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“He just walks up and shoots the guy. Three times.”

“Are you kidding?”

I twisted my office chair and looked to the cubicle behind me.

“Completely serious. And then he casually walks away, hails a taxi, and grabs a beer at the bar,” Jackson explained, reclining his chair, “Called the cops to turn himself in after he paid his tab.”

“I can see the headline now: ‘Killer Gives No Shits,’” Debbie chuckled as she typed away at her computer.

I smiled and said, “‘Keep Calm and Kill On.’”

“Both of those are already so much better than the one I was thinking of using. Thanks!”

“You can give us credit at the bottom,” Debbie quipped, winking at me from over the monitor.

It was strange how a few months working for the New York Mirror made something like murder feel like everyday office talk. It was everything I always wanted, hunting down the injustice of the world, bringing it to light. Now it was as normal as the crappy coffee and the string of curses that often drifted through the office on the day of deadlines.

“How’s the green energy story?” Jackson asked, scratching his beard.

“Very green,” I smirked, “But I have to admit—“

The intercom on my phone suddenly erupted with the secretary’s voice.

“Andy, phone call. Line one.”

I frowned. I wasn’t expecting a call. Afraid it was bad news, I held my breath as I picked up the phone.

“This is Andy.”

“It’s about damn time.”

Well, that certainly wasn’t good news.

“I miss you too, Em.”

“Maybe if you picked up your bloody mobile, the feeling would be mutual,” Emily scoffed in her usual way that suggested she was in a state of constant mild annoyance.

She must have gotten my cell phone number from my old application.

I glanced towards my purse that held the device, now probably displaying missed call notifications. “I’m at work.”

I could practically hear the other woman rolling her eyes on the phone. “Right, and I’m sunning on a beach in Cancun ringing for a little chat. Listen, I need to know the soap.”

“The soap?”

“You apparently purchased a very particular type of soap for Miranda’s washroom, and I cannot find it anywhere.”
“Oh, yeah, she asked for that ages ago. I found a little shop where it’s all homemade,” I recalled fondly. I had once caught Miranda quaintly sniffing her hands after I brought the soap to the office.

“What scent? Where?” Emily’s voice interrupted my memory, and I flushed with secret embarrassment.

“Lavender, I think. Lavender and vanilla. It’s in the Upper West Side.”

“What? No. Andrea, you don’t understand. Miranda wants this soap now.”

“Actually, I’m probably one of the few people that does understand,” I replied, tucking the phone against my shoulder, “Go get it.”

“The phone cannot be left unattended,” she screeched.

“There’s no second assistant?” I questioned, clicking and typing on the computer to find the address of the shop to give the other woman.

“Fired. Yesterday. Third one since you left.”

I immediately stopped, my fingers hovering over the keyboard. “Wow.”

“I need that soap. Now.”

I grabbed the phone again with my hand, getting irritated. “And you want me to leave work so you don’t have to?”

“Consider this payback for the time I was rotting in a hospital while you went to France and then dramatically quit your job and screwed me for the past four months of my life.”

Unfortunately, she had a point. The image of Miranda delicately washing her hands still swirled in my mind like water spinning down a drain.

“Fine.”

“Now.”

“Yes, now.”

“Well, good.”

With a click, Emily was gone, and I was facing a Google Map on my screen happily displaying my new destination.

Why did I say yes? I ungracefully plopped the phone back in its cradle.

“I’m taking my lunch,” I muttered, standing up and grabbing my purse. My coworkers simply grunted acknowledgement; they could probably sense the change in my mood.

But what was that change? As I bounded down the steps and winced against the sun outside, I realized there was no way I was doing this for Emily. I gave her the clothes. We cleared things up. If it was just a favor for her, I might have done it after work to be a good friend. Or told her hell no.

On the other hand, the chance to help Miranda again almost made me giddy. There was a sway and a skip in my step as I weaved with the rest of the crowd on the busy city streets. As if a piece inside me labeled Andrea had been sleeping until now. As if it was perfectly natural to answer the summons to help appease the fashion tyrant I had left.

But she wasn’t a tyrant, not really. Hadn’t that been the reason why I left? I had seen Miranda Priestly without the mask and then found myself shut out like the pathetic little assistant I was. That had been the excuse I had been telling myself for the past few months anyway. I had been telling myself a lot of things in attempt to forget about the woman.

Walking into the little shop brought back little memories to match. Miranda had asked for something clean. Well, she had actually demanded a soap that didn’t ‘reek like a prostitute,’ but that was basically the same thing. I had no idea how or why, but after hours of sniffing soaps all over the city until I was blind and dizzy, I knew this was the one. The brief moment I saw Miranda through the glass door of her office turning her nose to her hand had been a personal victory. Gingerly picking up the bar of soap now, I proudly reasoned she must have liked it if she wanted more now.

When I found myself standing before the massive office building, I didn’t trust myself or the reflection that looked back at me from the shining windows. The temptation to walk inside was alarming. I must have had a death wish.

Everybody wants to be us.

I shuddered, and quickly got out my phone to call Emily.

Luckily, a familiar face opened the doors and called to me with open arms.

“I’ve been sent to claim the goods,” Nigel happily announced, his smile and his outfit, as always, a wonderful sight to behold.

I grinned as I officially relinquished the fruit of my mission. “I left the receipt in the bag so Emily can have a copy of the address.”

There was a pause. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed him.

“How’ve you been?” His eyes seemed to soften at my voice.

“I can’t complain,” he shrugged casually. Another pause followed before he smiled with childish delight, “I got a promotion.”

“Oh, Nigel.”

“I told you she’d repay me.”

“I’m seriously so happy for you.” I truly was. He looked lighter, more content.

“I’m running my own magazine and yet I’m still here to assist Emily in calming the dragon,” he said with a dramatic wave of his hand, “I was surprised to hear you’d be coming.”

“Emily sounded pretty rough on the phone.”

“I’ve worked with Miranda for a very long time. I can’t say I’ve ever seen her this bad,” he stated thoughtfully, adjusting his glasses, “She’s not even angry. Just cold.”

“Ouch. The divorce must be making it hard for her.”

“Interesting.”

“What?” I frowned, not liking the gleam in his eyes, “It’s a stressful thing for anybody.”

His mouth opened, but a sound emerged from his pocket instead.

“Duty calls,” he was about to turn away but stopped midway. “Do you still have my number?”

“I lost it. When I misplaced my company phone. In a fountain in Paris.”

Maybe ‘misplaced’ wasn’t the best word choice.

“Right,” Nigel nodded, retrieving his phone, “Your number?”

I eagerly gave him the information before clapping him on the shoulder.

“It was really great to see you.”

“I’ll be in touch, Six.”

I watched my old friend return through the void of the shiny glass doors. My one little episode of indulgence was done.

Or so I thought.

Perhaps a week later, I was sprawled on my bed one evening reading when my cell phone started buzzing on the nightstand. I thought it was Lilly or maybe Nigel.

“Hello?”

“Tea.”

It was Emily.

“What?”

