeger returned, and when the two men heard them through the door, they looked apprehensively at each other, and at Andy.
"Little talk's not going well, huh?" Mr. Johnston asked Andy. She shook her head again. "Not much of a conversationalist, are you?"
"That's enough," Mr. Praeger said, to Andy's relief, and he rapped sharply on the door.
Then, without waiting for an invitation, he opened it, just in time for Stephen to yell, "--doesn't make any difference, you hear, I don't care, I didn't ask for this--"
"Neither did I!" Miranda cried. Andy realized she'd never heard Miranda raise her voice until today. She felt frozen to her chair. "For God's sake, you can't honestly think I wanted--"
"All right," Mr. Johnson said, stepping into the room and out of Andy's sight, "what's going on here?"
"Is it even mine?" Stephen demanded.
"What?" Miranda said.
Andy saw Mr. Praeger's eyes go very, very wide as he entered the room behind Mr. Johnson. She rose to her own feet, not sure if she should follow them inside or not.
"Stephen," Andy heard Mr. Johnson saying urgently, "if this is what I think it is, then you and I need to consult priv--"
"No, you know what? It doesn't matter. It's over, okay? I don't care if you've got goddamned quintuplets in there, you make the call, you do whatever you have to do, but we're through. We're done. Okay?"
"Stephen," Miranda said, and Andy could hear how hard she was straining for control, "I only wanted to tell you. We can't decide anything right now--all I ask is that we both take some time to think and consider, now that we know--"
"There's someone else," Stephen said.
"Stephen, please," Mr. Johnson said.
"No," Miranda said. Her voice actually trembled. "There isn't. What do you want, a paternity test? I'll--"
"I meant for me," Stephen said. "I have someone else."
Andy stopped breathing. The room went deadly silent. Then Mr. Johnson groaned, "Stephen," right before Mr. Praeger shut the door, leaving Andy alone in the corridor. Andy collapsed back into her chair, going boneless, her heart racing at a zillion miles an hour.
Nobody shouted after that. Andy guessed that Mr. Johnson had calmed Stephen down, and Miranda was probably in shock. Oh, Jesus. Stephen had been cheating on her. And there was a lot about Miranda that Andy didn't understand, but she knew that Miranda didn't forgive easily. Or at all.
Andy's head spun. God. It certainly explained the apartment Stephen had kept rented. Had he turned to another lover because Miranda wasn't around? But the way he'd just talked to her--like he hated her, like he hadn't just been looking for a substitute. For whatever reason, that was what their relationship had become.
Andy shuddered. Nope. She was never getting married, she was never having kids, she was going to move to Tibet and become a nun and dedicate the rest of her life to serving the poor or something--
The door slammed open, and Andy jumped about two feet in the air. Miranda bolted through it, wearing her coat and clutching her python bag. Her face was bone-white, and she didn't even seem to see Andy as she practically ran down the hall. Andy gasped, grabbed her own coat and bag, and followed her at top speed.
Footsteps followed them both. Andy looked over her shoulder, half-terrified that an enraged Stephen was pursuing Miranda down the corridor. But it was Mr. Praeger, and he called out, "Miranda!"
Miranda whirled on her heel. The snarl on her face made her look like an animal. A wounded one, caught in a trap. "Everything," she whispered, her voice shaking. "We will take him for everything he's got. Do you understand?"
Mr. Praeger pulled his handkerchief out of his breast pocket and mopped his forehead with it. "The pre-nup--" he began.
"And fire that fucking secretary," Miranda said, turned again, and headed off without another word.
Mr. Praeger opened his mouth again. Before she could stop herself, Andy pressed her hand to his elbow and said urgently, "Not now!" Then she followed Miranda, who was already at the elevators. One look at her face told Andy that they would definitely not be sharing an elevator for the trip down, and she stared down at the marble tiles as the brass door slid shut between them.
She caught the next elevator and called Roy. "Please hurry," she begged. "Oh my God, she is not going to want to wait."
"Andy, are you okay?" Roy asked, sounding alarmed.
"No," Andy wailed, and hung up at once. By the time she reached the lobby, Miranda was waiting by the glass revolving door, staring through the floor-to-ceiling windows and obviously seeing nothing. Andy took a deep breath, prayed for courage, and went to stand next to Miranda, not looking at her, not daring to speak.
Miranda didn't move until her Mercedes pulled up at the sidewalk. When she saw the glint of the silver paint in the sunlight, she twitched and broke out of her reverie, just long enough to tell Andy: "Find a clinic. A decent one. By tomorrow."
It took Andy a second to figure out what she meant, and then she swallowed hard. "Okay," she said.
"Not a word to anyone. Not one word."
"I won't. I haven't. To anybody."
Miranda went through the revolving doors towards the waiting car. To Andy's surprise, Miranda held the car door open for her, but did not get inside herself. "Go back to Runway. I'm walking."
Andy stared at her. Where was she 'walking' to? Home? Well, they were already in the Upper East Side, so she could manage it if she really wanted to--though Andy didn't envy her the task in those shoes. Or maybe she was going somewhere else. Or maybe she just wanted to keep moving, without any destination in mind. It wasn't Andy's business. Andy wasn't supposed to care.
"Okay," Andy said. "I'm--I'll be at Dior with Lucia if you need--"
"I know," Miranda said, and walked away. Andy watched her for a few moments, and then quickly got in the car. Roy pulled away from the curb, and Andy looked back through the rear window, watching Miranda until she vanished completely into the crowd.
For once, Emily didn't needle Andy when Andy returned to the office. Instead, she took one look at Andy's face and then looked back at her computer screen. Andy sat at her desk, opened her email, and tried to collect herself.
After a few minutes, Emily asked, "Lawyers' meeting went poorly, I take it?"
"You could say that," Andy said weakly.
"Where is she?"
"I have no idea."
"What? What hap--"
"I can't tell you," Andy said, meeting her eyes, and deciding that if Emily tried to be a bitch about this, Andy would make her regret she'd ever been born. Emily opened her mouth, and then shut it, as if she'd read Andy's mind. "It's the apocalypse, Em," Andy said after a second, throwing her a bone. "Just take it from me, okay? It's bad."
Emily turned a little pale. As well she might. But she had enough sense not to press, and Andy turned back to her own computer. She had no urgent email messages, and so she took a deep breath and started poking around on the internet for reputable abortion clinics in Manhattan. Miranda wasn't going to wait to get into Dr. Viswanathan's office for this, Andy knew.
After a few minutes, she found a clinic that offered what it called "VIP treatment," where, for a price, you could get the whole office to yourself during your appointment. No other patients: just you, your doctor, and a nurse. Miranda would want that. Andy made a quick mental note of the number, cleared the browser cache, and hurried out of the receiving area with her cell phone. No need to be overheard. Emily watched her go curiously, but didn't say anything, for once.
The clinic receptionist was pleasant, soft-voiced, and helpful: the opposite of Betsy. Andy found herself almost wanting to burst into tears as she spoke to her, which was just ridiculous, because it wasn't her problem, wasn't her embryo or her marriage or anything other than her job. The woman seemed to sense her distress, and Andy had to reassure her a few times that no, the appointment wasn't for her, but for her boss.
"Okay," the woman said, her voice still soothing and patient. "And you wanted the VIP arrangement?"
"Definitely," Andy said.
"We can take y--excuse me, her, tomorrow."
'By tomorrow,' Miranda's husky voice said in Andy's head.
"Actually," Andy said, hearing her own voice as if from a long way off, "tomorrow isn't so…what about the day after, can you do that?"
"We can," the woman affirmed. "It'll take one hour. We have an opening at eight-thirty in the morning."
"Sure," Andy said, her heart going quadruple-time. "Yeah. That's great. Thanks."
"We've got you in the schedule. Let me stress: please be on time."
"We will. Um, she will. Whichever." Andy wondered if Miranda would want her along for this, too, and realized she had no idea how to feel about that.
"One more thing: no children are allowed in the clinic. For obvious reasons."
"No kids," Andy said. "Gotcha."
"We'll see you on Thursday morning."
"Thanks," Andy said again, and hung up. Thursday morning. She canceled Miranda's pedicure with Nanette before she could forget about it.
