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For the Better

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Miranda Priestly was notorious for her many names in her industry, such as the Ice Queen, Dragon Lady, Devil in Heels, among other less impressive but equally terrifying monikers. Her mask was one set in stone, so powerful that a mere pursing of lips was enough to convey a dissatisfaction of catastrophic dimensions. Without the use of such small clues as a raised eyebrow or an almost imperceptible nod, it was virtually impossible to keep up with the volatile pace of the mercurial Editor-in-Chief of Runway magazine. Therefore, the best bet to avoid her icy wrath was to steer clear of her path whenever possible. If not, a religious adherence to the Golden Rules would be an acceptable, if not unstable course of action to not wake the Dragon.


Not today.


Today, true to all her names, the Devil in Prada was intent on making Hell a reality on Earth. Her version of Hell, however, was not basked in flames. Instead, the frigid atmosphere of her fury enveloped the lobby of the Elias-Clarke building, as her Louboutins clicked ferociously against the polished floor. Her mere presence was enough to send shivers down the spines of anyone in the vicinity, and clackers dispersed with terror as the Editor made her way through to the elevators with a scowl marring her usually collected features. Not a good sign. At all.


She had gotten to work much earlier than usual, leaving her luxurious townhouse the moment she had set her eyes on the paper. Her unexpected arrival sent her frantic employees into a panicked frenzy to get out of her way and make things look normal. Eliza, the frenetic first assistant, was shell-shocked when her boss marched in without even relieving herself of her coat and bag as she usually did. Panic set in as she realized her fumbling coworker was nowhere near arriving with Miranda's scalding coffee, but she did not have time to think about the consequences as the venomous voice coming from the office froze her to the core.

"Get me Anna. Now."


Eliza fumbled with her phone for two seconds too long before dialing that number. The number was ominous for what it represented, but the woman on the other end of the line was rivaled only by Miranda herself. The line only rang once before it was picked up by her counterpart. Eliza breathed a trembling breath.


Miranda sat at her desk still in her coat, her perfectly manicured nails tapping the glass not in impatience, but fury. Her right hand grasped her phone so tightly her knuckles went white as she waited for the light signaling the transfer to blink. She didn't even think about what was taking her incompetent assistant so long, her vision had tunneled into the bloody light and she waited, positively seething. As soon as it did blink, she jerked the receiver to her lips and spoke without bothering to conceal the steel in her icy tone.


"Anna."


"Miranda."


The Editor did not need to take even a breath. She knew her rival would know what she was talking about.


"Is. It. True?"


Silence. An almost imperceptible twitch manifested itself in her left eye as she prepared herself for the worst. 


"You know I do not gloat, Miranda" finally came the clipped retort.


The twitch ceased and the Ice Queen's shoulders visibly relaxed.


"So you do not have her?" she needed confirmation.


"If I did, you would only find out in the next edition."


She had thought so. No, she had known so, even if her demeanor told another story. Boasting triumphs, petty or not, over Page Six or any other kind of ridiculous publication was not Anna Wintour's style, and that Miranda could respect. She was a rival, yes, and a bitter one at that, but they played by the same rules. That was what made them excellent.


"I see. That's all." She hung up before the other woman had the opportunity to.


An uncharacteristic sigh of relief took over as Miranda threw her head back and contemplated the lights on the ceiling. Her fury had subsided, but her frustration had not relented. She was relieved Anna had not managed to get her hands on what she had arduously tried to acquire for the past seven years. It was bordering an obsession, but she was not alone in the seemingly exaggerated pursuit. Vogue wanted it just as badly, and so did the rest of the fashion world, ever since that first show during London Fashion Week.


Miranda had been the first person of real importance to see it. She would never admit it, but she owed it to her former assistant, Emily Charlton, who had just been promoted to Junior Editor at the time. Emily was in charge of scouting out the smaller shows, on the hunt for promising designers and potential up-and-comers, as Miranda wouldn't waste her time with every minor event. If there was anything that Emily thought would spark the Editor's interest, it was her job to bring it to Miranda's attention, and depending on how things went from there, Miranda would show her personal interest.


That time, however, it had been different. Emily had known about this particular designer for a little while, and it was completely by accident. A friend at British Runway had shown her some sketches— prints from a previous art gallery exhibition that were said to provide a sneak-peek of an oncoming collection by a then-unknown designer. The friend had acquired them because she thought they were pretty, but Emily at once saw the potential. So she had borrowed the prints and made her way to Miranda's hotel suite to try and talk the Editor into coming to a small showing taking place on the day after.


