5 months earlier.
Miranda resisted the urge to groan as she climbed the stairs towards the study. Her trainer had been in a mood this afternoon and now her thighs were paying the price.
She stopped by Caroline's room to turn down her bed, assuming the adventurous 19-year-old would stumble in at some point over the course of the evening. She took a quick glance around and ignored the pang as she noted the still half-packed suitcase in the corner indicating that her daughter was here, but only temporarily.
Caroline was home for the summer, now a Freshman at UCLA. It was only a flying visit, her first since Christmas, and even then she was still out tonight with friends who had chosen to attend college closer to home at NYU, or Columbia.
Cassidy, on the other hand, had been in Cambridge since September and in spite of plenty of opportunities to come home for a short visit, had chosen to travel in Europe with her friends instead. She had even forgone Christmas last year, much to Miranda's dismay.
Overall, it had been an adjustment to say the least. Although having free reign of the house was lovely in the beginning - a fact both she and Andrea had taken full advantage of - they had both come to find the quiet a little disconcerting.
Miranda was postive Andrea had become more flat-footed since the twins had left, simply to compensate for the lack of noise around them.
Miranda shook off the momentary melancholy and turned away from Caroline's slightly bare room. She walked straight past Cassidy's, as she always did, and headed towards the door at the end of the hall.
Soft light trickled out, and she could hear furious typing on approach.
As she strolled into the study she found Andrea, as always, attacking her laptop as she lay back on the world’s most uncomfortable sofa, propped up by a variety of cushions which seemed to find their way there from all over the house.
Miranda rolled her eyes.
How anyone could manage to get any work done in that position she would never know. She had lost track of the number of times she had come home to find Andrea passed out in the exact position she occupied now, sound asleep with her fingers still positioned over the keys.
It had been a work habit that Miranda had tried to discourage from the beginning. When Andrea had begun spending more time at the townhouse, she had had Stephen's old room stripped back and converted into a second study, and even called in Brad Ford to design the space after Andrea had fallen in love with his designs in Nigel's new apartment.
It was a complete and utter waste of time and money. Andrea had thanked her profusely, used the space twice, and then decided she was much more comfortable in Miranda's study. The gorgeous mahogany desk Miranda had purchased devolved into little more than a dumping ground for research notes and it had been that way since Andrea finally gave up her apartment.
Miranda didn't mind, not really. They had spent almost a year working in close quarters at Runway, and it turned out the change in their circumstances did little to disrupt the harmony they had managed to strike up all those years ago.
“How many starving refugees have we saved today, darling?” Miranda asked, her tone lightly mocking as she leaned down to give the brunette a light kiss in greeting.
"Very funny," Andrea replied, as she titled her chin up to meet the kiss, eyes barely leaving the screen in front of her.
As Miranda pulled back she noticed a small fleck of grey on the top of Andrea's head. Time certainly had passed, and she was embarrassed to admit that she preferred Andrea older. Their age difference was something she had never truly put to bed. She would be 59 this year and dating a 31, going on 32-year-old sounded mildly less mid-life-crisis-esque than dating a woman in her twenties.
"I think I missed my calling," Miranda sighed in mock disappointment as she sat down at her desk and flipped open the Book, her eyes still on Andrea.
Andrea chuckled lightly, and threw a smirk her way before returning her focus to the article in front of her. "10:00pm deadline," she said by way of explanation.
Miranda hummed in understanding, watching the way Andrea's fingers flew across the keys for a beat before reaching over to pick up a red pen and a stack of post-its.
Their ability to work in companionable silence was something Miranda credited the ongoing strength of their relationship to, and it wasn't really an option. Her work schedule remained much as it always had, and as Andrea's career had progressed, her schedule had become increasingly less consistent.
Two years after they went public, it became obvious that Andrea's time at the New York Mirror was coming to an end. The publication was scaling back, like most print media. Budget cuts made the work harder than it needed to be, and the scope of it too small. There weren't going to be any promotions either. Andrea was penned in by tenured reporters, and unless someone dropped off from a heart attack or cirrhosis of the liver, she was going to be a senior political correspondent for the next decade.
