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Midnight Clandestine Stories

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Chugging down her sixth cup of coffee for the day, Andy’s fingers flew across the keyboard, churning out words at breakneck speed.

Three hundred and fifty words.

She only had three hundred and fifty words to go, before she could finally take off for her two-day weekend, a normal occurrence to most people in the world, a rarity for one Andy Sachs. She couldn’t believe her editor had allowed her to have two days off straight on the schedule but she wasn’t about to question it.

“Your laptop didn’t do a damn thing to you, Sachs!” Flynn called from across the desk, biting a giant chunk out of his sloppy sandwich.

“Shut it. I’m going to make the most of my two days and I’ve got a friend coming over from Boston,” Andy said, without looking up from the screen. One-eighty words down. 4:30PM. She could be out and on the way home by five.

“Oohh, friend,” Flynn said, like the child that he was.

“Someone special?” her editor asked, walking into the room.

Andy rolled her eyes. “Yes, Pete. Someone very special.”

Paragraphs materialised faster than Andy would have expected, and she rushed the last few sentences before spending about ten minutes tightening up and smoothing out the flow of the piece. Quickly sending the document over to her editor, she scrunched up some rough paper she had been using to map up her story and aimed it at the wastepaper basket.

“Five bucks you miss!”

Andy smirked as the ball of paper flew right into its target. Her ex-boss would have been proud – though to be fair, a paper ball is nothing close to a thirty-thousand dollar fur coat.

“Should’ve kept it shut, Flynn. You may buy me lunch on Monday,” she said, slamming her laptop shut and slipping it into her messenger bag. “I’ve filed the story. If you need me to change much, just email and I’ll get on it. I’m off, guys. Have good weekend!” she called, half skipping across the floor.

“What weekend?”

“Har har, Pete. You can’t take it back!” Andy called, from the doorway.

“Kidding, Sachs. Get lost!”

“I’m going, I’m going!” Andy said, and almost ran all the way outside in her excitement.

Her phone rang just as her feet hit the sidewalk.

“I’m out! I’m not late right?” Andy said, immediately speeding up her walk.

Nate laughed. “No. Relax. I just wanted to let you know that I’m already at the apartment.

“Great! Sorry I couldn’t meet you at the airport. I’m on the way home.”

“Nah, that’s fine. I’m going to get started on dinner. Lily is already on her way over and Doug’s leaving work soon.”

Andy smiled. “Ooh, food. I can’t wait.”

“At the sad state of your groceries, trust me when I say I know. I’ll see you in a bit?”

“Yup. And Nate?” she paused on the sidewalk, looking up into the warming sky. Ah, and of course. She had inadvertently stopped in front of her old workplace. Just the sort of thing which happened to Andy Sachs on a daily basis, the world conspiring to remind her of what she had left behind.

“Yeah?”

“I’m really happy. I mean, about getting everyone together. It’ll be good to see everyone again,” Andy said, unable to keep her eyes from watering up just a little. She had really missed them, and losing her closest friends for those brief few months had hurt.

“I’m glad, Andy. It’s good to be back in New York.”

“Right. I’ll see you soon, Nate.”

“You too.”

With a content sigh, she slipped the phone into her pocket and glanced across the road, scanning the crowd – out of curiosity, she told herself. A tall blonde – obviously too fashionable to be working anywhere else but Runway, not to mention the very real fear in her face – dashed across the streets. The latest Emily? Or was it the latest Andrea now? Now, that would be … very cool. The chances of that happening, however, was zilch.

Amused by her own thoughts, Andy continued walking with an extra spring in her step. It was going to be a great Friday night indeed.

-

In between the sinful lamb stew and the most calorie-laden mac and cheese bake ever, Andy heard her phone beep tellingly, and had to force herself to ignore it. Pete wasn’t heartless, and she was sure that whatever it was he needed, she could probably get it done before the night ended anyway. Progress, she thought. She was definitely not the same girl as she had been last year, permanently tethered to her phone and falling all over herself to meet the insane demands of a well-dressed slave-driver  –

Who had just texted her.

Uh.

Feeling her pulse speed up, Andy took another glance at the preview window on the screen without picking it up. What the fuck?

And how the hell did she even get her number?