Fuck. What was she doing? When Miranda said tomorrow, she meant tomorrow. Not the day after. Andy's job was to do whatever Miranda said. Even if Andy thought this wasn't the kind of decision you should make in the heat of anger--even if Andy thought just twenty-four extra hours wouldn't go amiss--it wasn't her decision to make. It wasn't her call. And if Miranda found out…if she learned that Andy had presumed to…
Andy remembered the look on Miranda's face and decided, screw it, if she got fired then she got fired, but Miranda was going to have an extra day to get herself together whether she wanted it or not. And maybe she wouldn't thank Andy for it, but Andy'd be able to sleep at night and that's what mattered. Miranda had brought Andy into this, and now she had to put up with Andy being involved. One extra day. If Miranda didn't change her mind, well then, it wouldn't make any difference in the long run, would it?
Andy left Runway at one-thirty to go to Dior with Lucia. Lucia plainly had no idea why Andy was coming along, but she knew Miranda well enough to be wary of any change in plans or routine. So while she wasn't rude to Andy, exactly, she wasn't chatty either.
That was fine with Andy. She tried as hard as she could to concentrate on the meeting with Alicia, one of Galliano's subordinates, because that's why Miranda had wanted her to go in the first place, for crying out loud. She just had a hard time concentrating, and it was all she could do to scribble down the notes Miranda would need.
Andy's phone bleeped just before the end of the meeting. It was Miranda, and Andy gave everybody in the room an apologetic smile before hurrying out into the lobby, to a quiet corner where nobody would be listening in. "Hello, Miranda?" she said.
"How many rings does it take before you decide to pick up?" Miranda asked.
"Sorry," Andy said, trying not to sound breathless from her little sprint into the lobby. "I'm at Dior and I wanted to find someplace qui--"
"Have you made the appointment?"
Andy took a deep breath. "Yes. For, uh, Thursday morning." She heard Miranda take a deep breath of her own on the other end of the line, and blurted quickly, "I found this clinic where you can reserve the whole place to yourself, no other patients, and they had an opening on Thursday morning. I thought you might li--prefer that." It wasn't a lie, not exactly. They did have an opening on Thursday. That they'd had one on Wednesday as well didn't bear mentioning, that was all.
"…oh," Miranda said, sounding almost disappointed, like she'd been looking forward to tearing Andy apart. She probably had been. Andy wondered where she was.
"Tomorrow," Andy said, her mind racing, "if you want, I can stop by and take a look at it, you know, make sure it's okay. I mean, of course it should be okay--"
"Fine." Miranda suddenly sounded very, very tired. "That's all." Then she hung up.
Andy bit her lip and looked at her phone, her heart aching inexplicably. The girls were with their dad tonight. Miranda would be all alone. And that so, so wasn't Andy's problem.
She hoped Miranda got some sleep tonight. She needed it. And Andy doubted she was going to get much, herself.
As it happened, though, Andy got to bed by midnight for once. Miranda hadn't returned to the office, and when Andy dropped the book off at the townhouse that night, she didn't heard a peep out of her. Andy went straight home and, to her surprise, fell asleep with almost no trouble at all.
So of course it made sense that her phone would go off in the middle of the night. And of course it would be Miranda. Struggling into wakefulness, Andy squinted at the display, wondering in a panic if she'd missed her alarm and was late for work or something, when she realized it was three-thirty in the morning. Was there an emergency? Her fingers fumbled for the 'Talk' button. "Hello?" she croaked.
"Cancel the clinic appointment," Miranda said.
"Huh?" Andy shook her head and pushed her hair out of her eyes. Lack of sleep made her imprudent enough to say, "What's wrong? Are you okay?"
"Many things, and no," Miranda said. "Obviously. Nevertheless, I want you to cancel the appointment, at least for now."
"Oh," Andy said, her head spinning, her eyelids still heavy. "O-okay--"
"That's all." Miranda hung up.
Andy dropped the phone on the bed, and let her head fall back down onto the pillow with a thump and a groan. She was awake now, and her heart had started pounding again, which was normal when you got yanked out of deep sleep and thought something was really badly wrong and then somebody decided to confuse you just for the hell of it.
So Miranda had put a hold on the abortion for now. Fine, great, whatever, but of fucking course she hadn't been able to wait until, say, eight a.m. to tell Andy. God.
Staring up at her ceiling, Andy, for the first time since returning from Paris, considered quitting her job. It had never been a real possibility to her before: when her family, her friends, had urged her to leaveRunway and Miranda behind, she'd stubbornly refused. She remember when Nigel had put the suggestion to her as well, before he'd given her a makeover. "I'm not going to quit!" she'd protested. "That's not fair!"
Then, in Paris--yeah, okay, she'd thought about it. She'd almost done it. But she hadn't, and these days she appeared to be in the very best of Miranda's good graces. Why was she thinking about leaving now?
Because it was getting to be way too scary and intense, that was why. Getting the dry cleaning was one thing, but this felt like "assistance" on a different level, in a different league. And it wasn't right, either. Andy wasn't Miranda's family, wasn't her friend, shouldn't be involved in her personal life to this degree. She shouldn't have an emotional stake in this, especially when, God knew, she'd never be thanked for her efforts.
She was wearing herself out for someone who'd give her nothing in return. That was how it worked. Caring about Miranda Priestly only got people hurt in the end: just look at Emily, and Nigel, and Stephen too, and probably anybody else Miranda had ever met. The woman was a menace. Keeping a career afloat was no longer a good enough reason for Andy to stick around.
Even as she thought this, though, Andy knew she still wouldn't leave. Wouldn't quit. She was in too deep to stop now. Whether as a spectator or participant, she wanted to see this thing through to the end. Whenever that was. Wherever that was.
Andy squeezed her eyes shut, determined to recoup what she could of the night's sleep. She succeeded, but her dreams were restless, and when she woke up again at six-fifteen, she still felt tired in spite of having slept more than she'd managed in days. The clinic opened at six, so Andy called them right away and canceled the appointment. Good thing too, because Miranda called her again at six-forty-five, just as Andy was on her way out the door.
"Miranda! Hi. I've just canceled--"
"Meet me at Preston's office in half an hour," Miranda said. "Bring Starbucks. Decaf," she added acidly.
"Oh," Andy said, looking both ways as she crossed the street. "I mean, sure."
"You have the Dior notes?"
"Yes--they're in my bag right h--"
"Good. I'll see you in--"
"Wait," Andy said quickly, forestalling the inevitable disconnect. "Do you want breakfast, too?"
"Did I ask for breakfast?" Then Miranda hung up. Andy stopped as she reached the sidewalk on the other side of the street, and stuck her tongue out at her phone. And spent a rather satisfying twenty minutes on the subway cursing Miranda out and calling her nasty names under her breath. The other commuters looked at her funny--people who muttered to themselves in subway cars usually didn't wear Chanel--but nobody said anything.
She was late, of course. The subway was crammed full, she had to wait to get in and out, switch cars, and then, on top of everything else, wait in line at a crowded Starbucks near the law office. For once, she didn't care. She was in a foul mood and Miranda could fucking well wait, today. It was funny: now that Andy had made the conscious decision, yet again, to keep her job, she felt a little more in control of herself. Of her destiny.
She could walk away if she wanted to. If she felt she had to. She could. That was important. It was up to her and nobody else. Sure, Miranda could fire her, and maybe she would. Andy'd get along somehow. She wasn't Miranda, wasn't like Miranda, and Miranda could go to--
"There you are," Miranda snapped as Andy hurried through the revolving door, and Andy jumped in spite of herself. Andy had thought Miranda would be in Mr. Praeger's office, but she'd been waiting by the door, evidently in a fever of impatience. She all but snatched the latte from Andy's hands. "Come along."
Andy glanced over at the reception desk. Betsy wasn't there today. Andy's newfound feeling of independence shriveled up a little bit, and then she followed Miranda into the elevator. To her surprise, Miranda pressed the button for the third floor instead of the eighth, and they exited into the cafeteria.
Miranda seated herself at a table, and rubbed her forehead with her fingertips before sipping at her coffee. Andy squirmed. "Yogurt?" she asked.
Miranda nodded. "Get yourself something and put it on our expense account."
Andy blinked. Miranda had never invited Andy to eat in front of her before. Miranda preferred to think that nobody who worked for her ate anything at all--you weren't even allowed to have food on your desk at Runway. As she bought yogurt for Miranda, and coffee and a fruit cup for herself, Andy realized that this was Miranda's way of saying--what, sorry? Thank you? Something, anyway.
Miranda took the yogurt without a word, and pretended not to pay attention while Andy pretended not to eat. When she was done, Andy dabbed at her mouth with a napkin, sipped her coffee, and said, "So, er, when are we supposed to see Mr. Praeger?"
Miranda looked at her watch. "In ten minutes." It was seven thirty-five. God. Some people Andy knew wouldn't even be out of bed yet. She tried to cover a yawn. Maybe she still had some sleep debt. One night wasn't enough to make up for weeks of deprivation.