“What flavor tea? She keeps hissing I’ve brought the wrong kind,” she whispered fiercely.

I glanced at the clock. They were both at the office late. I could picture Emily hiding in the little kitchenette trying not to be heard. I closed my eyes, trying to put myself there.

“Is she working on budgets or mock ups?”

“What? Reviewing the photo-shoot from today.”

“Top shelf, on the right. Box of lemon and peppermint. You need to add half a spoon of honey,” I described, recalling the night I had finally figured out the secret combination, “She’ll want a big thing of it. Put it in a coffee mug, not the little tea cups.”

After a moment of rustling, Emily finally sighed, “For fuck’s sake. Thanks. Bye.”

And just like that, it was over.

I collapsed against the bed, and tried desperately not to remember the sight of Miranda’s fingers surrounding the mug and sighing as she sipped. That second of bliss that had always made me think that maybe, just maybe, I would see a tiny smile before she continued with her work and I left her office.

Before I left her for good.

The next few days were hard. In-between my interviews for stories and meetings that had me hustling around the city, I was fielding constant texts from Emily. Which restaurant did Miranda prefer when she wanted it to be a quick dinner with unwanted company? Miranda didn’t like the color of her pen, which color was it supposed to be? I would be in the middle of typing articles and simultaneously trying to explain on the phone the small alternations I had made during my time at the magazine that Miranda now seemed to want. She wanted her afternoon coffee twenty minutes sooner. Have her purse ready after she gets off the phone with Patrick because she almost always wants to leave the office afterwards. What she would want for lunch depending on how long the meeting before it ran. The list was endless.

Even Nigel, when we finally managed to find time to get drinks, passed along a question or two. News of his promotion to being the editor of a new urban lifestyle magazine gave way to queries concerning whatever Miranda-related catastrophe Emily had endured that afternoon. The sick part was that I wanted to help. But every time I did, it took me back to that office and reminded me why I wasn’t there anymore. I loved it and hated it.

In a very underwhelming and commonplace way, I realized then that I loved her. It wasn’t the storming violently away in the middle of Paris or the magnificent galas that wildly slapped me awake to this understanding. It was in the mediocre silence of a Tuesday night as I brushed my teeth that my phone buzzed, and I saw the way my own eyes lit up in the mirror at the thought it might be another question about Miranda. Safely, in the private sanctuary of my apartment, I quietly lamented I could not help Miranda Priestly even if I was good at it. Amid the swarms of texts and calls and complaints, I wished to attend to the little details like a lover. I had left Runway because I could not. And now I fed them to Emily because I could not.

I decided I would secretly enjoy this while I could, and when the requests eventually stopped, I could finally lock away this chapter of my life for good and forget all about the fashion world and the editors that championed them.

And so my heart surged with a paradoxical blend of pleasure and dread when my phone once again began to ring on my afternoon off.

“What is it this time?”

“Oh, I fancied I’d ring you up and tell you how much I love my job,” Emily sarcastically drawled before her pitch grew higher with annoyance, “Do you think I enjoy constantly asking you about Miranda’s favorite this or Miranda’s special that?”

“I’m sorry, I just—“ I trailed off with a sigh, mentally shaking myself, “Fine. What’s up?”

“She wants her weekly itinerary to flow better.”

“Flow better.” She had to be kidding.

“You formatted it differently when you were briefly first assistant,” Emily stated, making it abundantly clear in her tone she knew exactly how brief it was.

“What part doesn’t she like about the way you do it?”

“Honestly, Andrea.”

Right, as if Miranda would specifically explain when she wanted.

“I know, stupid question.”

The real question was how we were going to pull this one off.

“Can you log into my account and get my old files?”

“They were deleted.”

“Figures,” I muttered, thinking it over, “I don’t have the right software to do it and then email it to you.”

“You would most likely be flagged as a virus, all things considered,” she muttered with slight amusement over her own joke, “You’ll have to tell me how to do it.”

“She likes it when there isn’t a lot of junk on it,” I said, thinking of how I had made two separate schedules for Emily and myself, “Make sure you sort out your stuff so she doesn’t see it.”

“How?”

There was a button. I think. Right?

“Um, go to Filter.”

“Where?”

“On the top somewhere?”

“Ugh!” Emily’s frustration summed it up for both of us.

“I don’t know, it’s one of those things I can’t do unless I’m looking at it.”

The pause that followed was extremely worrisome. Emily had to be crazy.

“Miranda’s in a meeting until three.”

Definitely crazy.

It was one thing to help Miranda from afar. But to risk seeing her again?

“You want me to come to Runway and risk your job and my life all to fix a freakin’ calendar in Excel?”

Her response was immediate. “Yes.”

The most sickening thing of all was the fact that I secretly wanted to go back. Something raged within me, begging for even a chance to see Miranda again.

“Fine.”

 

This time, when I faced the tall, glass building, I avoided my reflection. I signed in as a guest of Emily Charlton. I rode the elevator and tried not to remember once sharing it. I navigated the Runway floor with my head down, trying to avoid being seen, just incase.

When I came face to face with Emily, she gave me a single nod.

“Right then. Come on,” she waved me over to her own desk with the computer. She was never really the type for cheery greetings.

My old desk was empty, and the visual really made no impression on me. I thought fondly of my current work desk that was home to a picture of my parents, a young bamboo plant, and a Batman bobble head. Glancing at Miranda’s personal office, however, made me incredibly anxious.

“You owe me,” I mumbled, sitting down and beginning my task.

“I daresay with Nigel’s raise, he can buy us both drinks this weekend.”

“I’ll take it.”

I did what I could. It was mostly muscle memory. Type this in here, cut that out. That should be bolded. Ouch, three meetings in one day next week? Underline that.

While I worked, I kept an eye on the clock. We still had over an hour.

“Odd,” Emily mused from where she leaned on the desk watching the screen.

“What?” I thought she was talking about something I just did on the computer. All I did was copy and paste something.

“Your outfit isn’t as drastically ugly as I thought it would be.”

I rolled my eyes and countered, “I used to work here, you know.”

“Oh, I do know. I’m reminded everyday,” she sighed, as grumpy as always.

I glanced over at the red-head and asked, “So how bad has—“

“I understand your frustration, Miranda,” Nigel’s voice shot through down the hall and into the office like a warning alarm.

Oh my god.

Emily turned wide-eyed towards me and whispered viciously, “She’s early. Hide.”

Instinct took over. I fell out of the chair, diving towards the open door of the kitchenette and I barely had time to hop behind it before I heard the thud of heels on carpet marching into the office.

“Perhaps if Irving provided me with a bigger budget, someone would be able to finally solve his personal fashion disaster.”

Her voice! She was so close.

“Lucky me I have my own Elias-Clark publication to worry about now.” Nigel’s voice sounded closer now.

I heard Miranda scoff, a thump, and more footsteps.

I slowly peaked around the door. A purse was now sitting across Emily’s desk. Nigel was standing squarely between my position and the doorway to Miranda’s office. It must have been involved in the plan and he must have known where I currently was, thanks to Emily. She stood next to him, holding a rather large notebook, as if hoping to further block the view to secure my escape.