She would have moved on sooner if it hadn't been for their relationship. Miranda had watched on guiltily as Andrea struggled with her loyalty to the paper that had stood behind her, and the guilt of the advantage her celebrity provided.
It wasn't until the Spring of 2011 that she made a leap. The New York Tribune had a drastic change in leadership, and positions opened up as the new editor cleaned house. Andrea had taken a pay cut, and lost her seniority, but was at a larger publication with the opportunity to do much more.
Natural intelligence, strength and dedication saw her rise through the ranks quickly, jumping from local reporting to foreign affairs. The escalation of the Syrian Civil War saw her pulled over to Middle-Eastern coverage unexpectedly, and although she worked primarily from New York, she began spending more time out of the country than ever before. It was a natural progression, and one Miranda simply had to accept. Andrea was extremely dedicated to her work, something she could relate to, and so felt obligated to support.
Miranda glanced up to take in the woman who had become a central part of her life since strolling back into it with a thank you and a cup of coffee back in 2007. Things were never perfect, she could accept that. They were however, happy.
Andrea glanced up from her laptop and caught Miranda's eye.
"You okay, M?"
"Yes, of course," Miranda said, "Just thinking."
"Well stop it, I can feel your eyes burning into my skull and it's distracting."
"Shall I stop breathing all together?"
Andrea rolled her eyes, a small smile dancing about the edge of her lips.
Miranda chuckled lightly and settled her focus back on the Book.
"Actually, I'm about done," Andrea said, "And I need to talk to you about something."
“Hmm?” Miranda responded, as she slapped another post-it on a particularly hideous font choice with a sigh, not looking up.
“I’ve put my name forward to join the Baghdad Bureau for a stint,” Andrea began. “With ISIS in play, and the troops returning this month they’re looking to re-expand the team again. Not full time of course, no one has money for that any more, but maybe a couple of months here and there. You know, experienced reporters with knowledge of the region.”
When the word ‘Baghdad’ finally fired off synapses, Miranda’s head shot up to stare at Andrea, sprawled out across the sofa still, directly in front of her.
She took a deep breath and put her pen down gently.
“I’m sorry, for a moment I thought you said Baghdad,” Miranda drawled, a hint of warning in her tone.
“The experience will be invaluable, and opportunities like this come around once in a lifetime. You know how competitive foreign correspondence is, and with my current work on the displacement of refugees in Syria, and those Arabic classes you got me for my 30th, the timing couldn’t be more perfect,” Andrea argued.
Miranda couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“Once in a lifetime?” she said darkly, “It certainly will be if you volunteer to go traipsing through a war zone!” Miranda snapped, her tone rising. “Did you not think to consult me about this before you made a life changing decision that will affect this household!?”
“You know how things work Miranda,” Andrea sighed, closing her laptop and tossing it toward the end of the sofa before swinging her legs around to face Miranda fully. “The call came today, I jumped on it. I mean, I’ll be in the International Zone – you know, the Green Zone, and like I said, it should only be for a couple of months, tops”
“Oh, the Green Zone,” Miranda replied, “Oh, well in that case, sure, why not? I can’t see the harm in being stationed in an international hub, in the capital city of a volatile country, during a tumultuous period of political unrest, and within striking distance of that ridiculously ostentatious American Embassy which might as well have target painted on it. I’m certainly much more at ease now, thank you,” she finished snarkily, not bothering to hold back on the sarcasm, “I mean, I’m sure the penchant for kidnapping journalists has waned by now."
Andrea ran an agitated hand through her hair.
“Look, there’s no guarantee I’ll get it anyway. There are a couple of other names in the hat - male names."
Miranda met her eyes and held them for a few moments.
“But you want it,” she said matter-of-factly.
Andrea moved to respond, but Miranda held up a hand.
“No, no. That wasn’t a question,” she said coldly before closing the Book before her. "When?"