She blinked, and realized that Miranda was regarding her from beneath hooded eyes. Something about her gaze unnerved Andy. More than usual, anyway. Andy cleared her throat. "S-so," she said. "How are you feeling tod--"
"I haven't told the girls yet, of course," Miranda said, and looked away, staring contemplatively off into space. "I don't know how."
Andy stopped and just stared at her. "I, um," she said, and cleared her throat. "Yeah. That would be…weird." Really weird. 'Girls, your stepfather and I are still separating, but you've got a new brother or sister on the way!'
Miranda gave her a humorless smile. "Maybe I'll have Cara do it." Andy blinked and hoped she wasn't serious. She didn't think so, but you never could tell, with Miranda. She excelled at delegating.
"At any rate, I should wait," Miranda added. "In the first couple of months, things are always…uncertain." Apprehension fleeted across her face for just a moment. Andy wondered if Miranda was hoping for something 'uncertain' to happen or not. If Miranda even knew what she wanted. Other than, apparently, taking Stephen for everything he had, which was probably why they were here today. Andy hated to admit it, but she was kind of looking forward to seeing that in action.
Putting that out of her mind for now, she said, "You look, er, well today." Miranda did, and shockingly so, considering what she'd gone through yesterday, plus the fact that she probably hadn't slept at all last night. Then Miranda looked at her, and Andy realized she'd just made an uninvited personal comment. She gulped, and said, "Oh! I need to reschedule you with Nanette. Tomorrow morning should still be…"
"I'll be in the ladies' room," Miranda said, and left without further fanfare. Andy watched her leave, wondering if she was feeling sick or something, before shaking herself out of her reverie and calling the pedicurist. Then she rang Emily.
"And where are you today?" Emily snapped. "On holiday with her in Ibiza?"
Oh, for God's sake. "You should see the beach," Andy said. "And the bungalow is gorgeous." After a moment of silence, she felt kind of bad, and added, "She called me at like six-forty-five or something and told me to meet her at her lawyer's office. So that's where we are."
"Lovely. And when will you be here?" Emily asked.
"I have no idea," Andy admitted. "Whenever she gets done, I guess."
"Is she…how is she today?" Emily asked, sounding cautious.
"Better than yesterday, I think," Andy said. "Dunno how she'll be when we're done here, though." She saw Miranda coming through the door, and added, "Gotta go. Is there anything I need to know before I get in today? Whenever that is?"
"Oh, you tell me," Emily said sweetly. "You're the one in charge now, aren't you?" Then she hung up. Andy glared at her phone, but didn't stick her tongue out at it since Miranda was watching. Instead she smiled brightly up at Miranda and rose to her feet.
Miranda did not return her smile--of course--but instead looked at her again with that level, considering stare. Then she said, "Let's go," and headed back out of the cafeteria. Andy quickly gathered up their garbage and tossed it in the trashcan on the way.
This meeting was in Mr. Praeger's office. He looked a little sleepy, too. Given that the office didn't officially open until eight, and didn't begin consultations until nine, he'd undoubtedly come in early to meet specially with Miranda. He saw that Miranda and Andy both had coffee, and poured some for himself as well. "Good morning, ladies," he said, and added more seriously, "How are you doing today, Miranda?"
"Stephen has admitted to infidelity," Miranda said. "Surely that means we can bypass this ridiculous waiting period and pit fault on him?"
Right to the point, then. Andy had expected no less. Miranda sounded remarkably unemotional, but then, she'd probably spent the last several hours getting herself under control.
"Well…we can try," Mr. Praeger allowed hesitantly. "But he can contest fault under any number of…" Miranda's eyes flashed, and Mr. Praeger added, "The court will grant you a divorce, Miranda, whether you have to wait for the whole year or not. There's no question of that. I don't think we should make it any messier or more costly than it has to be."
"Oh, it's going to be messy," Miranda said. "And costly. For him, I mean."
Mr. Praeger took a deep breath. "I understand you're upset," he said. "Especially taking…everything…into consideration." Andy had to give him points for not looking directly at Miranda's abdomen. "But may I ask what you are hoping to achieve, beyond simple revenge?"
"There has to be something beyond that?" Miranda asked. Yikes.
"Look, Miranda," Mr. Praeger said, sounding very firm and no-nonsense for the first time. Andy bit her lip. He should know that wasn't going to fly. "I know you want to do this in the heat of the moment. But I am telling you that this can get very long, and very ugly, and you have other things you probably want to be worrying about instead. You don't need Stephen's money--you've got more than he does, for crying out loud--"
"No," Miranda said. "I don't want his money."
Andy stared at Miranda in surprise. So did Mr. Praeger. Hadn't Miranda said, only yesterday, that she wanted to take Stephen for 'everything'?
"All right," Mr. Praeger said cautiously. "His, his property, then?"
"Oh, no, Preston," Miranda said, and smiled sweetly. "I had all night to think about this, you see, and I've decided that there are really only two things I want from Stephen. And I fully intend to get them both."
Mr. Praeger looked more apprehensive than ever. Andy didn't blame him a bit. "And they are?" he prompted.
Miranda held up one finger. "One: should I decide to have this child, he'll pay child support."
"That sounds reasonable," Mr. Praeger said, looking surprised.
"Two," Miranda said, and held up another finger. "He has nothing to do with it. He is not a part of its life. He gives up all his legal rights; he never looks upon the child's face unless I say so."
Andy swallowed hard and looked at Mr. Praeger. Mr. Praeger took a deep breath. "That will entail considerably more complications," he said.
"Will it?" Miranda asked, and for the first time, Andy heard a note of anger in her voice. Oh, shit.
"Well, yes," Mr. Praeger said.
"He said he wanted nothing to do with it," Miranda said. "Yesterday. Very loudly. I'm sure you remember."
"He was angry, too," Mr. Praeger said. "He probably didn't mean everything he said. And even if he did, he might well change his mind later. Does he have children?"
"A son, by his first marriage," Miranda said. "He's seventeen and lives with his mother. I know Stephen, Preston. He's done with that part of his life. He's certainly ready for his second childhood, with that infant he's apparently been carrying on with." Her voice cracked with bitterness. Andy quickly looked away.
"Be that as it may," Mr. Praeger said, obviously trying to be patient, "we can set those terms for you, Miranda. If he agrees, well, then we'll talk more about how to make it happen. If he doesn't, then we could have a long fight ahead of us." He took another, even deeper breath. "And I'd urge you to consider the child. Wouldn't it have the right to know its father?"
Out of the corner of her eye, Andy saw Miranda swell up with rage. But she didn't explode. Instead, she said, "Preston, those are my terms. You are my lawyer. Make them work." She stood up, clutching at her handbag, and Andy quickly stood up too.
Mr. Praeger sighed. "I'll do my best, Miranda, but surely you understand that this is very unusual…"
"I understand everything perfectly well," Miranda said. "Good morning." She turned and left. Mr. Praeger and Andy shared looks of commiseration before Andy followed her.
In the elevator, Miranda said, "When we're in the car, give me the Dior notes. How did Lucia handle herself at the meeting?"
Andy tried hard to remember. She'd been distracted by worrying about the woman standing next to her, who would accept no such excuse. "Fine, I guess," she said. "I mean, I've never sat in on a meeting like that before, so I don't know how it's really supposed to…"
Miranda sounded remarkably patient when she said, "Who did most of the talking?"
"Alicia," Andy said, relieved to know that much at least. "Uh, she was mainly talking about the transitional summer stuff, you know, pieces she'd like to see featured in the May or June issue."
"I see," Miranda said. "And how did Lucia respond?"
"She said most of them were okay, I think," Andy said. "Alicia gave her some photos and a couple of sample pieces. She said she'd show them to you."
"How many photos?"
"Er…" Now that Andy thought about it, there hadn't been that many. "Maybe seven? Ten, tops."
"So," Miranda said, as the elevator opened onto the ground floor, "my associate accessories editor meets, not with John Galliano, but with one of his lesser lieutenants, lets this lieutenant run the meeting, allows photos and sample pieces to be selected for her, and a pitifully small number at that, based on what the lieutenant--possibly not even John himself--would 'like to see' featured in Runway."
"You have a very interesting definition of 'fine,' Andrea," Miranda said as they crossed the lobby. Andy almost collapsed with relief to see that Roy was waiting outside, since she hadn't had a free moment to call him yet.