“Do you need to get that?” Lily asked, and Andy’s head snapped right up to see three sets of eyes looking right at her.

“Huh?”

“You keep looking at the phone, you dork. You haven’t started smoking up, have you?”

So much for ignoring her phone.

Doug snorted. “Goody-two-shoes-Andy and pot? Now who’s smoking up here?”

“People change,” Lily said, in fake ominous voice.

“Calm your tits, girl.”

“Andy?” Nate asked, looking concerned. “Is it work?”

Andy felt a nervous bubble in her chest, ready at any moment to explode. Why the hell was Miranda Priestly texting Andy Sachs, her biggest disappointment, on a Friday night?

“Yeah,” she lied, to prevent further questions. “Um-“

“It’s okay, Andy. Get it if you need to,” Lily said, shovelling more macaroni onto her plate. “News is news right? The world doesn’t stop, just because three fabulous people decide to have dinner.”

The nervous bubble escaped as a pathetic half-laugh, half-sob. Why were her friends being so nice now, when she was lying and didn’t deserve it? But aside from that, why was Miranda Priestly texting her?! It irritated her that a stupid text message could mess up her insides in an instant – that someone had that sort of power over her.

“I’ll just check it. It’s probably my editor. I filed a story today,” Andy said, and grabbed her phone. “Sorry guys.”

“No worries. Just don’t disappear on us,” Nate said.

“Be right back, swear it,” Andy said, and crossed her heart, even if she somewhat resented Nate’s words.

Escaping into the relatively enclosed space of her bedroom, Andy’s fingers trembled as they hovered over the text icon. Her heart was thumping hard and fast, but not solely out of the crippling fear that held her in check during her entire tenure at Runway. It was a heady combination of anticipation, utter dread and too much wine.

Squeezing her eyes shut, she let her finger make contact with the screen, counted to ten, and then opened her eyes.

She blinked.

The fuck?

Those boots belong in The Closet.

-M

Her knees gave way and she sat down on the bed ungracefully.

Miranda must have seen her in front of the Elias-Clarke building today and Andy hadn’t even noticed. The bloody woman was hard to miss in a tidal-wave of New Yorkers – how the heck did Andy miss her? Christ. And of course, it had to be on the day Andy had decided to wear one of the very few things she had actually kept from Runway. She had seen Miranda a total of three times outside the Elias-Clarke building since leaving, and only once had the woman actually indicated that she had seen Andy, not that she had deigned to acknowledge Andy’s awkward wave.

Perhaps Miranda had always noticed Andy on the streets, even if Andy had never seen the woman around. Which was a terrifying thought.

Because on days where she hadn’t slept for 24 hours to meet a deadline, and couldn’t be bothered to put on make-up, Miranda could have seen that.

Oh God, on ill-fitting sweater days, Miranda could have pursed her lips in disgust and Andy wouldn’t have even known it. A flash of anxiety ripped through her, not unlike the kind which appeared every morning as she dressed for the editor’s barely-there nod of approval.

Should she reply? Would Miranda set the dogs on her, if she didn’t? After all, if she felt inclined, Miranda could actually make a case against her – Andy was the one who had kept something from The Closet. She hadn’t intended to, but walking away the way she had, had made it a bit trickier for her to waltz back and return the clothes she had borrowed from The Closet. She had returned most of them, all the most expensive items and all the Chanel, via Emily. It was just that these damn boots were so comfortable and beautiful shoes were seldom so.

It still didn’t explain Miranda personally texting Andy about the boots. Knowing her, she was more likely to just make Emily do it. But then, Andy realised with a sadness, that she didn’t know Miranda. Who did?

At the end, she settled on evasion.

Should I ask how you got my number?

-A

Her belly quivered slightly at her bravado. A question would throw Miranda off, she knew, and it made the adrenaline in her body surge when she hit ‘Send’. She took the time waiting for Miranda’s response to save the number into her phone even if that wasn’t exactly necessary. Andy already had Miranda’s number permanently imprinted into her brain, so much so that even if she had dementia fifty years down the road, she would probably still be able to remember it, along with how Miranda liked her coffee.

Her phone beeped and she opened the message window again.

You are in a profession whereby being easily contactable is a necessity, are you not?