"It’s not confirmed. I’ll be required to go through another 'hostile environment' training course focused on the area if I get it. Although I can almost say for certain it will be before Christmas. ISIS is gaining support fast and their territorial control is expanding. Sooner rather than later I would imagine.”
Miranda took one last look at Andrea, before getting to her feet.
“I’m going to bed.”
Andrea stood as she picked the Book up off the desk before moving toward the door.
“Miranda, come on,” Andrea said, reaching out to grasp her wrist. “Can’t we talk about this?”
Miranda looked down at the hand encircling her arm before looking back up to glare at the woman before her.
“What’s left to talk about? You’ve already made your decision, have you not?”
“Yes, but I’d still like your support,” Andrea said quietly.
“I love you Andrea, and as a result, hell will freeze over before I support you willingly putting yourself in harm’s way,” Miranda finished, before extracting her arm and walking out.
“Mir—“ she heard a voice behind her begin, before cutting it off as she slammed the door.
The following morning, Miranda awoke feeling like she had gone head to head with a last minute print deadline.
She had barely slept.
Not only had her bed been noticeably cooler, she had also spent the night tossing and turning, plotting various ways of subverting Andrea’s latest idiotic course of action.
When her mind had finally strayed towards tossing the journalist down a flight of stairs and having her wheelchair bound for the next decade, Miranda knew it was time to get up and go to work. Even if it was only 4:00am.
As she stood in the shower she couldn’t stopping thinking about Baghdad. There wasn’t a week that went by without some damning report from that hellhole. Whether it was civilians caught in the crossfire, or aid personnel getting limbs blown off by roadside IEDs, the news only ever featured death and despair in the war torn area. Things had tapered off after the troop withdrawal in 2011, but recently the news was once again flooded with grizzly images as they prepared to send troops back to combat the growing ISIS threat.
There was only one thing Miranda knew for certain, and that was that she wasn’t letting Andrea stroll right in to the middle of the fray to become another statistic, barely acknowledged in the headlines and forgotten by an apathetic nation. Istanbul was one thing, but this little crusade of hers had finally gone too far.
She stepped out of the shower, quickly drying herself before making her way back into the bedroom.
The object of her thoughts was perched on the end of the bed, her eyebrow raised and all of her limbs unfortunately intact.
“Can we have a conversation now?” Andrea asked.
“I don’t know what there is to say, but go ahead,” Miranda replied brusquely, waving her hand as she walked straight into the closet to choose out an outfit.
“Miranda, nothing has happened yet. I’ve been out there, yes. However, so have plenty of others, and they might want to take on more experienced freelancers instead who have a better handle on the conflict side as opposed to impacts on the surrounding communities. I just wanted a shot, I thought you’d understand that.”
Miranda flicked a hanger particularly viciously, before shaking her head at her own petulance. Pulling out a fairly plain Marc Jacobs number, she returned to the room, laying it down gently on the bed before facing Andrea.
“A shot at The New Yorker, I understand. A shot at a book deal, I understand. A shot at a lucrative freelance career where you can write for any publication on whim? That I understand,” she said, before moving to sit next to the woman around whom her life had orbited for the past five years, “But this? This I will never understand,” she said fiercely.
Andrea reached across and placed a gentle hand on her thigh. Miranda was torn between throwing it off, and the urge to clasp it and never let it go.
“You know that passion you feel when you see a particularly beautiful design emerge from the darkness on the runway? When your whole body tingles with excitement that you can barely contain it?” Andrea asked.
Miranda didn’t reply.
“That’s the feeling I get now, writing about the world," Andrea continued. "There is so much to learn and so many strings and connections; it’s like one huge puzzle that I can never solve in my lifetime. But, now, I have the opportunity to see it. To really understand what I’m writing about every day. I don’t want to be stationed there, trust me on that, but I need to see it, I need to feel it up close. I need to be sitting in that seat in front of the runway, watching it unfold.”
Miranda gave into her compulsion and gripped Andrea's hand tightly, fear overwhelming her anger for a moment.
“It’s Iraq, Andrea,” she said quietly.
“I know,” came the response, just as quietly.
“In, and out. I promise.”
In, and out. I promise.