"As far as I'm aware, Emily, the whole reason you are here is so that I needn't waste my time with trivialities."


To her credit, Emily had not backed down.


"Yes, Miranda. However, I really think you would like to see this for yourself. I have sketches." She offered the folder she held to her chest to her boss.


Miranda's eyebrow arched, almost amused.


"And do tell, how have you come to obtain these?"


Emily explained about the gallery, and the prints her friend had shown. Miranda scoffed and muttered 'absolutely ridiculous', but opened the folder nonetheless, which was already a victory as far as the redhead was concerned. A small smile of satisfaction graced her lips as she noticed the Editor's eyes widen slightly in surprise as she turned the pages and ran her delicate hands over the drawings, almost in awe. Emily could have sworn Miranda had mouthed the word 'beautiful', and she beamed. Her boss snapped the folder shut and raised her eyes to the former assistant.


"Tomorrow. You will accompany me. If the showing is anything like any of these designs, we must get them onto the page as soon as possible. That's all."


To say that Miranda Priestly's presence at the show of a new, so-far insignificant designer had caused a stir was somewhat of an understatement. The press for the almost irrelevant event essentially quadrupled, and in hindsight Miranda would admit that it was not the best of ideas, since it created a previously inexistent demand for the designs. But she had to see it for herself, and she would never, in her entire life, forget that first collection. Privus, it was called, and she had never seen anything like it. It was not often that Miranda Priestly was impressed. Even she would admit that this designer's work was far beyond acceptable— it was exquisite. So exceedingly beautiful, fresh and yet classic, and, for whatever absurd reason, familiar. She had waited on the edge of her seat once it ended, awaiting the appearance of the designer in person. Oddly, it never came. The lights came back on after thunderous applause, and that was that. That would not do.


The fashion maven raised her chin up to Emily, motioning her to follow. They made their way backstage, their path clearing as they walked. Miranda turned to Emily.


"Find her, Emily. I have a career to make."


Emily nodded and disappeared into the crowd of reporters, proud with herself. This designer would obviously be big; she had not failed to notice Miranda's excitement with the show. She was pleased she was able to scout someone worthwhile for Runway, and, more importantly, for Miranda.


The silver-haired Editor had been waiting for an unacceptable amount of time. What was Emily doing? She wanted, no, needed to be the first to get her hands on this new talent. When her Junior Editor had shown her the prints the night before, she had been skeptical until she looked at them. Then and there, she knew there was great potential. The showing today confirmed her suspicions.


Just as her patience began to wear dangerously thin with the delay, Emily appeared with a tired look on her face, followed by a tall, impeccably dressed blonde, no doubt the designer. Miranda eyed the blonde with genuine interest, she was not dressed in any label the Editor could recognize, but she surmised it was the designer's own work. The woman directed her green eyes straight into Miranda's with respect, and Miranda nodded.


"Miranda Priestly. What a great honor to have you."


"Alexandra Saxton, I presume" Miranda greeted, extending her hand to the blonde, who took it in a firm handshake that screamed professionalism.


"I apologize, Ms. Priestly, but Ms. Saxton could not meet with you personally. I am Claire Murdoch, her assistant."


Miranda had to suppress the urge to roll her eyes. Who did this Alexandra Saxton think she was? She offered her practiced smile to Claire.


"That is unfortunate; I would have greatly enjoyed meeting her. The show was beautiful."


"I shall pass your compliments on to Ms. Saxton. She will be honored."


"Will she remain in London for the rest of Fashion Week? If so, I would like to schedule a meeting— her designs have impressed me. I believe she has a place in Runway"
Miranda did not usually deal with these matters in person, but she had been genuinely impressed. She wanted to be the first to feature Alexandra Saxton's work, and she would stop at nothing to get it. She smiled inwardly when she thought of how infuriated Anna Wintour would be for missing this great talent. She owed Emily a raise for talking her into going to the show.


Nothing, however, could have prepared her for the answer she received.


"I do apologize, Ms. Priestly, but Ms. Saxton is not interested in featuring her designs in any publication for the time being."


That was the first wall Miranda Priestly had encountered in a while. And she was determined to break through it, just as she had done with all the other walls that had stood in her way throughout her long and prosperous career. Yet here she was, seven years later, and the wall still stood between her and Alexandra Saxton.


After that first showing, other publications started going after the designer. She hadn't been in Milan, but had a couple of small showings in Paris at the subsequent Fashion Week, all of which Miranda attended, personally. After those, every fashion-related publication was drawn to Alexandra Saxton like sharks to blood. Miranda had fierce competition to feature the designer, but she remained as elusive as ever. It seemed that Ms. Saxton was never present at her own shows, if she was, she absolutely refused to show her face. The media was in a frenzy, and Miranda patiently waited for the coming of the New York Fashion Week, as she had hopes to gain some advantage in her turf.