-M

Well. Damn. Miranda had a point. But more importantly, she had answered Andy’s question, even if it was posed as another question. Had the sky outside fallen down? A quick glance outside the window reassured Andy that it hadn’t.

Touché. Would you like me to return the boots?

-A

Testing the waters, that was all Andy was doing. She wasn’t at all continuing a conversation with a woman who had been the cause of her anxiety attacks and insomnia for almost a whole year. The answering beep made Andy’s heart beat faster.

Don’t be ridiculous. You have probably worn them to shreds now.

-M

Andy chuckled, mostly in relief and partial amusement, having read the text in Miranda’s whispery voice in her head.

I thought they belonged in The Closet.

-A

She waited but a response didn’t come straightaway and a heaviness pressed against her chest. It almost felt like disappointment.

“Andy?”

Shit. How long had she been hiding away in the bedroom?

“Yeah, coming in a bit! Just finishing up an email!”

“Kay. Just checking!” Lily said, her voice already faraway.

She checked her phone again, but saw no unread texts. Oh well. It had been kind of nice, she guessed. In a strange Miranda-ish way, maybe that was the editor’s way of telling Andy that she wasn’t mad at her anymore. The revelation made Andy grin, her shoulders suddenly lightened from an unknown burden she didn’t know she carried.

She practically bounced back to the dinner table, happy to have her friends around, and the knowledge that Miranda Priestly possibly did not hate her.

The next morning, Andy woke up to the divine smell of fresh waffles and coffee, a luxury which had been deprived from her since Nate had taken his breakfast-making-skills to Boston.

She tumbled out of bed and blindly found her way to the kitchen.

“Coffee,” she croaked, blowing the bangs out of her face as she sat down.

“Well, good morning to you, Miss Cranky Pants,” Nate said, already pushing a mug towards her.

Andy ignored him and took a full gulp. “How was the couch?”

“Not bad, actually,” he said, and pushed a plate of waffles towards her. “Eat up.”

“God, I’ve missed this,” Andy said, taking a whiff of the buttery perfection.

“Yeah, me too,” Nate said, and Andy had to look up at him.

Standing there in his shorts and wrinkled shirt, curly hair a mess, Andy’s heart clenched. Not a single inch of him had changed since school. It was easy to remember all the good times they had since he looked exactly like how he had looked in all her memories of them together. Unlike everyone else, it was as if he had found his place, and stayed, content at the way he was now. Andy thought of Miranda’s iconic look for the past two decades and wondered if it was the same with the editor.

“Andy –” Nate began, but something had clattered noisily onto the floor, cutting him off.  

“What the – ah, shit, my phone!” Andy ran over and picked up the gadget, relieved when the screen lit up as she pressed the power button. “Still works!”

“How did that happen?”

“Must have left my phone too close to the edge and vibration tipped it off,” Andy said, without looking up because she was too busy staring at Miranda’s reply to her text.

Many things are not where they belong, sometimes better so.

-M

Was Miranda paying her a compliment? Oh God, it was a compliment. Wasn’t it? Even if Miranda hadn’t come out and said it outright, she had implied it with her text, vague as hell it might have been. She had to be talking about the boots. Whatever. Andy was going to take it as a compliment.

“Oh. You want more syrup?”

“Yeah, sure,” Andy said, absently, rereading the brief line for the thirtieth time.

“You have work?”

“What?”

“Your phone.”

“Oh. Yeah. Well, not really. Just an update about something. It’s not really that important,” Andy said, trying not to sound guilty and willed herself to place her phone down.

“Good,” Nate said, and dug into his own stack of waffles.

It really wasn’t worth the potential tension to be honest with Nate at this point in time. They hadn’t really spoken about what the status was (officially, he was only here for the weekend to visit as a friend), and whatever that was going on with Miranda was just too strange for her brain to compute. That was enough of a reason to not be completely honest, Andy reasoned. At least, not with an ex-boyfriend who hated her ex-employer with as much if not more passion that he hated margarine.

But even as they updated each other about their individual lives, she found herself thinking of Miranda’s text and pitifully composing imaginary replies in her head. Obviously after all this while, she had never lost the compulsive need to please Miranda, and that was doubtless the saddest thing of all.

