Andy stopped by the long wooden bench just outside the headmaster’s office. Cassidy sat with her hands clasped, tugging at her fingers in a gesture that Andy recognized as one of her own. “Hi, Cassie.” Andy sat down next to the young girl and it wasn’t hard to see that Cassidy was stressed. Andy knew Miranda had been called to the headmaster’s office a few times and Andy had accompanied her twice. Cassidy had been the one in trouble then, but she had never seemed particularly affected emotionally then. Now, when it was her sister in there with the headmaster, Cassidy wasn’t dealing with it very well.
“Andy!” Cassidy threw her arms around Andy’s neck and clung to her. “You came!” Trembling, Cassidy looked wild-eyed at Andy and then pointed toward the office entrance. “Caroline is in there with that idiot Dermot and his parents. They wouldn’t even let me in and that means they’re ganging up on her.”
Instantly furious, Andy stood, taking Cassidy by the hand. “They are, huh? Well, we’ll see about that.” She opened the door to the office and the secretary jumped up as if stung by a wasp.
“Cassidy Priestly,” the secretary hissed. “Didn’t I tell you to sit down in the corridor and not make a nuisance of yourself?”
“That may be, but I’m here to collect Caroline Priestly.” Andy could hear how cold her voice was. “I believe she’s in there?” She pointed at the door where a sign said, “Professor Dimitri Konstantin – Headmaster”.
“Yes, but you can’t just go in. You’re not a parent.” The secretary huffed and rounded her desk as Andy opened the door and stepped inside together with Cassidy.
Caroline was sitting at the edge of a chair, her back straight and her chin jutted out in a clear challenge. She looked so much like her mother, her eyes the exact same color, it gave Andy goosebumps. Hurrying over to Caroline while ignoring the secretary’s excuses toward the headmaster and the presence of Derek and his parent, she hugged the still girl tight. “You all right, kiddo?” she murmured and only then did she see small tears form in Caroline’s eyes.
“Who are you?” Mr. Konstantin demanded, leaning across the desk. “What do you mean by storming in here—”
“I’m Andy Sachs and I’m part of the Priestly family and I’m here as Miranda Priestly’s representative.” Andy wasn’t sure where she found the courage to be so audacious. “If you check Caroline and Cassidy’s file, you can see that I have authority to come and get them at any given time. Miranda put me on her list for such matters a long time ago.”
“That girl injured out son!” Derek’s mother glared at Andy and the twins. “She hit him so hard, he’s still bleeding.”
“I don’t condone violence, nor does their mother, but in this case, she did warn Derek what would happen if he didn’t stop bullying her.” Andy stood and place the twins slightly behind her. “Caroline will come home to me and her mother and I will talk to her about how futile resorting to violence is—but also how it can sometimes occur if we’re challenged or frustrated enough.”
“Nothing excuses the injury she caused our son,” Mr. King said, clenching his jaw. “I can’t imagine what my son could have said for this girl to assault him.” Dermot’s father was a tall, burly man with a tendency to grow pinker the angrier he got.
“How about the fact he said our mother is a dyke who seduces young girls. Or that Andy is to be blamed for not saving that teacher who died. Not to mention how he made up things that he figures lesbians do in bed—in great detail.” Cassidy stood with her arms folded over her chest, listing all of Dermot’s offences. “That’s just part of what he said. Caroline told him to shut up, several times. He wouldn’t listen and when he finally said that he heard his mom tell his dad that mom held poor Beth captive in her shed the whole time she was missing to sell more magazines for “saving her” at just the right moment.”
Andy could hardly believe her ears. She slowly pivoted to face the Kings and saw Dermot’s mother go pale and become flustered repeatedly. “Tell me this isn’t true,” Andy said, her voice low and menacing.
“We—I…I mean…” Mrs. King took a step closer to her husband. “Honey. I think we need to leave.”
“Dermot,” Mr. Konstantin said firmly, “is this true? Did you overhear your parents discuss Mrs. Priestly and what has transpired lately?”
“I sure did,” Dermot said, clearly too naïve to understand that he was throwing his parents under a bus. “I wasn’t lying. They talked about all of that and when Caroline was so stuck up and bragging about how wonderful her precious Andy is and how happy her mother has become, I needed to set her straight. She always things she’s so clever and Cassidy is always up to something, but she’s never punished because she’s a Priestly. I only thought it was fair they and everyone else knew the truth.” It was obvious Dermot took his parents’ opinions as gospel and who could blame him—he was a child after all.