To her surprise, it came and went, and not a single showing by Alexandra Saxton took place. The Ice Queen was thrown for a loop, and if she had to be completely honest, she felt mildly insulted. She had her assistants on high alert, instructed to notify her whenever the name Alexandra Saxton appeared anywhere. And appear it did. Over and over, in bigger and bigger shows. The next year, in Paris, the Saxton show was one of the most anticipated events of the week, and the world of fashion was simply enchanted with the mysterious designer. Miranda had sulked in her hotel suite, annoyed with the lack of hints regarding the new Saxton collection. Since she had not been published anywhere, there were virtually no clues as to what Saxton's new work would entail, but Miranda was certain it would not disappoint. Saxton's meteoric rise was testimony enough— it had already transcended to the general public, courtesy of an extraordinary gown designed specifically for an Oscar-winning actress, and Miranda had no doubt there were more to come.


She had gone to the show with Emily and Nigel, leaving her useless assistant behind. Her companions talked animatedly about what they expected of the collection, but Miranda was silent as usual. She was impatient for the start, and could not suppress her sigh of relief when the lights dimmed. A word projected in white letters flashed in the dark: Caelestia; The name of the collection, no doubt. Miranda harrumphed.


"Heavenly? She must be confident indeed. What a pretentious name." She didn't mean it entirely. The silver-haired woman fully expected it to be divine, but she did think the name a bit presumptuous.


Nigel had just shrugged, already immersed on the show.


As soon as the first model appeared on the runway, Miranda had felt a shiver run down her spine. The piece was indeed divine, but that was not what had unsettled her, no. It was the color. She ignored the feeling manifesting itself in the pit of her stomach and pushed her tenseness aside. Then the next model made her way down. And the next, and the next, and the next. The color was obviously the main point, integrated in every piece in every each way, some more subtle than others. Miranda had to admit, it was quite daring to try something in such a different direction than most well-known names. She suppressed the urge to shift uncomfortably in her seat when one of the models passed her in some kind of sweater, bringing back memories and disappointments she had so diligently tried to forget. By the time the last model made her way out and back, clad in an entirely cerulean gown, Miranda's body was covered in goose bumps.


And so it had been for the past seven years. Alexandra Saxton had quickly become one of Miranda's favorite designers— of all time. Over the years, some of her alternative clothing lines had found their way into stores, a high end name extensively sought after by the wealthy elite. Miranda was no exception; even her girls had grown to appreciate the flawless and classic designs. In fact, Caroline loved the designer so much she had asked, no, begged for her mom to try and get Alexandra Saxton to design a dress for her prom. Miranda had no hopes, but still had Eliza contact the only person in the world who seemed to know the woman behind the myth: Claire Murdoch. To her surprise, she had gotten her answer the very next day— Saxton would design a gown not only for Caroline, but for Cassidy too. Her only request, expressed by her ever-faithful assistant, was that the gowns were not mentioned or featured anywhere on Runway. Miranda was miffed by the odd suggestion, but relented; she was known to do anything for her Bobbseys.

Snapping out of her reverie, Miranda realized she was still in her coat- no wonder the room had gotten so hot. She stood and took it off, throwing it at her couch instead of going back to her assistants' desks. The beginnings of a headache were coming on; she massaged her temples, annoyed. Where was her coffee? Had that idiotic girl died on her way from Starbucks or something? Not even her water was at her desk! Was there any limit to the incompetency of her string of assistants? She made a mental note to fire the girl soon. There was so much to do. London Fashion Week would begin in less than a week, and Miranda felt disheartened by the previews she had seen so far. James Holt was having an utterly miserable year indeed, Stella McCartney was dull at best, and even Valentino seemed uninspired. Donna Karan had seemed promising, at least compared to the rest so far. She had faint hopes that Lagerfeld would deliver something acceptable.

The voice of her first assistant interrupted her, coming through the door and announcing Emily Charlton was there for their meeting.

"Send her in."

Emily strode into the familiar office with a confidence only eight years of working for, with, and sometimes around the Devil in Prada could create. She had evolved a lot during her tenure, and though Miranda would never say it to her face, she personally thought the redhead had matured enough to one day— in the unforeseen future of course, perhaps when she was cold in her grave— to take her place as Editor in Chief.