-

She finally knew exactly what her response to Miranda would be that night, sitting in a darkened room with piece of popcorn in her cleavage. If she hadn’t been in a room with a hundred other people who would not doubt give her nasty stares, she would have sent it then and there. Only the thought that Miranda would never approve of such behaviour stopped her.

“She’s such a bitch,” Lily whispered as she reached over to grab more popcorn.

“No, she isn’t!” Andy defended at once, before coming to an embarrassing realisation that Lily couldn’t be talking about Miranda. Unless Lily could read minds, and that sort of superpower only belonged to one person Andy knew. “She was a silly child,” she quickly amended, face burning in the darkness.

“There’s going to be a tragic ending,” Doug whispered.

“Shut up,” Nate whispered, and everyone did.

Doug’s prediction turned out to be right at the very end, and Andy had no idea how he had seen it coming right up till there. Unless –

“You read the book!” Lily accused, as they filed out of the theatre with the rest of the crowd.

“I didn’t! I just knew it. I mean, it’s so Somerset Maugham. You could practically see it in the opening credits.”

“I was really hoping they could end up happy together,” Andy said, desolate.

Nate put a hand on her shoulder. “At least they sorta did. Fictionally.”

It didn’t count, Andy thought, vehemently. “I’m still depressed,” she said.

“We know,” Doug said, and put his hand on her other shoulder. “At least the whole thing was fictional. I hope.”

“Yeah. I guess,” Andy said, and then thought about Miranda, whom she still had to respond to, and looking forward to it made her feel slightly better.

They had supper before calling it a night, and by the time Andy crawled into bed after a five minute shower, it was a little past 1AM. She replied to a few emails in bed, before finally turning off the lights and picking her phone up from the nightstand. Her stomach thrummed pleasantly as she composed her message.

Most are happiest where they belong.

-A

Contented, Andy sent the message, set her phone aside and pulled her sheets up. Just right before she fell asleep though, her phone vibrated and jolted her eyes wide open. She squinted from the bright light of the screen, before her eyes finally adjusted and she saw Miranda’s name on the preview. She tapped on her screen and the message window expanded.

Perhaps.

-M

Just that? After the entire day Andy had taken to compose her reply? The tinge of disappointment reappeared, and she felt like an idiot for feeling it. What had she expected Miranda to reply with anyway? Come back? Shit. The stupid fancy movie had made her feel all sorts of stupid feelings and Miranda Priestly wasn’t fucking Keira Knightley. This was all Lily’s fault.

I hope you had a good day Miranda. Don’t stay up too late.

-A

The reply was almost instantaneous.

I did. And look who’s talking.

-M

Andy couldn’t stop grinning at her phone, disappointment evaporating in an instant. Miranda Priestly was having a conversation with her. Miranda Priestly was sustaining a conversation with Andrea Sachs on her own accord even if her responses were short and sometimes abrupt. God, Emily would shit her pants if she ever found out. Andy seized the chance and immediately typed a response. Fuck sleeping. It was her two-day weekend and she could sleep in tomorrow if she wanted. Figuring that she didn’t need the silent mode if she wasn’t going to sleep, she switched it back to the normal one.

I was out. Just got home not too long ago.

-A

Is your editor assigning you midnight clandestine stories now?

-M

If only. One day, when she made senior, she hoped he would. One day, maybe Miranda would even think of her as her greatest pride. Well, probably fourth greatest pride, after her children and Runway. You sort of had to have a lot of expectations for someone for them to wind up as your greatest disappointment.

I wish. Saw a movie. It was tragic. Keira Knightley and James McAvoy died.

-A

I certainly hope not. Keira Knightley is my cover girl for next month’s issue.

-M

Andy chuckled. Who would have thought Miranda had a sense of humour and such a delightful one at that? Or Miranda could have just returned from a gala, drunk on champagne. Andy might have fallen down the rabbit hole but the Red Queen was turning out to be great company, drunk or not.

What about James McAvoy? He is beautiful.

-A

My. Is your date aware that he has competition?

-M

Oh, Nate didn’t stand a chance against McAvoy, as far as Andy was concerned. Neither did Doug. Or Lily. She snorted but decided to go along with the playful banter.