Andy looked proudly at the twins. One, Cassidy, stood with her hands curled into fists. Caroline stood next to her sister, looking every bit as regal as her mother could do, and Andy thought she could spot a dragon lady in the making. “Thank you, Caroline, for the sweet words. That means a lot to me. And also, thank you for being so protective. We all know hitting Dermot is wrong. Especially as this wasn’t entirely his fault.” Glaring at the Kings, Andy took two steps closer to them. “This is all on you. You are grown people who should know better than to gossip and spread your prejudices in front of your child. Of course, he believes what you say. You’re his role models, his heroes. How can you poison his mind like this and expect him to get through the day without someone calling him on it and hit him on the nose? You may as well have raised a hand at him yourselves.” Turning to Mr. Konstantin, Andy continued before either of the other adults had a chance to interject. “And I expect this to be stricken from Caroline’s record. If I hear again that you allow a student to address a classmate like this, I will raise holy hell and demand a PTA meeting where the topic will be school policy and how fit the administration is. Don’t forget that Miranda Priestly is the reason you have a new wing and a computer study hall. That, combined with the fact that your tuitions are ridiculously high, even for rich people, should give you pause. Come on girls. We’ll swing by your teacher to get your homework for the rest of the week. You won’t be back until Monday. By then Mr. Konstantin will have sorted everything out.”
“Now listen here,” Mrs. King said, raising her voice. “Our son—”
Swiveling, Andy stepped well within Mrs. King’s personal space. “Don’t—even—try. I did my homework on my way here. Don’t think I don’t know that you have a thorn in your side when it comes to Miranda Priestly. She has outmaneuvered your brother on the Elias-Clarke board. She has outbid you on several auctions. Not to mention that she is the chairman of two charities that you ran for, which I know must’ve irked you. Miranda Priestly, the snow queen, won over you, who has made it your mission to run every charity worth the name in Manhattan. The fact that anyone could chose the Devil in Prada over you who have cultivated an angelic persona, a regular Mother Theresa in the making—it is rather baffling what words you let slip in the privacy of your home, only to have them broadcast by your son for everyone to hear. How stupid was that? This is Daltons for heaven’s sake. All the movers and shakers in New York have one of more kids enrolled here. If your son repeats what you two speak of at home—don’t you think his classmates and other friends here won’t tell their parents? Geez.” Suddenly sick of the whole situation, Andy took each twin by the hand and walked out of the office.
Outside stood Mrs. Clarence, the girl’s main teacher. “I shouldn’t say this, Ms. Sachs, but that was brilliant,” she whispered. Smiling down at Caroline and Cassidy, she gave them a piece of paper. “I thought you may stay home a few days. Here’s the homework list. I won’t mark you as absent.”
Andy felt herself relax and a genuine smile broke free. “Thanks. Mrs. Clarence.”
“Call me Amy, please. I should be the one to thank you. That man could have attacked the staff and kids here at Daltons and your actions were amazing. Caroline and Cassidy have every right to be proud of you.”
Feeling her cheeks grow warm, Andy cleared her throat. “Thanks. I think we’re off to have ice cream and call your mom. She’s worried about you.” She gently squeezed the girl’s hands.
As they reached the waiting town car, Caroline looked up at Andy, her eyes brimming with tears. “So, you and mom aren’t mad at me?”
Andy waited until they were in the backseat together before she answered. “Not at all. We realize you know you shouldn’t hit anyone, but the circumstances are extraordinary right now. We have all been through a lot.” Andy thought of the pictures on Marissa’s blog. “I have every faith that you won’t bloody anyone else’s nose anytime soon.” She winked at Caroline.
“Next time it’s my turn.” Cassidy grinned and Andy knew she was only half joking.
“Hey. Just chill. As a matter of fact, ice cream is great when you’re chilling.” Andy chuckled at the girls’ joined groans at her bad pun. “I’m in the mood for chocolate chip ice cream. How about you?”
“Pistachio!” Cassidy made a smacking noise.
“Ew,” Caroline said. “Vanilla with chocolate and nut sprinkles and whipped cream on the side.”
Yup, Andy thought. Caroline was her mother’s daughter all right.
“I have your lawyer on line two, Miranda,” Emily called from the outer office.
Finally. Miranda pressed the sensor for line two and raised the cordless receiver to hear ear. Sometimes she took calls over the speaker, but this wasn’t such a time. Thinking better of it, she rose and closed the door to her office. She caught Emily’s worried frown and marveled at how much she had gotten to know her first assistant on a personal level these last few weeks.
“Miranda. Laurence here.” The calm and secure voice of her personal lawyer since more than fifteen years made her relax marginally. If anyone knew how to handle things from a legal point of view, Laurence Sanders did.
“Laurence. What can you tell me about my options?” Miranda asked.
“It depends on what you want. If you want this to go away quietly, or publicly with a bang. Or if you want to expose this individual…or if you want monetary satisfaction. Talk to me.”
Miranda had been considering these questions since she saw the snake’s blog this morning. To be honest, her mind had mostly been with her girls, especially Caroline, but she expected to hear from them any moment now. “I want this blog to go away and Marissa Geller with it. I want her to sign a document stating she cannot mention a member of my family, or Andrea’s, ever again. Naturally, I want her blacklisted in New York.”
“I thought as much.” Lawrence’s voice was without judgment.