"I, I thought she already knew what you wanted," Andy faltered. "I mean, she's been doing this for--"
"Too long," Miranda said briskly, and held still just long enough for Andy to open the car door for her. When Andy slid in beside her, she held out her hand impatiently, and Andy wasted no time in handing over her notes.
Miranda immediately became absorbed in them, which gave Andy an opportunity to take care of one important detail. She fished around in her bag, pulled out the card Dr. Latchley had given her a couple of days before, and dialed the number.
"Dr. Sita Viswanathan's office," a pleasant female voice said.
"Hi," Andy said. "My name is Andy Sachs. I work for Miranda Priestly. I believe your office was told to expect our call--"
"Oh, that's right," the woman said, her voice warming at once. "Sandra Latchley said you'd be calling soon. I'm Mary."
Andy grinned. "And I'm supposed to ask how your dogs are doing." At this, Miranda raised her head, and looked over at Andy sharply. Andy swallowed, and said, "So, do you have any openings available?"
"My dogs are great," Mary said, "and we can clear a space for you tomorrow evening, after our office normally closes--say, seven?"
"Let me check," Andy said, and covered the receiver. "Seven p.m. tomorrow?" she asked Miranda. Miranda currently had nothing on her schedule between five-thirty and nine, when she was going to a party. Miranda frowned, obviously running through her own mental checklist, and nodded. "That's fine," Andy said with relief into the phone. "How long will it take?"
"No more than one hour. I've got her in the system. We'll see you then!" Mary chirped, sounding so downright perky that Andy was thankful Miranda wasn't dealing with her directly. Perky people never came off well in encounters with Miranda. It was like watching a hawk swoop down on an adorable little field mouse.
Andy quickly texted Emily, telling her that Miranda had a "meeting" tomorrow from seven to eight so she wouldn't get double-booked. Then she turned to Miranda, and tried to look competent as she said, "Shouldn't take longer than an hour. So there's plenty of time to get you to the party afterward."
"Nobody dictates what goes in the magazine, Andrea," Miranda said. "Nobody but me."
Andy could almost hear the screech as her brain applied the brakes and then tried to take off in a different direction. "Oh," she said. "I mean, of course."
"Not Alicia, not John Galliano, nor even God himself," Miranda continued, as if Andy hadn't spoken. "I asked Lucia to bring me a representative sample of what is on offer at Dior. A great deal is on offer at Dior. And yet, when I return, I fully expect to see five photographs laid out on my desk, all of which will have been at the behest of Alicia because they are what she would 'like to see' in our magazine."
Andy was starting to feel like a total failure. Nothing new, there. "Uh," she said, and gestured at her notes in Miranda's lap. "I'm sorry. I didn't know. But, but those…I mean, are they helpful at all? Like--if you sent me out again--what's the sort of thing you'd want me to write about?"
Miranda flipped through the notes again. "They're not hopeless," she said after a moment, and Andy trembled with relief. "At any rate, now you know."
What? Know what? Was that supposed to have been helpful advice? But Andy didn't dare ask. If Miranda did send her out again to spy on people, she'd just try to…read Miranda's mind, she guessed, and do what she secretly wanted. Like always.
They arrived at the office. "Finally," Miranda said, looking up at Elias-Clarke like a traveler might regard his home after a long absence. "I can actually get some real work done today. Andrea, I want you to sit in on the copy meeting at two."
"And take notes?" Andy asked. Miranda gave her the what-do-you-think-you-idiot look, and got out of the car.
The morning passed in the usual flurry. Thankfully, Miranda had a lunch meeting with her philanthropy committee, so she was gone for two hours. Andy tried to use the time to calm down. When the copy meeting was over at four-thirty, she left it feeling almost marginally confident in the notes she'd taken: not skimpy, not voluminous, and she'd definitely attached names to decisions. She sort of felt like she should be in the Runway version of the CIA. Except that everybody else at the meeting obviously knew she was there to be Miranda's eyes and ears, so she didn't really have a cover. Too bad.
When she trotted into Miranda's office, her stomach clenched to see Miranda and Lucia poised over the glass table, looking over large glossy photographs from Dior. Miranda had been right: there were only six photos. Did Lucia really think she could slip anything by Miranda? Why would she even want to try?
Andy put her notes on Miranda's desk, hoping to sneak out without being noticed. No such luck. Without even looking around, Miranda said, "Andrea, come here."
Rats. Andy bit her lip and approached the table. But once she stood there, Miranda didn't even look at her. Instead she said to Lucia, "This is a very interesting selection." She picked up one glossy photo of a large enamel ring.
"John is into fuchsia right now," Lucia said, sounding properly cautious. "And gold highlights."
"Are you sure that's John, and not Alicia?" Miranda asked mildly. Lucia went pale. Miranda continued sorting through the six photos, still speaking softly, casually. "Did you really think I wouldn't notice this pitiful little selection?"
"Um," Lucia said, looking wretched, "it's--well, she thought, I mean I thought, if we could use--"
"You're fired," Miranda said without looking up. Lucia went very still. "Clean out your desk."
For long, endless seconds, Lucia stared at Miranda without moving. Miranda kept looking at the glossies. Andy couldn't bear the scene, and lowered her eyes to the floor.
"You horrible bitch," Lucia said suddenly, her voice cracking. "You awful--stupid--I hope you get what's coming to you." She stalked out of the office.
"I'm sure you do," Miranda murmured. Then she called, "Emily."
Andy, wondering how long it had been since the carpet had been steam-cleaned, heard the thump of Emily's cane. She'd gotten off the crutches last week. "Have Security escort Lucia out of the building at once," Miranda said.
"Of course," Emily said, her voice only shaking a little bit. Andy finally managed to raise her eyes and look out the window when she heard Emily thumping out again.
"Andrea," Miranda said.
"Yes?" Andy whispered.
"I'm going to need a new person in Accessories. Tell Nigel after you get back."
"G-get back?" Andy looked at Miranda in alarm. She didn't have anything left on her schedule this afternoon. Had Miranda told her to do something, and she'd forgotten about it?
"From Dior," Miranda said, and handed Andy the photos. "Quite unsatisfactory, as I thought."
"Oh. Okay," Andy said, and took the photos, nodding hard as if that would somehow convey comprehension. "Who am I going with this time?"
"Nobody," Miranda said.
Andy stared at her in shock.
"Don't let me down, Andrea," Miranda said. "That's all."
Alicia had not been pleased by being summoned at a moment's notice. But since the summons was from Miranda Priestly, she greeted Andy graciously enough. "Fancy seeing you here again," she said. "But where's Lucia?"
"Um, Lucia won't be coming today," Andy said. "It's just me. Miranda wanted kind of a do-over of the last meeting."
"A do-over?" Alicia asked. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well--she wants a wider selection," Andy said. "She wants to see more of your accessories line. You have so many beautiful things," she added with what she hoped was a charming smile.
But Alicia wasn't going for it. "I sent her the very best of our new line," she said. "They're all sure to be top sellers. Didn't she like them?"
"Well, like I said, she wants to see more," Andy said, praying that Alicia wasn't going to make this harder than it had to be. "So if you could just give me, you know, more photos or samples--a wider range of--"
"Aren't you her assistant?" Alicia asked, narrowing her eyes. "Her second assistant?"
Andy squared her shoulders. "Yes," she said.
"Well," Alicia said, with a little smirk lingering on her mouth, "hold on just a second while I help you out, okay? Wait right here."
She turned and sashayed out of the room. Andy got a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. It couldn't possibly be this easy.
Sure enough, when Alicia returned, she had only two glossies in her hand. The accessories in the photos--a ring and a bracelet--looked almost exactly like the ones in the photos Miranda already had. "Here you go," Alicia said sweetly, and thrust the photos at Andy. "You can show yourself out."
"No, I can't," Andy snapped, and didn't move to take the photos. Alicia raised one disdainful eyebrow at Andy. Like that was going to work after nearly a year of being scorned by the best.
A 'lesser lieutenant,' Miranda had called Alicia. Why was she being so stubborn, especially given that it was Miranda Priestly's ire she was risking? Why not just fork over a few more photos of some stuff that didn't look just like--
"So," Andy said casually, gesturing at the two photos Alicia still held, "that's the new line? Going to be top sellers?"
"Yes," Alicia said, narrowing her eyes. "And this is all the time I have for you right now."
"You designed these, didn't you?" Andy asked. Alicia started. Andy tried not to smirk. "That's why you only want these to go in Runway. Does Mr. Galliano even know you're doing this? Or were you going to tell him that we just happened to pick your designs?"