It was now or never.

Stepping softly but swiftly on the carpet, I quietly bent over and walked out of the kitchenette and past Emily’s desk. I remained low, hoping to stay hidden behind the barrier Nigel and Emily made, and I stared at them to sense even the slightest movement.

The plan would have gone perfectly if I didn’t run right into the filing cabinet. I bit my lip trying to not shout in pain.

Shit, did that hurt.

“Who is that?”

Double shit.

Emily’s voice quickly answered, “HR sent someone. We’ve finished our interview. She was just leaving.”

I started walking towards the hallway, trying to appear like the innocent interviewee.

Just a few more steps, and I would be gone again from Miranda’s life.

“Stop.”

The command froze me. My head screamed to keep moving, to run away, to leave. And yet my feet did not move.

Miranda’s voice behind me airily questioned, “Who are you?”

She sounded only vaguely interested. A new potential employee to harass. Another opportunity to chastise Emily and her interviewing techniques.

My heart pounded as I remained silent, unsure of how to answer. Surely she would know my voice?

My lack of an answer sparked her annoyance, and she snapped, “What are you doing here?”

It was just like my real interview the first time I stepped into Elias-Clark. She had asked me that very question while she perused a newspaper. Asked me who I was. Suddenly, the sickening twisting in my chest relaxed. I relaxed.

It finally dawned on me that I was the one brave enough to walk away from the job a thousand girls would kill for. I didn’t need to run away now. I was free.

“It was this or Auto Universe,” I replied casually with a shrug, still facing the hallway.

A pause followed. I could only gleefully imagine the shocked look on Miranda’s face.

“So you don’t read Runway?” Turns out she remembered our first conversation as well as I did. Her voice was slower. Quieter. Disbelief?

“No.”

“And you have no sense of style or fashion.” I smiled. Miranda’s tone revealed she was either pleased or horrifyingly infuriated.

“I think that depends on what you mean.”

“That wasn’t a question.”

I slowly turned around and finally looked at the woman that had dominated my thoughts since the day I met her. Nigel and Emily had stepped off to the side, like the powerful parting of the sea, with Miranda now standing in the center of the doorway to her office. She looked sharp as ever in her suit, poised and elegant. However, her normally controlled demeanor gave way to signs of frustration that I had memorized. Her knuckles were white from gripping a folder. Her jaw was set. Her eyes, though, were the final clue. That was how I always knew what she was thinking, and it really blew me away how no one else had ever figured it out. They always told me exactly what she was feeling.

Now they glittered fiercely, like exploding stars.

“I’m not skinny or glamorous, and I don’t know that much about fashion,” I stated firmly, walking towards the trio, “But I’m smart. I learn fast, and I will work very hard.”

It felt like I was following up on a promise. Standing here in this room, saying those words again, made me realize that, while I could leave the magazine, I couldn’t leave her. The first time I said those words, I had meant them. Those words made Miranda hesitate then. Her eyes shimmered with the familiar curiosity.

Some part of me was happy to be back, and the other part was furious that I’d dare return to the woman who broke my heart.

After all, wasn’t that why I had come back? Why I told Emily all the answers?

I was still madly in love with the damn woman. I left to escape her. It was time to finally figure out where this was going to go. Not as her assistant. But as simply me. I would finally tell her how I felt about her.

“Take a chance and hire the smart, fat girl,” I practically growled.

The effect was instantaneous.

“Emily. Nigel. Leave,” Miranda demanded resolutely, her gaze never leaving mine. I continued to hold it as my friends darted towards the hallway. Nigel looked like he tried to catch my eye, but his face was nothing but a blur.

The editor turned and slowly stalked into her office, as if luring prey deeper into her clutches. I was stupid enough to follow.

Everything seemed to look the same. Same glass desk, same large glass windows. The framed photo of Stephen was notably missing. There was a little more paperwork spread across her desk than I know she preferred. Miranda placed her folder amongst it.

I turned to the woman that positioned herself beside the window. She stood tall, appearing as strong and confident as ever. I knew she would be cool and calm until she got her answers.

A beat or two passed before Miranda finally broke the silence.

“I did hire her,” she said, finally answering my challenge from before, “She was my greatest disappointment.”

“I know. I got to read your letter of recommendation,” I replied indifferently, crossing my arms. Her little jabbing insults weren’t going to work on me this time.

She assessed me in her usual way, from head to toe. Not judgingly as she did when I was hired nor almost seductively as she had done many times before. She was sizing me up as someone worthy now.

Her eyes finally stilled. “Why are you here?”

“Still doing a job I left. I’m starting to think I got too good at it,” I answered with a shrug taking a few steps into the room.

Miranda snorted, “Hardly.”

“Then why is Emily calling me to ask about soap, tea, and the borders on a calendar?” I retorted with a smirk.

Admit it, Miranda, you miss me.

But we both knew it wouldn’t be that easy. “She is not proficient in her job.”

“That woman got run over by a car for you. I was just better at noticing the little things.”

“So confident,” the other woman sarcastically mused, placing her hands on her hips.

I returned her mockery in full. “Oh, has Emily just been making up all the wild things you’ve been demanding?”

“One or two small trifles,” she stated with the roll of her eyes. My own narrowed. She had to have known how ridiculous she was, right? Even just this once?

“You told Emily you wanted your favorite blue coat dry-cleaned,” I recalled, taking another step towards the desk, “She called me sobbing from your foyer closet in the townhouse because you have about twenty-two blue coats.”

Miranda tilted her head thoughtfully. Something changed.

“You knew which one,” she declared. Of course it wasn’t a question. After all, the coat did get dry-cleaned. Now she simply knew it wasn’t Emily.

“The Burberry trench with the pockets. Navy,” I affirmed, reaching out to straighten the papers on her desk, “Brings out your eyes.”

The only sound in the room was the shuffling of paper. My hands moved of their own accord, making stacks, and placing them where I knew she’d want them. With each item I neatly tucked away, I felt my courage stripping away. I fought to keep it.

I stared at the folder that had been in her hands just moments before. I didn’t look up.

“I hate that I understand you,” I muttered as I glared at the desk.

“Am I so repulsive?” Her tone was still sarcastic. Evasive. Even then though, I thought, or perhaps imagined, it lacked her usual bite.

“I hate that I was paid to understand you. When all I wanted was—” I cut myself off with a sigh. Wasn’t this why I had come here? To finally put it all out there?

I looked up and gave a sheepish smile. “I miss you.” It was simple. But it was honest.

Miranda still looked as if she was solving a riddle. “You left.”

“Left my job as your assistant.”

I tried leaving you, and it didn’t work. Isn’t it obvious?

Something did seem to click, and Miranda crossed from the window to the desk that now stood between us. She leaned over, placing her hands on the glass. I expected annoyance. Maybe mild surprise. I was almost shocked to find there was rage in her eyes.