“And, all things considered, the less the media gets wind of this, the better. I understand that it can’t be entirely contained, but if you can keep as much under the radar as possible…”
“Consider it done. I’ll put Susan Taylor on it. She’s worked for me on your behalf several times.”
Miranda recognized the name and knew that it spread some fear among the rich and famous in New York and the surrounding cities. Susan Taylor had a knack for finding out secrets and using the information to suit her client’s needs. Nobody in their right mind would go toe-to-toe with the investigator—though Miranda wouldn’t put it past Melissa Geller to be that clever. From what Andrea had told her, Melissa suffered from self-delusions when it came to her ability and fame. It was mind-boggling how the pure gossip column had gotten to a point where even Gareth defended it as a money-maker. Yes, print news were dying on the vine, even Runway felt it, but even so, for a newspaper to deliver downright lies via someone who had a misguided attitude toward the truth—it was nauseating.
“I want her information this afternoon. As you can imagine, the more time that goes by with these pictures and her vile text spreading like wildfire, the more damage it will cause my daughters and Andrea.”
“And you, Miranda,” Laurence said softly.
Miranda considered this. “Any damage done to me is to see the effect on my loved ones. I want to know where to strike, Laurence. I want to know where I can hit this person to make the most damage.”
There was a short pause when Miranda surmised that Laurence tried to come up with something diplomatic to say.
“The most legal damage, right?” Laurence sighed. “I know this is difficult. I’m one of the few who are aware of your extreme protective side, but please, promise me, Miranda. Promise me that you will wait until we have a plan that won’t send you to court as the defendant. All right?”
“Perish the thought.” Miranda rubbed the back of her neck and would have given anything for Andrea to be her. Not just to rub her neck, but to hold her. She too needed reassurance, but right now, she had to once again be the tiger. “I’ll get ahold of Leslie and have her work with you.” Leslie, her publicist, was a brilliant mix of street smart and highly educated. Laurence knew her well.
“Good. I’ll get back to you around three pm.”
“Very well. That’s all.” Miranda hung up and then her personal cell phone rang again. Caller ID said it was Andrea and Miranda quickly pressed to answer. “Yes? What happened?” she asked in lieu of answering, suddenly all nerves.
“Hi mom,” Cassidy said instead of Andrea. “Andy was brilliant!”
“Of course she was,” Miranda said and slumped back in her chair. “You sound pleased.”
“We are, both of us. We’re having ice cream.” Cassidy made a humming sound. “Here’s Caroline. Bye!”
“Hello, mommy,” Caroline said, sounding all right, but not as chipper and downright gloating as her sister.
“Are you all right, Bobbsey?” Miranda asked, knowing that Caroline was still not quite over her experience.
“I’m fine. Andy’s here, Cass is here.”
“That’s good to hear, sweetie-girl. And when I come home tonight, I’m bringing a special guest that I think you may find interesting to meet. I can’t tell you yet, but it will be a new experience for all of us.” Miranda smiled tenderly as Caroline’s voice lightened even further.
“Can’t you tell me who, mom?”
“Not yet. You’re in a public place, I can tell from the voices in the background, and you never know who’s listening in. I’ll see you tonight though.”
“All right. Want to talk to Andy?”
“Of course.” Miranda pressed her hand to her sternum as she waited for Andrea to take over the phone. “Darling?”
“Hi, there,” Andrea’s voice, so warm and calm, settled Miranda and it was suddenly quite easy to breathe. The pain in her chest that she had carried with her for several hours mellowed and she felt a soft smile appear.
“Hi,” Miranda whispered. “I take it you were brilliant since my less likely to be impressed daughter said so.”
“Actually, I kind of lost it when Dermot King’s parents proved to be even worse than their son. It explained a lot. I’m not sure how it happened, but I laid down the law and I don’t know how I put it exactly, but it seemed to be doing the trick. If you want to know what was said verbatim you can listen to it when you come home.”
“Excuse me?” Miranda had been reaching for her reading glasses, but now stopped and blinked.
“I taped it on my phone. I know. You don’t have to tell me. It’s not exactly legal to do so without telling the people concerned beforehand, but in this case, I didn’t dare risk them ganging up on us and lying. You know, insist that I said something I didn’t and vice versa.”
Clever girl. Miranda covered her mouth not to chuckle out loud. “You might just make a cunning and shrewd investigative reporter yet,” she teased. “Call me when you and the girls are back at home and tell me the less condensed version of what took place today. I have some more information for you too.”
“Got it.” Andrea cleared her throat. “I miss you.”
Miranda’s heart skipped a beat and once again she needed to cushion her heart by pressing her hand to her chest. “I miss you terribly. I can’t wait to be done here and come home to you. All three of you.
“We’ll be there waiting.” The warm promise in Andrea’s voice was enough for Miranda to think this young woman was worth every second of what they were going through right now. Every nano-second, to be exact.
Continued in part 21.