"Look," Alicia said, recovering quickly and giving Andy a nasty glare. "I have no idea what you're talking about, but you are wasting my time. And I don't--"
"Okay," Andy said. "So I can just tell Miranda that you don't have anything else to show us, and Runway can just feature absolutely nothing by Dior, and when Mr. Galliano calls us to ask why--"
"Wow. You're pretty impressed with yourself, aren't you?" Alicia said. "Especially for being the next person Miranda Priestly's going to chew up and spit out. And when that happens, and you're looking for your next job, I'll still be here and I'll remember--"
"Are you sure? Lucia won't," Andy said. "She got fired this afternoon." Alicia stopped with her mouth still open, and went pale. "Miranda is about two seconds away from calling Mr. Galliano herself, and demanding the same for you," Andy added, bluffing like hell. "Look, I'm trying to help you save your skin here, okay? Why not just let me look at the other photos, and I'll bring Miranda what she wants, and we can just, you know, put the other thing down to Lucia's bad judgment."
She smiled at Alicia, her heart racing, wondering if this was actually going to work. She'd had to finesse a few situations before, especially once she'd started working at Runway. But she'd never had to lean on anybody like some kind of mob goon. Maybe the CIA metaphor wasn't such a stretch.
"She fired Luce?" Alicia asked faintly.
Andy nodded, trying to look appropriately sympathetic. Good cop, be the good cop. "It was kind of scary," she said.
"Fuck," Alicia snapped, and ran one hand through her perfectly-styled hair. "I told her it was a bad idea."
It had been Lucia's idea? Andy tried not to shake her head in disgust. Lucia had worked at Runway for four years now. Didn't she know better than to pull this stuff? "Well, nobody says you have to go down with her," Andy said. "Just give me what Miranda's asking for."
"Which is what?" Alicia asked, sounding almost frantic now. "We have tons of things. Does she want something specific? I mean, Jesus, if I send her the wrong thing now--" She gave Andy a scared look. "What should I send back with you?"
Andy looked at Alicia. Alicia looked back at Andy.
Andy heard Nigel before she saw him. "…interesting to see how she handles herself, anyway," he was saying. "Miranda seems to think she's all-capable."
"Don't you start," Emily snapped. "I don't bloody well want to hear it. Anyway, everyone knows Alicia's an utter harpy."
Andy stopped dead in her tracks at the corner into reception. Oh. It was about her. And…'all-capable,' huh? Like she was a Range Rover or something. Andy couldn't help preening a little, though.
"I've certainly never had a pleasant moment with her," Nigel said. "Anyway, like I said, interesting… I wonder how much she'll be able to squeeze out of her."
She'd never get a more perfect opening. Andy took a deep breath and rounded the corner. Emily saw her first, and her eyes got gratifyingly huge. Nigel turned, and blinked.
"Can I get a hand with these?" Andy asked. She was carrying a thick, leather-bound binder full of at least two hundred photos under one arm, and her other hand carried--dragged, really--two huge, heavy Dior bags full of samples. Nigel shook his head quickly, hurried forward, and took the shopping bags. "Thanks," she said.
"What the hell is this?" he grunted.
"Everything Dior is doing this year," Andy said, continuing towards Miranda's office. "For accessories, I mean. Summer, fall, and sketches for next spring." Andy glanced at Nigel. "Oh. Miranda told me to tell you after I got back that she wants somebody new in Accessories."
"You don't say," Nigel said as they lugged Andy's loot into Miranda's office past Emily's disbelieving eyes.
Miranda, hidden behind her laptop, looked up as they entered, and raised her eyebrows from behind her reading glasses. Andy and Nigel paused in the doorway like soldiers reporting back from a campaign, awaiting their instructions.
"Leave them in the corner," Miranda said, and turned back to her computer. "That's all."
Andy tried not to sigh heavily as she and Nigel obeyed. Nigel put the bags on the floor, and Andy put the binder on the table. Well, she didn't know what she'd expected. A 'good job, Andrea' would probably have killed Miranda, after all. But to her surprise, Andy realized she'd kind of looked forward to telling Miranda about what had happened: that Miranda's instincts had been dead-on (of course), that Alicia and Lucia had been plotting together, that Miranda hadn't made a mistake in sending Andy to fix things, that maybe they could--what? Do this again sometime?
"Nigel," Miranda said, not looking at either of them, "please get in touch with Human Resources as soon as possible." It was a remarkably civil request, for her, and Nigel nodded as he left her office. Andy followed him, and glanced over at Miranda as she passed by her desk.
Miranda was watching her. The look on her face was unreadable. Well…nearly. Andy straightened her shoulders and hurried out of the office, realizing that the non-expression on Miranda's face had, in fact, been almost impressed.
By December third, everyone who was supposed to be in San Francisco had left for San Francisco. Miranda had gone off to the Hamptons for a three-day weekend with her daughters. Her initial consultation with Dr. Viswanathan had been as informative and helpful as could be expected, and Andy had wasted no time in scheduling more appointments for the next six months, vowing that Miranda would attend every single one of them if Andy had to bind her, gag her, and throw her in the trunk of the Mercedes. Only because the appointments had been so difficult to schedule, of course. Not because she cared about Miranda's well-being. Much.
It was amazing how much the office atmosphere changed in Miranda's absence. Nigel was in San Francisco too, and although he was nicer than Miranda, he was still second-in-command. With both bosses gone, the Runway crew turned into the proverbial playing mice. Clackers came in wearing comfy shoes with square toes and short, chunky heels instead of the usual stilettos. Everyone forewent wearing expensive perfumes and colognes, and they kept food on their desks whenever they damn well felt like it.
The only one who didn't enjoy herself was Andy. Without Miranda and Nigel around, the "teachers' pet" found herself largely snubbed by the rest of the office, and more than once Andy overheard some snide remark about how she'd probably give Miranda a full report of everyone's exploits when Miranda returned. Andy longed to speak up, to defend herself, but the truth was, Miranda would probably demand that she do just that. Emily, for her part, seemed positively delighted to learn that everyone else hated Andy as much as she did.
It wasn't fair. Andy hadn't asked for Miranda's favor, which was certainly ephemeral and fleeting, in any case. She was just trying to do her job, like everybody else. And unlike the clackers, she didn't want to work in fashion forever. She didn't. She wanted to do important, serious work, so she should just stop caring what all those clothes horses said about her and concentrate on getting ahead. She had to focus on what mattered.
In the meantime, Miranda was getting back tomorrow. So Andy spent most of that last evening making sure that Miranda's first-class train reservation was still in place, that Roy would be ready and waiting to pick her and her daughters up at the station, that the cleaning crew would stop by the townhouse tonight to make sure everything was sparkling, and that, above all else, everything Andy was supposed to do over the weekend was absolutely in order and perfect. She needed to make sure everything was easy for Miranda, that she wouldn't need to stress or worry or even think about things that other people were supposed to take care of for her. Because…that was Andy's job. Just a job, that was all. Of course.
Before she went home that night, Andy made sure that the office refrigerator was well-stocked with plain yogurt and bananas that had no spots.
Miranda called at seven-thirty on Tuesday morning. Her train was arriving at Penn Station in forty-five minutes, and she said, simply, "Be there," before hanging up. Andy, who was already halfway to Elias-Clarke on the subway, groaned and hopped out at the next stop, deciding that it would be faster to hurry to the station on foot from there. She called Roy right away, who said he'd keep an eye out for her.
When she arrived at Penn Station twenty minutes later, she was out of breath, sweaty (even though the day was bitterly cold), and her feet hurt so much she was actually praying they'd fall off. She had to look terrible. She called Roy again, gave him her position, and hurried inside the station in search of the nearest restroom so she could make herself presentable. Ten minutes later, her hair was fixed, she'd gotten her lipstick looking just about perfect, and she'd straightened out her blouse. Nothing she could do about her feet, of course. Too bad. There was a Starbucks in the train station, so when Miranda and the twins got off the train, Andy was ready and waiting on the platform with a decaf latte and what she hoped was a welcoming smile.
To Andy's dismay, the time away didn't appear to have done Miranda much good: she looked drawn and tense, and there were still dark circles under her eyes. The twins looked extremely sleepy. No wonder--they'd had to get up at the crack of dawn to catch their mother's idea of "a timely train."
Miranda swept her eyes up and down Andy, as she always did, and Andy waited for the verdict with bated breath, as she always did. Today, thankfully, Miranda didn't seem to disapprove. Instead, after that one glance, she turned back to the girls and said, "All ready to go?" They yawned and nodded. Miranda turned back to Andy. "Where is the porter?"