“My friendship buys a number of perks,” she snarled darkly, “What is it you want? My money? My influence perhaps? The next big story?”

How could she dare think that was my goal here? I too secured myself against the desk and leaned to meet her deadly stare, our faces inches apart.

“You look me in the eyes and you tell me I’m here for anything concerning your damn reputation, Miranda Priestly.”

My breathing was heavy. I felt charged and ready to fight.

Her face, on the other hand, grew calm. She slowly leaned back. She even crossed her arms quite casually. Her index finger went to her lips. Thoughtfully she assessed me again, and I quickly stood from where I had leaned on the desk, realization and embarrassment finally seeping in; she had been testing me. I stubbornly waited for an answer.

But I never got one.

“Take a chance, hm?” she murmured. It was like an echo. I had replayed those words in my head for so long. We locked eyes. She firmly nodded, just once.

And just like that, she was easing into her chair, and taking up the stacks I had carefully organized.

“That’s all.”

Um, what?

I stood there, in utter shock, waiting for something, anything else. Nothing happened. She started writing something down, and I turned and walked away.

In a daze, I left the office, and as I slowly wandered down the hall, Nigel and Emily were waiting for me.

“What happened?” Emily questioned, peaking around the corner towards her desk.

I gave them the honest answer. “I don’t know.”

I said my goodbyes and left, needing time alone.

Once I thought about it on the walk home, I supposed the whole ordeal had gone rather well. I wasn’t dead. It didn’t end with screaming or me crying. She seemed pleased by the end about our discussion. I had told her how I felt and—Wait, friendship? Did she say friendship?

I replayed the encounter in my head and groaned. I would be the idiot that decided to tell my ferocious ex-boss I loved her…and forgot to tell her.

But what the hell did friendship with someone like Miranda mean?

I felt like had reached some kind of agreement. I really wasn’t sure what that agreement was until the next night I received a text from a number I had memorized long ago:

Dinner tomorrow night.

I thought I was going to die.

Thinking of a response took nearly half an hour, and even then, all I texted back was a simple ‘yes.’ The only information I received was that my ride would be waiting for me when I left work.

Needless to say, that next day at work was probably the longest day ever. Even the morning had been dreadful. What did a person wear to dinner when they were meeting the woman that probably decided what was in season that year? Was there a dress code? Would I be able to even afford a salad wherever we went?

In the end, I didn’t wear a ball gown to work; I assumed even that would be too much. I picked my best suit, which was still overdoing it for the extremely flexible and casual environment of our small newspaper. My coworkers poked fun all day. Andy, did you do something different with your hair? Andy, was that make up?

Andy was on the verge of punching someone.

My heart rate grew with each passing hour as dinnertime approached. When my shift was over, I ran out the door as fast as my heels would carry me.

I knew the black vehicle at the curb was there for me. Roy was waiting beside the town car, standing ready to open the door. Miranda must have been lurking inside beyond the tinted glass, watching and waiting. Was she wondering about how insane this all was, just like me? I nodded and mumbled a quick hello before he pulled back the handle. My heart lurched forward as I stepped into the car.

Here we go.

The backseat was empty. I let out a huge sigh of relief.

I seriously needed to calm down. Roy returned to the front seat and began our journey to the restaurant; I still didn’t know where it was.

“Miranda wanted me to apologize she couldn’t be here to pick you up. Running a bit late.”

“I know how it goes,” I brushed it off, leaning forward to ask, “How’s life, Roy?”

“Same old, same old,” he shot me a grin through the rearview mirror. We had certainly been through some adventures together when I worked for his boss. If he was shocked to see me, he didn’t act like it.

“Where are we going?”

“I always forget the name. I just know it’s the on Madison and 24th.”

“Oh.” It didn’t sound familiar. It was obviously in the hoity-toity part of the city, but it didn’t felt me solve the riddle of what tonight meant.

Roy shrugged. “Miranda hasn’t been to that one in awhile.”

Hm. That left me with even more questions.

I leaned back into the black leather and took a deep breath. I could totally do this. I was going to dinner. With a friend. I kept quiet the rest of the ride.

When we pulled to a stop at our destination, and Roy once again opened the door for me, I almost fell over when I saw where we were. He steadied me with his hand.

“Wow.”

The place was gorgeous.

“Wish me luck.”

“You’ll do fine, Andy.”

I gave him a firm nod, thanked him again for the ride, and walked towards the entrance. A doorman held the way open, giving me a grand smile. I nervously smiled back.

Once I was inside, a gentleman in a suit greeted me warmly, “Welcome. How may I help you?”

“I’m meeting Miranda Priestly.”

He bowed his head slightly. “Yes, Miss Sachs, right this way please.”

Alright, that was pretty cool. I mean, I had often gone to fancy places and ran errands for Miranda using her name, but they never knew my own.

The atmosphere was truly incredible. It was extremely nice, but didn’t feel too cold or uptight. Even though it was dinner, the lighting wasn’t very dark or overly romantic. I could see Miranda poised and relaxed with a glass of wine in a place like this.

Relaxed. How often was Miranda relaxed?

He sat me down at a table for two loaded with silverware. How many forks and spoons did a person need? I needed to remember to watch how Miranda ate so I didn’t mess it up.

I glanced at my watch. I had once lived on Miranda Standard Time. Her lateness really didn’t bother me. It gave me a change to look around and get used to the space.

A waiter brought me water and placed menus on the table. I ignored the menu for now, thinking looking at the food when only make me hungrier. I didn’t recognize any of the other patrons. No one seemed to notice me, which meant I was successfully blending. Some were dressed very nicely, as if they had also come from work. A few women were in very nice dresses. Some people were in jeans. I guess when you had money, it really didn’t matter.

I was a few minutes deep into listening to a couple argue about car they should buy for their sixteen-year-old when the host in the suit returned, escorting Miranda to our table.

I immediately hopped up and gave her what I hoped what my best smile. She was dressed in a really nice pencil skirt and blouse. The man pulled Miranda’s chair out as he had done with mine.

“Good evening. I trust Roy ensured you were comfortable,” she said, gliding into her chair, lightly tossing back her head to fix her hair as she settled in.

“He always does,” I responded, licking my lips and sitting back down, “How was work?”

She swiftly plucked a case from her purse and retrieved her glasses.

“Nigel’s replacement is still learning all of my intricacies.”

“Is it possible to learn all of them?”

She slowly slid the frames upon her nose and quirked an eyebrow at me. “I should think so.”

I smiled and picked up my menu. The hellos seemed to go well.

I looked over the list of food in my hand and released a small sigh. Crap. Not a number in sight. Nate had always said he wanted to work at a place that didn’t have prices on the menus. That’s how you knew it was at least $200 per person.

Maybe I could tell her I wasn’t hungry? It was either that, or paying my portion of the check was going to mean taking a really fun dip in my savings this month.

“I will only say this once,” Miranda stated sternly, her gaze peering over her menu and her glasses, “My friends enjoy what my wealth can afford.”

I sighed again, “I told you I didn’t care about your money.”