"Good morning, Miranda. I have a couple of previews for you to see; Donatella has sent you an exclusive once again, and it seems that Vivienne will have a number of acceptable designs this year."

Miranda extended her hand for the folders Emily held, but the redhead paused. The Editor raised a perfectly sculpted eyebrow.

"Well, will I be able to see any of these previews before the day is over, Emily?"

Emily took a calming breath before straightening her back more than it already was.

"There's something else you need to know" she said.

Miranda raised her brow even more, and Emily had to fight hard to suppress a smirk.

"Alexandra Saxton sent something."

To her credit, the Ice Queen masked her expression of utter surprise extremely well, courtesy of years of practice, but Emily could tell she now had the Editor's full and undivided attention.

"Previews for London?"

Emily shook her head.

"Remember her collection in Paris, about six years ago?

"Caelestia, yes" Miranda nodded, unsure of the direction of the topic at hand "what of it?"

"She sent you her sketches for that collection."

The silver-haired editor scoffed, feigning indifference. "What could I possibly want with sketches of a collection that, albeit incredibly successful, is over six years old? Has she any sense?"

Emily cleared her throat. "I apologize, Miranda, I haven't made myself clear. She has sent you the original sketches of the Caelestia collection."

The Editor could not prevent the widening of her eyes in time. What on Earth? She angrily motioned for Emily to hand her the folders, tossing them aside except for one— a heavy-set, leather bound portfolio that she handled with extreme care, thinking it utterly surreal the elusive Alexandra Saxton had sent her anything, regardless of how outdated it was. There were no markings on the outside of the file, just exquisite black leather. Miranda took a calming breath as she opened it. She noticed a note clipped to the backside of the cover, handwritten in red ink onto beautiful stationery.

 

Miranda,

A gift for two decades of excellence, from a fan.

A. S.


Miranda turned the page with a knot in her stomach, an apprehensive breath caught in her throat, and her former-assistant's presence all but ignored. The first of the sketches greeted her, and it was just as beautiful as the collection that had touched her so deeply six years prior, but in a completely different way. Whereas the finished pieces had been stunning in their own right, the discovery of the inner workings of Alexandra Saxton's brilliant mind was an altogether different experience. They were utter chaos, but Miranda could distinguish the method behind the madness, seeing exactly how a jumble of raw ideas evolved into the exquisite final product. Different strokes of pencil and pen, scribbles and notes adorned page after page, along with annotations on different fabrics and materials, color scales and combinations, sizes and overall mechanics of each piece. The Editor had never seen anything so fascinating. The familiarity she felt with each and every bit of the designs was inexplicable. Why would Alexandra Saxton send her this? This collection specifically, nonetheless? Her supposedly frigid heart tightened— surely the great designer could not know of the special meaning attached to the color. There was no way; it was merely a coincidence.

"Miranda?"

She looked away from the pure magic she held in her hands, to her former assistant, beckoning her to go on.

"Would you like to run a feature on these sketches? There was no word from Ms. Saxton's assistant requesting us to refrain from publishing these." Emily said.

Miranda pondered for a moment. It would undoubtedly make for a rather interesting edition. That and it would be an exponential improvement to her day, going from Vogue's alleged ensnaring of the coveted designer to actually publishing something, anything from said designer in a matter of hours. Anna would be positively furious, not to mention green with envy. It would be a very satisfying and ironic turn of events, no doubt, but Miranda hesitated. It felt wrong, so she hesitated. It felt wrong because of the note attached to the sketches. This was not some air-headed designer— brilliant or not— yearning for their rise to fame through her magazine. No, Alexandra Saxton had garnered enough fame by doing the exact opposite. This was no ploy— the note was proof enough— this was something personal.

"No," she said, taking into account the surprised expression gracing her former assistant's features "I won't publish it." She unclipped the note, handing it to Emily. The redhead skimmed it quickly, understanding dawning on her face.

"It's a gift." Miranda continued "For my twenty years as Editor-in-Chief. A nice gesture."

 

"Right," Emily replied, handing back the note "that's too bad. It would certainly make a splash, to publish the mysterious A. Sax at last."

"Indeed." Miranda nodded, shuddering at the feeling that enveloped her at Emily's shortened version of the designer's name.

"Anyhow," Emily continued, unfazed "these are some of the last ones we have for London. I've contacted Lagerfeld's people; they'll have something coming your way by this afternoon."

The Editor nodded once again, getting her bearings for the hard day of work ahead. She could only hope Lagerfeld, and maybe Jacobs, would surprise her. She waved her hand, dismissing the redhead.

"That's all."

Now where the Hell was her coffee?!