Said date is aware that they fall short.

-A

And they are not worried about Mr. McAvoy?

-M

Hey, I can be trusted!

-A

Can you?

-M

Miranda’s comment sent a sharp throb straight through Andy’s chest. Andy had been nothing but loyal to Miranda until the end, until she saw how Nigel’s loyalty had been trampled on by the very woman who had commanded it.

Yes.

-A

Miranda didn’t respond immediately, and Andy closed her eyes, dry from staring at the light emitting from the screen of her phone.

The next thing she knew, her phone was ringing, someone was moving around in her kitchen, and the place smelt like heaven had melted on a frying pan.

Andy reached out blindly and grabbed onto the offending object, overcoming the urge to throw it across the room.

“Sachs,” she tried not to croak, rolling onto her back. It better not be Flynn pulling a stunt. She was not in the mood to cover for anyone today. It was her weekend off, dammit.

“Aren’t you supposed to be chasing after some crooked politician or exposing the plight of sweatshop workers?”

A soft feminine voice caressed her ear and Andy shot straight up in shock.

“M-Miranda?”

No, it’s your wake-up call service.”

“Um.”

Miranda sighed melodramatically and Andy mentally pictured her rolling her eyes.

“It is ten o’clock in the morning, Andrea,” Miranda said, sounding scandalised. Andy shivered at the familiarity of the way Miranda said her name. It had been months since she last heard it. “Do all journalists have the luxury of sleeping in? I thought the news stops for no one.”

“I have the day off.” Andy felt the need to clarify, recovering slightly from her earlier shock.

“So do I, but I’m not lolling around in bed, am I?”

“I guess not,” Andy said, at a loss for words. Why was she calling on a Sunday morning? It wasn’t as if there was anything Andy could do for – damn. “Oh God, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to fall asleep on you last night.”

“No matter. I am glad to know that you haven’t died.”

Wait. Andy pulled her phone away from her ear. The woman hadn't replied to Andy's last message. She couldn't have known that Andy had fallen asleep on her. What was she calling about then? Oh God. Could this be a social call? Andy twisted her brain, trying to decipher if this was Miranda’s way of saying: “Hello, how are you?”

“It’s good to hear from you too, Miranda,” Andy said, trying to sound confident. She could play confident texting Miranda Priestly, but real talking took a lot more effort.

“Small talk? Honestly, Andrea,” the other woman said, in a way that sounded as if Andy was slow at catching up with the plot, whatever it might be.

Andy almost laughed out loud. Some things would never change.

“It’s not small talk if I am genuinely interested.”

“Are you now?”

“I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t,” Andy countered, growing bolder by the moment. In spite of everything, Miranda had been the one to call her.

“If you must know, I am well.”

“All is good at work?”

There was a brief pause, and then a soft sigh. “I’m afraid that –”

The door opened and Nate appeared carrying a wooden tray. “Blueberry pancakes for your majesty, by your personal chef for this weekend.”

“Don’t let me keep you, Andrea.”

Shit.

“No, no, sorry, Mir – uh, sorry. Hold on.”

She covered the mouthpiece as Nate held up both hands at the full force of Andy’s glare.

“I’m going, I’m going. Don’t kill yourself working. It’s our last day together!” he said, before pulling the bedroom door shut.

“Hello, Miranda? Hello?” Andy pulled the phone away from her ear and stared at the screen. Miranda had hung up on her. “Shit!”

Miranda being funny. Being charming. Texting each other. Humouring Andy’s stupid questions. All of it was most definitely not a figment of Andy’s imagination or a result of Miranda being in an inebriated state. That phone call had all but reiterated its reality and obliterating what doubt Andy had from before.

The Miranda Priestly Andy knew would never text any of her ex-employees in her personal capacity. Not out of the blue, about their boots. Or about James McAvoy and their movie dates.

She certainly never made social calls to them either.

And Andy had told Miranda Priestly to “hold on” – a woman who was most certainly never put on hold, even by people more important than Andy could ever hope to be.

She didn’t dare call back, but opted to send a text message instead. It had been Miranda’s choice that Friday evening, after all.

I’m sorry.

-A

For the interruption of the call. For Paris. For everything.

Miranda didn't reply.