“Then you will not care how I choose to spend it. I am buying dinner. Stop fretting.” She considered the matter so insignificant that she returned to reading her own menu while she spoke.

But to me, it was everything. This really wasn’t a test anymore.

“Thank you,” I muttered with a grin as she shrugged it off.

“I highly recommend the chicken,” she drawled without looking up.

I quickly scanned the menu and skimmed the description.

“But you don’t like spicy foods.” Her lips twitched in response, but her gaze remained low.

“You do.”

How did she know that I loved spicy things? I stared at her, waiting for an explanation, but as usual, none came.

And so began my friendship with Miranda Priestly.

 

 

Chapter Text

Like most social relationships, my companionship with Miranda Priestly began with an initial focus of food.   Meeting for dinner was now our standard, and almost always it was Miranda that initiated the invitations. Conversation solidly focused on our careers and occasionally veered towards subjects I deemed safe, like Caroline and Cassidy. We shared our opinions on the things people were supposed to have opinions on, like art and music. The awkwardness began to fade, though some of my uncertainty remained.

When I found myself sitting before Miranda for Sunday brunch for the first time, I assumed I was doing something right. After all, it had to be a good sign if she didn’t mind being seen with me in broad daylight.

“How was last night?”

“Acceptable. One can only attend so many charity dinners before spending the evening calculating the monetary value of a four-course meal and questioning why that amount is not donated in the first place,” Miranda calmly explained with a sly look in her eye.

I answered with a nod, “I always wondered about that.”

“My socialite peers wish to aid the less fortunate but only if they can publically attach their name to the money in question.”

I snickered. After all, I had been the one that handled which charities she anonymously donated to. I knew she was a little proud, and she had a right to be. She was apart of the celebrity game but didn’t always play.

My smile only grew as the waitress arrived to present us with coffee, and Miranda’s mood immediately changed. She grinned as she leaned forward to wrap her hands around the mug.

Girl loved her caffeine.

“How is your weekend fairing?”

I shrugged as I grabbed my own hot beverage. “I wish it was something more exciting. I cleaned the entire apartment yesterday.”

Miranda lifted the small ceramic cup and poured a small helping of cream into her coffee.

“Did the chef not help you?”

“What chef?” I asked before it stupidly dawned on me. “Oh, Nate. We broke up before Paris.” Didn’t she think it was funny I hadn’t mentioned him in the past three weeks?

I didn’t even know Miranda knew that he existed. She paused the spinning of her spoon. Her gaze lifted from her mug to my eyes, and a questioning eyebrow twitched upwards. I couldn’t fight the sheepish, almost embarrassed grin that answered her.

“He didn’t like how busy I was. As if his work hours were any better,” I muttered, “Though I guess I could have tried harder or something.”

Miranda delicately placed her spoon on the saucer. “Not everyone understands my expectations.”

“He said whoever’s phone calls I answered was the person I was dating.”

I fiddled with my napkin, almost afraid to see her reaction.

Runway was a stepping stone to your dream career. He was an idiot to leave you.”

I looked up to see her daintily sipping her coffee, as if us talking about past relationships was the most typical activity in the world. Was she technically complimenting me?

“Are you doing alright? With the Stephen thing?” I asked hesitantly, but too curious and worried not to hold my tongue.

“Andrea, you can say the word divorce, I won’t burst into flames,” she drawled, setting her coffee down, “It was a marriage of convenience. It ended conveniently. My only concern all along was—“ her voice grew soft and seemed to trail off. I remembered the hotel room in Paris.

“The girls. How are they this week?”

“Growing much faster than I care to admit,” Miranda sighed with a small grin, turning to look out the window.

The early springtime sunshine was bright, eagerly filtering through the glass that stood beside us. Her profile displayed her long nose and full lips. She squinted slightly against the light, and the corners of her eyes showed traces of wrinkles. Her white hair was lit up like a halo, or perhaps, I thought more fittingly for the sake of the media, a crown of ice.

I was falling in love with Miranda Priestly all over again.

We developed a routine of sorts. Dinner. Brunch on the weekends. A drink at some really fancy bar. Once in awhile I received a text asking about lunch and happily accepted. I let her pencil me in when she could. Spending time with Miranda started to feel normal but still differed greatly from my other friends. After I returned from Paris, Lily and I had figured things out, and we now happily went shopping or saw movies. I grabbed drinks with Nigel and Emily and attended my co-worker’s house parties. I was happy.

But sometimes I would be running errands and find myself within walking distance of Elias-Clark and anxiously question what my friendship with Miranda meant.

Friends pop in to say hi. Lily and I did that all the time. Especially during lunch breaks. Except neither one of us were the bosses making million-dollar decisions. Miranda’s time was precious.

Yet again, I turned away from the direction of the publishing company and walked down the sidewalk to return to my apartment.

How was I supposed to do something nice when she paid for everything? Even if I could manage to think of a nice gesture, what if it revealed too much? I didn’t dare wish for anything more than friendship. It was clearly a sign from the universe considering how things had played out.

That line of thinking lasted all of two minutes.

I had walked only one block when I saw a street vendor selling something that immediately made me think of Miranda. Screw it. I was the Priestly pro, wasn’t I? I knew she’d like it. She had been opening up. I was going to be myself. Friends could be themselves with each other, right?

I shoved my hand in purse to dig out my phone. As I dialed and put the device up to my ear, I stepped forward to admire the vendor’s wares.

After a few rings a voice answered, “Miranda Priestly’s office.”

“Hey, it’s Andy.”

“I’ll try to contain my excitement,” Emily grumbled sarcastically, her chipper, professional tone melting away.

“Is Miranda in or out right now?”

“I’m not allowed to divulge company information.”

“You seemed just fine doing it a few weeks ago. And Friday night at the bar,” I countered, scanning the boxes for the right one.

She sighed, “She’s in a meeting with Ralph Lauren’s people until two. Don’t you ever go to your real job?”

“Reporters work Saturdays, so sometimes I get weekdays off.”

“Riveting. Ta-ta.” Then all I heard was the dial tone.

Tucking my phone away with a smile, I turned to the older man sitting on a folding chair beside the cart.

“How much for these?”

Money was exchanged and I carried my bounty back up the block, smiling as I turned the corner saw the magnificently tall building that once made me feel small.

My gut is what made me a good journalist. It had made me a good assistant. It would make me a good friend. I was done overthinking every aspect of my life, and that included Miranda.

Of course, my personal sense of pride and confidence had one more speed bump to overcome. When I took the familiar journey to the dragon’s lair, her faithful servant was quick to chastise me.

“You annoy me.”

I countered Emily’s insult with a smile. “Everyone annoys you.”

“You annoy me the most. I mean really, flowers?”

I looked down at the small bouquet of yellow carnations. Alright, she had me there; flowers could sent a very particular message. But I knew my stuff.

“She was stressed this week with the gala coming up. I’m trying to be a good friend.”

Emily huffed, “Blimey, you don’t bring me and Nigel flowers,” but after seeing my narrowed eyes she simply sighed, “I’ll get the vase.”