"Um--" How the heck was Andy supposed to know? She could do a lot for Miranda, but controlling Long Island Rail was a little out of her purview. Fortunately, at that moment, she saw two tall porters approaching them, loaded down with designer luggage that would have gotten six ordinary people through an entire week. "Right there," she said in relief.
Miranda turned again, and jerked her head irritably at the men before leading the way out of the station, to the curb where Roy waited with the car. She took the latte from Andy as they walked; their gloved fingers brushed. Andy blushed and had no idea why, because that was just stupid.
"Have you heard from Nigel?" Miranda asked.
"He sent me an e-mail last night," Andy said. "Sounds like everything's going fine. He'll be back in two days, right on schedule, he says."
"Good. I'd hate to think what the office has become in our mutual absence." Miranda gave Andy a very intent glance.
Well, she'd been expecting it, hadn't she? As they arrived at the car, and the porters and Roy loaded the luggage in the trunk, Andy opened the door for Miranda and the girls. She got in the front passenger seat, glanced back at Miranda, and said, "I think everything went okay. I mean, from what I could see."
"I seem to remember the last time you told me everything 'went okay,'" Miranda said.
Andy winced. "Yes," she admitted. "But, um, this time, I think everybody pretty much was just doing their jobs." At least, as far as she could tell. They'd tended to stop talking whenever they saw her nearby, after all. And she'd cut her own throat before she'd tell Miranda that.
"If you say so," Miranda said. "I'll soon find out one way or another." Andy's stomach twisted unpleasantly as she remembered, yet again, that this was the woman she was falling all over herself to help. Because it was her job, though. That was why.
Then Miranda, thankfully, turned her attention to her daughters, who had practically fallen asleep in the back seat. Andy couldn't help remembering the night when their mother had done the same. "Do you both have your homework finished?" Miranda asked.
"Yes," a twin--was this one Caroline?--said sullenly. She was as good at conveying scorn as her mother. Andy's parents would have kicked her ass for talking to them in that tone of voice. Come to think of it, during her teenage years, they had. But Miranda didn't call her own kid on it; in fact, she almost seemed to cringe, as if she'd been rebuked.
Andy quickly turned away and looked straight ahead through the windshield, just like Roy was doing. For the first time, she wondered what family scenes he must have witnessed over the years. She didn't envy him. It was bad enough sitting in a doctor's waiting room.
"Mom, my elbow hurts from where I banged it," possibly-Cassidy said.
"Give Cassidy some Tylenol, Andrea," Miranda said.
Andy, absurdly proud that she'd gotten the twins straight with a random guess, said, "It's--oh. I can't reach it from here." She turned around so she could see Miranda, and gestured at Roy. "There's a box under the driver's seat."
Miranda reached down and pulled out the box. Then she raised her eyebrows. Andy tried not to smile. It was silly, but she'd put a lot of effort into the Miranda Care Kit, during one of her many late nights when she'd had nothing better to do than wait for the book. The box, a leftover from one of the Paris shows, was covered in burgundy velvet and lined in satin; it had formerly held perfume samples, so it still smelled nice. All of the contents were painstakingly arranged inside so they wouldn't rattle around or spill open.
"Hey, there's makeup in there," Cassidy said excitedly. "In little tiny sizes. Can I have that red lipstick, Mom?"
"You're too young for red," Miranda said, and added, "and we don't wear it this early in the morning, anyway." She took out the bottle of Tylenol, and then a tube of pale pink Chanel lipgloss. "Here. You can have this instead."
"Does it taste like anything?" Cassidy asked as she took the tube, unscrewed the cap, and sniffed.
Miranda shrugged as she popped open the bottle, and then reached for one of the chilled San Pellegrino bottles that Roy always put in the car before he picked Miranda up from anywhere. "I don't know. Here. Take these before you put it on, sweetheart." The word 'sweetheart' seemed to stumble out of her mouth; she had almost muttered it.
Cassidy took the tablets, just as Miranda glanced up and saw Andy looking at them both. Andy's eyes widened. She'd forgotten that she was watching, and that she wasn't supposed to be watching. She turned away quickly, and looked out her window until Roy pulled up at the Dalton School.
As he drew the car up to the curb, and put it in park, he made to unbuckle his seat belt. Andy quickly waved him off, and then hopped out to open the door for the twins. Roy gave her a grateful look, and the twins ignored her completely.
"Have a good day, girls," Miranda said from within the car as Caroline and Cassidy got out. Neither of them said anything in reply; Caroline, the sullen one, rolled her eyes. They hurried into school together. Andy watched them go, biting her lip. Great. In seven months Miranda was going to be in charge of another one.
"Andrea," Miranda said. Andy jumped, shut the front passenger door, and quickly slid into the back seat next to her.
Miranda looked out the window at her daughters entering the school, and then, when they'd both disappeared inside, nodded at Roy, who was watching her in the rear-view mirror. Roy pulled away from curb and into the flow of traffic. Only then did Miranda look at Andy, and that only briefly, before returning her gaze to the window. Andy wondered if she actually saw anything she was looking at: the pedestrians, the buildings, the general hustle and bustle of life in the city. Or if she was completely absorbed in her own thoughts.
"They didn't take it well," Miranda said, still not looking at Andy.
Andy blinked, then caught up. She grimaced. That'd explain a few things, especially the surly attitude. "I'm sorry," she said.
"I wasn't surprised, of course," Miranda said. Andy wondered if that was true. "How else should they react? But…well." She swallowed, and Andy watched her throat work.
Andy cleared her own throat. "They probably just need time. I mean, it's…it must have been a big--surprise." She glanced uneasily at the back of Roy's head, knowing that he was absorbing every word, and wondered how explicit this conversation, if it was a conversation, was about to get.
"Well. They've got time, I suppose," Miranda said sourly. "Unless something happens."
This was the second time she'd brought up 'something.' Again, Andy wondered if Miranda was hoping for the whole mess to be taken out of her hands, just like it had started: by some random biological chance, something out of her control. That didn't seem like Miranda, certainly, but Andy supposed extreme circumstances could push people in strange directions.
Putting that thought aside, Andy just said, "Well--maybe London'll help. You know. Change of scene, seeing their friends." She tried to sound optimistic, and hoped it worked. "Kids can bounce back pretty fast."
Miranda pursed her lips. "Perhaps." She settled back in the seat with a slight 'oof' noise. Andy, who had been doing as much reading as she could on the subject, knew that Miranda was likely to become extremely uncomfortable during the next several months, even if everything went well. She made a mental note to tell Roy to get some kind of cushion or pillow for the back seat, just in case they ever needed it.
"Where are you going for the holidays?" Miranda asked.
Andy stared at her blankly for a minute, before realizing that Miranda had asked her a personal question for no reason. "J-just back to Cincinnati," she said, trying not to sound as astonished as she felt. "Going to see my family."
"Ugh. I detest Cincinnati," Miranda said. "Dirty, boring little place."
"New York's not exactly clean," Andy said, before she could stop herself. Then she bit her lip. Crap. But what did Miranda expect when she went around dissing people's home towns? And Andy rather liked where she'd grown up. Things were a hell of a lot less complicated and intense in Cincinnati. At least, that was how she remembered it.
Miranda turned to look at her, one eyebrow raised. To Andy's surprised relief, she only said, "I suppose it isn't." She turned to look back out the window, and Andy trembled at her narrow escape, until Miranda abruptly spoke again.
"I grew up in Ohio," she said. "Outside of Toledo."
Andy just sat silently, shocked.
"I suppose that's even worse," Miranda added with a faint, derisive little chuckle.
"Do--do you ever go back?" Andy asked.
"No," Miranda said, with such finality in her tone that Andy knew the subject was closed now and forever. Still…it was more than she'd ever expected to get out of Miranda. About anything.
So Miranda, high-and-mighty queen of New York, had started out as an Ohio girl, just like Andy. ("I see a great deal of myself in you." No. Still not true.) And Nigel had grown up with six brothers in Rhode Island, reading Runway under the covers and skipping soccer practice.
Two of the greatest tastemakers in fashion had risen from the grubby, pedestrian ground of Middle America. Judging from the look of it, they were both overcompensating like hell, too. If you thought about it for a little bit, it was funny; if you thought about it for longer, it was sad; if you thought about it for too long, your head hurt, so Andy stopped thinking right away. Thinking didn't do her many favors in this job.
Taking a risk, she ventured, "I've never been to London." There. Conversational gambit. She'd made one before, during the first time she'd ridden in an elevator with Miranda. It hadn't gone well. But if Miranda wanted to talk today--
"You will," Miranda said, still looking out her window.