Andrea had thought those words would bring some form of comfort. For Miranda, it merely signalled that the girl was dead set on going and had already been planning out her stay in her head.
No, the words brought no comfort. What did was the fact that she felt it was highly unlikely the New York Tribune would send a young, inexperienced volunteer into a conflict. There had to be hundreds of reporters and freelancers who had been in Iraq before the media started scaling back their Bureaus.
In any other circumstances she would be throwing all of her support behind Andrea to chase after something she wanted. However, in this case, she was all but praying that everything worked against her to ensure she remained safely in New York behind a desk, where she belonged.
It had been barely 24 hours since the reporter had dropped her bomb, and since then, Miranda had been fighting an internal battle with herself. She had never liked leaving anything to chance, and Andrea had a knack of always getting the things she wanted.
No matter how hard Miranda tried, she couldn’t dispel the knowledge that with a single phone call she could prevent this from happening for certain.
She had been pacing her office this morning and had picked up the phone four times.
She sat and stared at the phone, before picking it up for a fifth time, and this time dialing Mary Olssen, the Tribune's editor-in-chief.
“Mary, this is Miranda Priestly, I hope I’m not disturbing you.”
“No, no, it’s fine. Just a meeting I can pick up later. How can I help?”
Miranda paused, the guilt clawing its way up from her stomach reminding her she was crossing a line.
“Miranda?” Mary said.
“It’s—“ Miranda hesitated, “It’s a personal matter, I—“
“Well, I hate to tell you Miranda but I’m married, and not nearly as attractive as the lovely Miss Sachs.”
“Andrea is the reason I’m calling.”
“She’s 31-years-old, Mary. She has no place in a conflict zone,” Miranda said a tone that brokered no argument.
She heard the woman on the other end of the line shift and excuse whoever was in her office, before returning to the call.
“No one does, at any age,” Mary said, her tone equally as stern.
"I'm aware, however—"
“Miranda, with all due respect, I’m not in the habit of interfering in the personal lives of my employees, nor the decisions of my editors. If you have an issue with Andrea applying for a post with the Bureau then you’ll have to take it up with her. As far as I’m aware she is well liked here, and she does a damn good job. If she wants this, I can’t see any reason to take the opportunity away from her.”
Mary took a deep breath, before continuing, her tone softening.
“Look, I understand your concern, Miranda, but we've all been out in the trenches. True, the trenches for each generation differ, but Andy just wants her opportunity to do the best possible work in the field she's chosen."
"It's Iraq, Mary. Not some counter-culture protest at a University," Miranda snapped.
"Four people died at Kent State, Miranda. If attacking my work makes you feel any better, then have at it. Actually, you know what? I'll do you one better. If you really want me to, I can pull Andy out of the running with a click of my fingers. I mean, never mind that if I block her editor, everyone is going to know exactly why, including Andrea."
"Mary, I apologize."
"I know you do, and I'm sorry to have to tell you that given her passion, and the work shes been doing she's a strong contender. And I never interfere with my editors unless I absolutely have to. There's no reason for me to do that here. No matter what excuse I can muster, all roads will lead back to you if I do. She won’t thank you for it, Miranda."
Mary was right. Miranda knew it.
She had known it all along, but that didn't make it any better and it certainly didn't dispel the sickening dread that had implanted itself firmly in the pit of her stomach having confirmation that Andrea was indeed, a front-runner in this competition to what could be death, or worse.
Miranda clenched the receiver tightly as she fought the urge to scream down the line and order the Tribune editor-in-chief to do something.
“I understand Mary," she said tightly instead. "Thank you for your time. I would appreciate your discretion in this matter."
“Of course, Miranda. For what it’s worth, our Bureau Chief is good; been out there since 2010. Your partner will be in good hands if she happens to land it.”
“Thank you,” Miranda said as sincerely as possible before shakily replacing the receiver back in it's cradle, fighting tooth and nail against the compulsion to throw the phone across the room.
If she got the position, Andrea would be gone, and unless she could convince her otherwise, there was nothing left that she could do.