After the bouquet was placed on her desk, and I said my goodbyes to Emily, I left the building feeling relieved.

Well, I felt relieved for the first hour.

After I got home and I tried to distract myself with chores, the doubts started to settle in. Maybe Emily was right. I was so silly. Hopefully they just got tossed in the trash and never mentioned. Or worse. Miranda wouldn’t want to associate with me anymore. I’d be the creepy girl. My luck could have run dry; my first burst of confidence got me her friendship. My second could leave me flat on my ass.

I nearly had a stroke when my phone began to ring while I washed my dishes.

I quickly dried my hands and tried to answer casually, “Hey.”

“The flowers are lovely.”

Oh, thank goodness.

“Glad you liked them. How’s work?” Totally casual and normal. That was me.

“Irritating. Spending time in Caroline and Cassidy’s classroom would merit more mature and thoughtful company than this lot.”

“You’ll get to see them tonight,” I tried optimistically, leaning against the counter.

“If only tonight was enough.” There was a slight pause. “The girls are spending the summer with their father.”

That had bad news written all over it.

“Why?”

“He’s travelling abroad, it’ll be a good experience for them. There’s a new girlfriend or wife or whatever,” she muttered distractedly, “I will get them during their winter break this year.”

“I’m sorry, Miranda, I know you hate when they leave.”

“This gala tomorrow is another night I can’t be with them. And now the nanny has decided to inform me this afternoon she can’t watch them.”

“Did she say why?”

Miranda scoffed, “Visiting her sickly grandmother or something else equally obnoxious.”

“I get her reasons why, but she could have given you more notice,” I reasoned, whipping a crumb off the counter.

“Not attending is out of the question.”

“This is that fancy banquet where you get people to give you money right?”

“Funding is critical,” was her firm response.

There was a momentary pause. Then I had an idea.

“I’ll watch them, Miranda.”

She immediately responded, “No, Emily is searching for a replacement.”

“Yeah, and you’re going to hate them or not trust them in your house with your kids, and Emily is going to be pissed when she has to do it. I mean, maybe you don’t trust me, which I’ll understand, but I’ve supervised once or twice when I worked for you.”

“I absolutely trust you with them. I do not trust them with you.”

I laughed, “I’m a tough cookie. I think I can handle two fifth graders.”

There was a pause again. I could see her staring out the window of her office, puzzling it all out.

“Are you quite sure?”

“Quite. What are friends for?”

“I am fortunate for your friendship.” Another pause. “Andrea, the flowers are beautiful.”

“They made me think of you,” I responded with a smile I knew she couldn’t see, “I’ll let you go.”

“Until tomorrow night.”

“See you then.”

I’d like to think I found my backbone at some point during my stay at Runway. I had been a bumbling idiot in the home of my boss when I first met the Priestly twins. They were spoiled and they were clever. A deadly combination. But just as I had mastered how to work for their mother, I had also managed to figure out how to stay out of their warpath the handful of times I interacted with them.

This advanced training prepared me for when I knocked on the front door of the townhouse the next night and found myself face to face with one half of the infamous pair.

“Hey, Cassidy.”

“Mom’s upstairs,” she said flatly, turning to walk away from the door now that she had completed her task of letting me in.

Warning shots. I could roll with that. She disappeared to where I imagine her sister was.

It felt a little weird being back in the Priestly house. A good weird, I guess. I had once thought Miranda was rarely here, but the more I talked to her as a friend, the more I realized that she really did love lounging on the weekends as much as the next person. Upon closer inspection, the house itself really did seem to fit her. As I took a few steps deeper into the foyer, Patricia appeared, carrying what appeared to be a stuffed cat, and I laughed at how scary this place had once seemed to me.

“Something funny?”

I immediately turned to face the voice that drifted down the stairs, admiring the owner, as she too seemed to drift down the stairs. Miranda was made for stairs and dramatic entrances. After that night I had first seen her enter a party, the woman descending towards me was how she appeared in my dreams.

But now was definitely not the time to be thinking about my midnight fantasies.

“Your dog,” I explained, tilting my head towards the beast wandering down the hallway.

She rolled her eyes with an amused air, and, upon reaching the foyer, turned for the mirror to attach her earrings.

“Excited?”

Her eyes found me in the reflection. They shone overwhelmingly with a sarcastic gleam, topped off with the melodramatic flick of her eyebrow.

“Absolutely.”

Finishing her task and giving herself a final inspection, she summoned her daughters to her. The two came bursting into the foyer; no one kept Miranda waiting.

“Be good for Andrea, girls. Kisses.”

I couldn’t resist smiling as they said their goodbyes, even after I promised myself I’d try to play it cool for the girls. Watching Miranda with her daughters always made my chest sweetly ache; she loved them so much.

As I walked Miranda towards the door, she informed, “The house is yours. You are welcome to indulge in your almost religious viewing of Jeopardy.”

“You’re too kind,” I murmured jokingly.

She tried to hide a smile. “Everyone says so.”

We reached the door, causing her to check her purse one final time before she reached to open the door. Her hand paused on the handle, and she glanced towards me.

Suddenly, she looked serious.

“Thank you.”

I smiled. “Anytime. You look wonderful.”

She held my gaze for another moment, but her eyes softened. Then, with one firm nod of her head, she was out the door.

I turned towards the devious duo of professional troublemakers.

I thought they were going to just retreat upstairs and hide from me, but instead I was greeting with an offense maneuver from Cassidy.

“We’re too old for a babysitter.”

Miranda’s little smiles and trust had left me confident; I totally had this. I naturally took an evasive, defensive stance.

“I’m not here to babysit. I’m dog sitting. Got to make sure Patricia eats her dinner.”

“Don’t you work for our mom?”

“Nope. Not anymore.”

Caroline steadily continued the verbal battle. “Then why are you here?”

I parried their blows. “I thought we were gonna play video games.”

“You don’t play video games,” Caroline countered.

“Wanna bet? Pick the game, and I’ll beat you.”

“You’re on!”

My challenge was accepted, and they both bolted upstairs to their playroom where our battlefield was to be. I smiled. They were just like my young cousins I was in charge of entertaining every Christmas.

They choose a racing game to start with, and I figured that was because Cassidy seemed to be really good at it. I expected as much though. Luckily, drunken college parties had prepared me for this; video games settle all sorts of disagreements.

I remember winning the first time around, and once earning their respect, Cassidy made a comeback, and this made us equals. Switching the games later gave Caroline the advantage with a fighting game I hadn’t played before, but by then, I think they were actually having fun. They laughed at the screen anyway when I accidently died. I laughed with them.

After that, they sort of followed me around. We watched TV. We ordered dinner. I let them pick a movie. They fell asleep about halfway through, and I sent them upstairs once it was over. In fact, I was almost a little bored once they went to bed. I wandered around the house and looked at the family pictures that hung in frames. They were almost entirely of the girls. One or two faded images of an older woman I didn’t know. When I walked into the living room, I noticed the picture of a young woman tucked away on a side table. She was holding two babies.