Andy managed a smile. That had been a pretty nice response, actually. "Yeah. Someday."
"I mean, you will," Miranda said, and even in profile, Andy could see her rolling her eyes. "For Spring Fashion Week." She'd used the you-idiot voice, too.
"Oh," Andy said, "right, of course," and indeed, she felt pretty idiotic. How could she possibly have forgotten?
Then she did some quick mental math. Spring Fashion Week in London was at the end of February this year. The Runway hotel accommodations were already booked, of course, and there wasn't much else Andy could do until it got closer to the actual trip. So she hadn't fucked up on that score, yet.
The end of February. Miranda would be almost five months along. She'd have started to show by then. What the heck was she going to wear? Did Jil Sanders even make a maternity line?
Well, that part, thank goodness, was entirely out of Andy's hands. Miranda might expect the world to do almost everything for her, might expect everyone to bend over backwards for her comfort, but nobody--nobody--ever told her what to wear.
Nigel got back to Runway two days later, on the seventh. Andy had never been so happy to see him. She'd never been in the office when he wasn't there and Miranda was. She never wanted to do it again, either. Without Nigel, Miranda was even more impatient and brusque, as if the absence of her right-hand man only made it more obvious to her how incompetent everybody else was.
Emily still tried not to speak to Andy, but Andy had gathered, from little things she let slip, that this always happened when Nigel was gone. Every time. God. No wonder Miranda had pulled her little stunt back in Paris; surely, after all, she could have found some other distraction for Jacqueline Follet? But only giving her the Holt job would have allowed Miranda to keep Nigel close. Well, that was Andy's latest theory, anyway. She suspected she'd never really be able to figure out how Miranda's mind worked.
So, when Nigel breezed through the door at eight a.m., Andy had to restrain herself from giving him a huge, welcome-back hug. She settled for her widest smile and a hot cup of his favorite coffee: the whole-milk mocha that he only allowed himself as an occasional indulgence.
"It's so nice to be missed," he said as he sipped at it.
"You were," Andy said fervently. "Oh my God, do you know what she's like without you?"
"I'll let you work that logic puzzle out on your own," Nigel said, and gave Andy a thick manila envelope. "Do me a favor and file these with Jocelyn." Then he headed on in to Miranda's office with his silver laptop beneath his arm. "Good morning," he said as he disappeared from sight.
"Thank God," Andy heard Miranda say as she headed towards Jocelyn's office. She bit her lip to repress her smile, and then realized that Miranda couldn't see it, so she didn't have to.
Four days after his return, Nigel cornered Andy at her desk at ten p.m. Emily had gone home, of course, and Miranda was still keeping Andy around for no reason, of course. "No book yet?" Nigel asked with a little smile.
Andy glared at him. He, of all people, knew by now that didn't make any difference--Andy didn't go home until Miranda said she could, book or no book. "Very perceptive," she said.
"That's me," Nigel said. "Mr. Perceptive." Then he leaned backwards until he could see Miranda at her desk and called, "Miranda? Can I steal Andy from you for about half an hour? I promise to have her back before bedtime."
Andy expected Miranda to give her rather disinterested permission. Instead, she sounded remarkably suspicious when she asked, "Why? What do you need her for?"
"Things," Nigel said blandly. Andy grinned and hoped he got away with it.
He did. "Fine," Miranda said, sounding huffy but not really irritated. Probably because, at ten o'clock, they weren't likely to get that many calls.
Andy, relieved at even a temporary escape, gamely followed Nigel out of the receiving area. "Where are we going?" she asked. "And can I please, please make a bathroom stop first?"
"Be my guest," Nigel said. "But make it quick."
After Andy's bathroom stop, to her surprise, Nigel led her to the elevators. "Where are we going?" she repeated.
"Federico's," he said.
"Fed--" Federico's was a small, stylish bar across the street. Andy was pretty sure that Miranda wouldn't have let her leave if she'd known Nigel was going to take her to a bar. She felt like a naughty ten-year-old, and it was fun. "Why are we going there?" she asked, grinning.
"Well, when one is celebrating, one should have a drink," Nigel said.
"Celebrating?" Andy asked.
"All in good time, my dear," Nigel said.
Andy kept her silence until they reached the bar and took a table, but she had to admit she was a little uneasy. The last time she and Nigel had "celebrated" something over drinks…she'd probably better not remind him of that, though.
So, when the waiter delivered the two blue-colored cocktails Nigel had ordered, Andy said, "Okay. Now: what are we celebrating?"
"Cheers," Nigel said, and Andy sighed, dutifully raising her glass, clinking it with his. She'd just raised it to her lips and taken a sip when Nigel said, "Miranda's pregnancy, of course. New life is so exciting, isn't it?"
Andy's mouthful of blue cocktail went everywhere. Nigel raised an eyebrow as he dabbed at his cashmere sweater with a napkin. "I have to admit, I was waiting for precisely that moment," he said. "I've always wondered if people actually did that spitting thing. Now I know."
"What--what are you talking about," Andy croaked, fumbling for her own napkin, and trying to ignore the stares she was getting from the other patrons. Play dumb, play dumb. "Miranda's what?"
"Don't even try it," Nigel said, sounding very stern. He rarely did 'stern' these days, but when he did, he meant business. "You've already shown me everything I need to know."
Andy whimpered, and closed her eyes. She was dead. Worse than dead.
"True, it was a long shot," Nigel mused. "I mean, at her age…well, it is Miranda. I guess it makes sense that her ovaries would still be kicking ass after everybody else's have thrown in the towel."
"She'll kill me," Andy moaned. "Nigel…I didn't tell you. I didn't--"
"Yes, yes," Nigel said impatiently. Andy opened her eyes to see him regarding her intently. She swallowed hard.
"And you've been holding her hand the whole way, haven't you?" he asked. "That doctor's visit--it was about this, wasn't it? And she took you along." Andy nodded mutely. "And to the lawyers too. You were there for that." Another nod. "My God," he chuckled. "Were you even there when Stephen got the big news?"
Andy bit her lip and nodded one more time. Nigel's eyes widened. "I was kidding," he said. "Really? Jesus."
"It was awful," Andy whispered. She felt like she was betraying Miranda's trust. She wouldn't, she couldn't give Nigel any more details, but…but at the same time, it was so nice not to be the only one who was in on this.
"What does this mean for the divorce?" Nigel asked. "Will he--"
"I can't talk about it," Andy said, and then begged, "Nigel, please, don't ask me to talk about it. She'd kill me."
"Is she going to have an abortion?"
"No. Not now. I mean, I don't think…I don't know!" Andy looked helplessly at the door. This was weird. She'd often found herself longing to flee Runway and head straight for a bar. She'd never expected it to work the other way around. "I mean, Nigel, I think--she'll tell everybody when she's ready, right?"
Nigel snorted. "Get real. Until the twins were actually in their bassinets, she never said one word out loud about being pregnant. We all just watched her get huge and pretended not to notice anything."
"Huge? How huge?" Andy asked, before she could stop herself.
"Enormous. Size six, I'd say," Nigel said. Andy made a face at him, and for the first time, a glint of real humor shone in his eyes. He glanced at his watch. "We still have fifteen minutes. I'd say you've more than earned it. Finish up your drink, but take your time."
Andy took another sip, and then a horrible thought occurred to her. "She's not going to tell anyone at the office?" she asked. "I--I'm going to be the only person who 'officially' knows?"
"Quite possibly," Nigel said.
"Then…then I'm going to keep doing everything myself?" Andy hadn't planned on that. She'd planned on keeping Miranda's secret until Miranda chose for it to be not a secret anymore. Or, at the very least, when it became obvious that Miranda was pregnant, that other people would naturally step forward and help Andy do whatever needed to be done. That she wouldn't be some kind of lone ranger, that instead she'd become part of some kind of fetching-and-carrying network with other peons. She couldn't be the only peon.
"What's 'everything'?" Nigel inquired, looking genuinely interested. "What have you been doing for her?"
"H-her food," Andy whimpered. "And the doctors, and the lawyers, and I've been reading books about babies, and she sent me to Dior, and she made me be there when she got back from the Hamptons but she didn't even have anything for me to do, and she told me she's from Ohio, too--"
Nigel stared at her. "She is?"
Andy stared right back. "You didn't know?"
Nigel grinned. "She told me she was from North Stamford."
"Fuck," Andy said, and hid her face in her hands. "Nigel--"
"Relax," Nigel said. "It's not like I ever bought it. 'Miranda Priestly.' You think that's her real name?"
Andy looked up from her hands and glared at him. "I never thought 'Nigel Kipling' was yours, I'll tell you that."