Miranda. I smiled at the dark hair framing her face.

I plopped on the couch and soaked in the clean, quiet of the townhouse. When you weren’t fearing for your life with Book, it was actually kind of peaceful. The color pallet was calming.

A small stack of magazines were on the coffee table, and I selected one at random from the middle. The Marie Claire sitting on a top was probably an indicator of what the rest would be.

I drew last month’s issue of Time. Interesting.

And so my evening turned to contentedly flipping through pages and reading types of articles I hoped to one day be able to write. Patricia waddled into the room and deposited herself on the couch, directly on top of my outstretched legs. When we heard the front door open and close, we barely moved. My eyes flickered from the magazine, and the dog lifted her head. Heels clicked. A pause. She was checking the sitting room adjacent to the foyer. The clicking continued and grew.

Miranda’s figure appeared at the doorway to the living room, an amused grin spreading across her face.

“You look comfortable.”

“She sort of just sat on top of me,” I explained with a laugh, ruffling the massive dog’s fur. She thought she was a lap dog.

“She is a good judge of character,” the other woman stated, placing her purse on the nearby armchair, “How did your evening fare?”

“Once they deemed me cool enough, we had a good time. How was yours?”

“Dreadful. Did you eat dinner?”

“We ordered pizza. There’s leftovers in the fridge.”

Miranda’s eyes slowly narrowed, and she lifted her chin to give me a proper, defiant stare down. She crossed her arms.

“We both know you secretly love it,” I declared, happily ignoring her wrath, “And you probably only nibbled all night on the tiny shrimps or whatever they serve with cocktails so you’re starving right now.”

She held her glare firmly in place.

“Pepperoni?” she tentatively muttered.

I totally called it.

“Sausage,” I replied with a smile, knowing full well that was the preferred topping, “Go get changed. I’ll heat you up a slice.”

I found out that little secret from Nigel who once recounted an evening Miranda and the Runway crew were stranded during a storm on a trip for a photo-shoot.

She felt the need to give me another healthy glare, but inevitably resigned, grabbing her purse and turning for the stairs. I saw the corners of her mouth turn slightly upwards before she disappeared out of view.

By the time she returned downstairs donning her silky, grey robe, the hot plate was waiting for her. I assumed she would walk over and bring the dish to the kitchen table. Instead, she brushed past me, almost challengingly, placed her elbows on the counter, and, after an impish glance my way, began to devour the meal.

I sat on one of the barstools that resided beside the counter and admired the sight before me. Boy, was it a sight to behold.

Sauce smeared against the corner of her mouth. I tried not to stare at her lips; it was already a common struggle I faced every single time we were together.

“Did you always want to be a famous editor?”

The tip of her tongue glided across her lips, removing the excess pizza remains.

“I wanted to be a famous designer,” she replied, clearly more invested in her slice than past, dim dreams.

“But mainly famous?” I asked with a chuckle, leaning on the counter that rested between us.

Her eyebrow twitched, and she slyly looked at me. “If you are the best, you are also typically the most well-known.”

“Fair enough.”

The look she was giving her dinner was practically erotic before she turned to me with a playful glare.

“I cannot adequately express how much I detest you right now.”

“I’m touched.”

***

When the girls left for their father’s, Miranda seemed a little blue, or at least to me. She had a big personality, but that townhouse was still too grand for just her. Now it was much more common to meet at her place than to venture out for dinner. Attempting to remedy Miranda’s somber mood was my full time occupation.

We tried to cook once or twice, but after an incident involving Miranda’s housekeeper using the emergency fire extinguisher while Miranda cackled in the corner of the kitchen, we decided against culinary exploration. The next week, I tried to discover Miranda’s favorite TV shows and movies. I showed her a documentary or two that I loved on Netflix. She indulged my love for Jeopardy. Turns out she knew a lot more trivia than I gave her credit for. I came to love our casual evenings even more than the fancy restaurants and luncheons.

As a side note, I highly recommend the sight of Miranda Priestly in jeans for those in the world that have yet to experience it. Especially when it comes topped off with an awesome V-neck.

Her house started to feel like home.

“Want more wine?”

Miranda looked up from her task of rubbing Patricia’s belly as the dog sprawled between us on the couch.

“Tempting offer.”

“I’ve never known you to back down from more.”

“Is that a dare?”

I rolled my eyes. “Maybe. Want me to bet you my lunch money and my two best baseball cards? Double dog dare you?”

“Fine, fine, pour away. So demanding.”

“Really? You’re going to call me demanding?” I teased, pouring more in the Queen of Demanding’s glass.

“Bossy.”

I mock gasped. I knew she hated the word so often used to describe women in positions of power.

She shook her head me. “Not even the tip of the iceberg, my dear.”

My chest fluttered at the pet name; that was new. We had each probably had a few more drinks than we usually did.

I placed the bottle down on the table and looked over at my friend. She was staring at her glass, zoning out, probably reliving every nickname that came with “bossy” and “bitchy.” Or was it the girls? She looked sad, and I wasn’t going to tolerate her looking so melancholy.

“You need to move. Your yoga instructor cancelled this week. You get antsy when that happens.”

I stood up and walked towards the cabinet fully stocked with all of the entertainment devices; it was difficult to determine what was what. Miranda needed some upbeat music. Even if it was just to play in the background. Feeling somewhat invincible from the wine, I selected a button at random.

Nothing happened.

I could feel the mistress of the house thoughtfully observing me. I narrowed my eyes and looked for anything that suggested its identity as a stereo. Spotting a large volume knob and buttons with numbers, I took another shot, pressing firmly on the power button.

The speakers sprung to life, and the room filled with the grand melody of a piano.

It wasn’t really what I had in mind.

“People used to dance to this kind of music, right?” I muttered, turning to face Miranda almost shyly. I really had no clue what we were listening to.

The woman on the couch smirked in her typically polished manner, placed her glass on the table, and stood.

“It’s a waltz,” she almost hummed, her smile unwavering as she stepped towards me. Her hand found mine. Its partner found my hip. I hesitantly placed my free hand on her shoulder.

I held my breath. This was a surprise.

Miranda whisked us across the carpet of her large living room, much to my bumbling and mumbling when my poor skills inhibited her smooth, flowing rhythm. With each passing step, however, it became easier to let go, to be led. I finally stopped staring at my feet long enough to admire my partner.

“Where did you learn to dance?”

Miranda’s little grin was still in place. “College.”

“Was there a ballroom club or something?” I certainly didn’t learn any of this at college, and Miranda wasn’t that old.

“Schools that predominately specialize in the arts tend to attract a variety of characters,” she explained, pausing to spin me, “Many were talented in performance arts.”

My hand eagerly returned to her shoulder. “So a friend taught you? Or someone else?”

“Someone else.”

There was something in her voice that made me suddenly feel very warm with her hand on my hip. She must have sensed my slight embarrassment; she tilted her head questioningly. I chuckled, embarrassed at my own thoughts.

I timidly glanced away and explained, “I’m picturing a lover in a dorm room.”