Nigel pursed his lips. "Ouch. Okay. What about 'Emily Charleton'?"
"Am I the only person who works here using the name that's actually on my birth certificate?" Andy asked.
"And you should do something about that," Nigel said. "'Sachs' is so drab. Might I suggest 'Sackville-West'? It has a certain ring to it."
"Ha ha," Andy snapped, and took another big swallow of her stupid blue drink that she didn't like anyway. "Don't change the subject. What am I supposed to do? She--" Andy gulped. "She doesn't have anyone but me."
Nigel just looked at her in silence.
"No, really," Andy said softly. "She--she won't, she doesn't--"
"I guess that answers my question about Stephen," Nigel said.
This time, Andy let her head fall all the way down until it hit the table.
Nigel reached across and patted her shoulder. "Don't take it so hard," he said. "I'm sure with some practice you'll develop that thing called 'caution.'"
Right at that moment, Andy's phone rang. Miranda. Andy gulped, and tried to keep her voice steady as she said, "Hello?"
"Where are you?" Miranda asked.
"Um. With Nigel. Um--"
"Come back now," Miranda said, and hung up.
Andy bit her lip. "We're being summoned. Or I am, anyway."
"Really," Nigel said.
"Maybe the phones started ringing again," Andy said glumly. Then she glared at Nigel. "Or maybe she realized you were going to try to worm stuff out of me."
"Or maybe she panics when she realizes you're more than ten feet away," Nigel said. Andy blushed, and then felt embarrassed for blushing because Nigel might take it the wrong way or something, which only made her blush harder. "You know what?" Nigel continued. "You're not the 'new Emily.' You're not even close."
"So what am I?" Andy asked sourly as she stood up from the table. "The new nanny? The new…I don't know, you?"
"No," Nigel said, and tossed some bills on the table. "You're just new. Period. We haven't seen anything like you, yet."
Andy blinked. Nigel looked at her.
"Good luck," he said.
When they returned to Runway, Nigel declined to go anywhere near Miranda's office, saying he'd take a few things home with him for the night instead. This left Andy to totter back to the reception area alone, and to stand in the doorway, wringing her hands. "I'm back," she said.
"Obviously," Miranda said, never looking up from the documents in front of her. "Where's Nigel?"
"He's gone home for the night."
"And where did you two go?"
Might as well 'fess up, Andy thought gloomily. "He took me to Federico's."
"Sit down," Miranda said, still not looking up.
This could not be good. Andy tried not to shake as she sat down across Miranda's desk.
"Well?" Miranda said.
"He knows," Andy mumbled. Miranda looked up sharply at her then. "I didn't tell him," Andy added quickly. "He already knew. I mean, he'd guessed."
"Mmm," Miranda said, and leaned back in her chair. Thankfully, she didn't seem angry at Andy. Actually, she didn't seem angry at all. Instead, she just looked over Andy's head at the ceiling, and drummed her fingers on the desk, appearing very thoughtful.
"I am disappointed," Miranda said.
Andy's heart started racing in panic. "I--I'm sorry," she said. "But, but I really didn't tell him. I promise. He--"
"I meant in Nigel," Miranda said, her voice almost gentle. Andy had never heard her use that tone before. "Not in you."
"…oh," Andy said, after a moment of very surprised silence.
"He asked you, and not me," Miranda said. "Why do you suppose that is?"
Huh? Nigel had told Andy that, the last time she was pregnant, nobody had dared to ask Miranda anything. "I don't know," she said.
Miranda looked down from the ceiling, into Andy's eyes. Her gaze hardened considerably. "Yes, you do," she said. "We both do."
Andy looked helplessly at her, until she figured out what Miranda was talking about. Then she felt her face going red, and she swallowed hard. "Oh," she said. "Right."
"Right," Miranda said, her lips curling up on one side.
"He said you'd pay him back," Andy said hesitantly. "When the time was right." Even though a moment later he'd admitted that he wasn't sure of that at all. Miranda said nothing, and Andy added, "You think he's still angry?" This time Miranda rolled her eyes. Right, indeed.
"Will you?" Andy dared to ask. "Pay him back?"
Miranda raised her eyebrows. "Would you?" she asked.
Andy gaped at her. "Of course!" she said. "If--if the right opportunity presented itself, of course I'd…" Then her eyes widened. "When. Not if. I meant when--"
Miranda's lips curled on both sides this time, and Andy could almost hear her purr. Andy sat frozen, feeling vaguely sick. Which was silly because it had just been a stupid slip of the tongue--of course she'd have paid Nigel back if she was in Miranda's shoes, she wasn't the same as Miranda at all--
There was a noise behind her. Miranda looked up, and Andy turned around to see Matthias from printing hurrying in with the book. He saw Andy and Miranda sitting at Miranda's desk, apparently having a friendly evening chat, and his eyes widened. Andy quickly stood up and hurried to take the book from him. "Thanks," she mumbled, and gave him a tight smile. He gave her an even tighter one back, and left right away, no doubt about to go home like everybody else did except for Andy and Miranda.
Sighing, Andy took the book and brought it back to Miranda, handing it to her. At least their fingers didn't brush this time. Then she turned to go back to her desk, ready for another long night of sitting and doing nothing while Miranda took her sweet-ass time reading the book, which she could do just as well at home without Andy hovering around.
"Coat and bag," Miranda said. Andy blinked. "And call my driver." Andy closed her eyes in utter gratitude. "Let's go home." Excellent. Ten-thirty-five and they were on their way out the door? That hadn't happened in ages.
Andy called Roy, who seemed amused by the obvious relief in her voice. Then she happily helped Miranda don her coat, gave her the bag, followed her to the elevators, and received permission to ride down with her.
But when they got outside, Miranda--yet again--told Andy to get in the car. Andy looked at her, startled, before obeying. She'd thought that getting a ride home with Miranda had been a fluke, a one-time thing after Miranda's shocking discovery; that maybe Miranda hadn't even realized what she was doing. But tonight it was almost business as usual as Miranda rattled off a litany of instructions to be fulfilled tomorrow when they arrived at work. Andy wrote them all down as fast as she could.
Tonight, when they pulled up to the townhouse, Miranda didn't wait for either Andy or Roy to open the door for her. Instead, she did it herself, and told Andy, "Roy will be at your door at seven o'clock tomorrow morning. Make sure you are ready to go."
"What?" Andy said, but Miranda had already shut the door behind her and was heading up the steps.
Andy turned to meet Roy's gaze in the rear-view mirror. "What?" she repeated, and looked down at her notes, but they didn't clarify anything. "Where are you supposed to take me tomorrow morning?"
"Runway," Roy said patiently as he pulled away from the curb. "Where else? Well," he added, "we stop and pick her up first, of course."
Andy looked at the back of his head, unable to speak for a full minute. "Huh?" she managed.
"Looks like you're the first stop on my route now," he said.
Andy's jaw slowly sagged open. "Oh my God," she said. Then, "Oh God, you have to get up even earlier--I'm sorry, Roy--"
"Well, it's not up to us, is it?" he asked, but she detected annoyance in his voice anyway. She closed her eyes. Out of everybody else who worked for Miranda, Nigel and Roy were the only ones who were nice to her now. And she really liked Roy. He'd always been friendly and helpful, and they'd shared a good laugh together once or twice about Miranda's eccentricities. She didn't want him to start hating her, too.
Plus, while the subway was a pain, it gave her time to wake up and get herself together before she had to face Miranda and Runway, and time to decompress when she went home. Now she'd be at Runway from the moment she stepped out of the door in the morning to the moment she returned at night. Unless tomorrow morning was some kind of weird one-time thing. Which Andy already doubted.
Maybe she panics when she realizes you're more than ten feet away.
Andy stared at the insides of her eyelids, and decided that she what she really wanted was to go to sleep, and then wake up to find that nothing was weird anymore. That'd be great.
"She was talking about you yesterday morning," Roy said, and Andy opened her eyes again. "About your trip to Dior. The second one." Andy's mouth opened. "Said the way you handled yourself was 'quite impressive.'" Andy's mouth snapped shut. This time, Roy's voice was genuinely good-natured when he said, "Keep this up and she'll make you editor of The New Yorker by the time you're through."
"Yeah," Andy said softly. She remembered how she'd behaved at Dior; how she'd had to be ruthless and in-your-face, how she'd kind of enjoyed it, even, and how Miranda thought that was 'quite impressive.' How Miranda had smirked at her tonight when Andy had answered her question about Nigel.
Andy realized that she'd passed Miranda's test. And failed her own.