“Empty rehearsal room.”

The admission sent my imagination into overdrive, and the devilish woman looked so pleased.

I didn’t feel jealous, not exactly. I was just so damn curious to know about her past, especially about past loves. What they were like? What was she like when she young and in love? What did she look for in a partner?

Have you ever loved a woman, Miranda?

Her calm voice interrupted my thoughts. “That was a very long time ago.”

I laughed, “Oh whatever.”

“I am old,” she declared dramatically, inciting more giggling from me. Just last week she had snorted with laughter over her placement in the Top Ten of People magazine’s sexiest celebrities. I was in tears when she showed me, I laughed so hard. Of course I agreed, but I made sure to tease her all day.

Needless to say, Miranda Priestly was not short on confidence regarding her looks or her age.

“You’re old-fashioned. In a way, it keeps you young—Oh!” My dance partner quickly dipped me before swinging me up for a twirl, and I was laughing again.

Miranda’s coy little smirk remained glued to her face. “I do have a few surprises left.”

“My life has been full of them, since I met you,” I mused, feeling delightfully dizzy from the wine and the spinning, “Do you believe in fate?”

“I believe in opportunities,” Miranda answered, regally and thoughtfully tilting her head, “There is, however, always a choice. What a profound question,” she mused, her eyes not leaving mine.

The song faded out, and a slower one took its place. My body went stiff, awkwardly unsure about what type of dance accompanied this melody.

Miranda took the hand currently laced with hers and brought it to her shoulder. My hands instinctively laced behind her neck. Was that right? It felt right.

It felt almost as right and perfect as the way Miranda’s hands slid against my lower back. We both took a step closer.

She swayed us with the music. Miranda’s signature perfume fully enveloped me, and I moved my head so we were resting cheek to cheek. I was too scared to face her directly. Her piercing eyes and pink lips were too much to bare this close. Wisps of her hair tickled my face, and her skin felt incredibly soft.

Her mouth brushed against my ear, and my body stupidly shuddered. She must have felt it.

“Andrea.”

I felt her speak. My name hummed in her throat, and it was perfect.

“Yes?” I refused to leave the safety of her shoulder. One look, and she’d know. I felt the heat on my cheeks. My face clearly said I loved her.

“It’s very late. You must be tired.”

“I did knock out a lot of that bottle of wine, huh?” I chuckled, hoping she’d assume my flushed face was the result of the libations.

She pulled away, taking a step back, and, as my hands dropped from her shoulders, she caught them.

So there we were. Standing in her living room, staring into each other’s eyes, flushed with wine and dancing, holding hands. If this was some glamorous movie, this was the part when she kissed me. When she told me I wasn’t alone with my feelings.

But I was not glamorous.

“The guest room is ready for you.”

She gave my hands a friendly squeeze and dropped them, turning towards the table to begin clearing our glasses.

“Thanks.”

I helped clean the table. Once we were finished, I followed her up the stairs. She vaguely pointed towards the guest room, but I already knew which one it was. We said goodnight. That was all.

And so I went I entered the room quite and utterly alone.

The guest bed was ridiculously huge, way too big for just me. Attached was an equally absurdly sized bathroom. I headed there first, desperate for a splash of cold water. I patted my face dry with the hanging towel, and opened my eyes to find myself face to face with my reflection.

Was it worth it? I was no longer texting Emily with my toothbrush dangling from my mouth, wishing for even the smallest opportunity to be in Miranda’s life. Here I was, in her very home. Wasn’t I grateful?

I turned off the light and climbed into the large bed. I couldn’t sleep. I was staring at the ceiling, terrified at my pounding heart pushing me, begging me to run across the hall to Miranda’s arms.

The keys of a piano played in my mind, counting the passing minutes.

The lump in my throat got harder to swallow whenever we were together, but it didn’t stop me from devouring more and more time with her. That wasn’t the last time I spent the night in the guest room, and sooner or later I had a change of clothes tucked away in a drawer. A bag of my favorite coffee roast appeared in the kitchen cabinet, not of my own doing.

Our friendship did not remain isolated in her home, and, on my birthday that year, my distinct social circles finally overlapped.

After you turn twenty-one, birthdays don’t really seem like that big of a deal. Being an adult sucked that way. Everyone around my age was busy or broke or both, so I decided no gifts, and the party itself would be a plain and simple night at my favorite bar. If they wanted, everyone could buy me drink.

By the time Miranda came strolling in after work, I had already enjoyed quite a number of drinks at the behest of my friends’ generosity. Everyone paused in their separate conversations and looked up at the sovereign that had graced us with her company. Seeing her in the dimly lit space that smelled like vodka and bad decisions actually made me smile.

I happily called out, “Hi, Miranda.”

“Good evening,” she answered, nodding to me.

“Let me introduce you. You know those losers,” I drunkenly drawled, waving at Nigel and Emily. “These are my coworkers, Jackson and Debbie. Jackson’s girlfriend, Stacy. This is Lily and Doug. I’ve told you all about them. Doug’s roommate, Josh,” I pointed each at each person, making my way around the table, “Everyone, say hello to Miranda.”

There was a general, awkward noise of welcome. Sure, Nigel seemed unphased. Emily sat a little straighter. Everyone else just seemed stunned. I didn’t really know how it was going to play out. This was uncharted territory even for me.

Well, if there was a time to just say ‘screw it’ and enjoy the moment, it was on your birthday. Being drunk helped.

And so the evening continued. I turned to Debbie, politely allowing her to continue her story. I heard Lily’s roaring laughter. Out of the corner of my eye, Miranda was saying something to Doug with a playful smirk, and I practically swooned across the table. Nigel was waving his hand and refuting whatever comment Miranda had made, and Lily’s booming voice overtook them all. I returned to the conversation at my end of the table; Jackson was recounting a story that had Doug’s roommate snorting and the rest of us rolling our eyes. We had heard it before.

Sometimes my best friend’s loud storytelling would pull the entire table together or I was ordered to take another shot for the sake of celebration. Our individual conversations continued. Every so often I would look over to check up on things, and Miranda’s eyes would meet mine.

They pulled me out of my seat, and I excused myself from the small conversation occurring on one side of the table in order to join the other.

I walked over and kneeled between Nigel and Miranda’s chairs as best as I could considering the skirt I was wearing. I still had a few key items left in my closet from Runway. My hands rested against Miranda’s arm by the table. She had a drink in front of her. When did she order that?

My polished greeting was “Hiya.”

“Hello.”

“Six, you’re a bit tipsy.”

Emily snorted, “She’s pissed is what you mean.”

“It’s my birthday,” I pouted, “I’m allowed.”

“You certainly are. How was your day?”

“Wonderful. I talked to my parents this morning. I purposely did nothing all day. I took a bubble bath and read my book and took calls from people telling me how awesome I am. It was great.” I didn’t mention the part where I had been a nervous wreck for two hours after Miranda texted me she was actually coming to the sleazy bar to have drinks with everyone.

“Reading, how exciting,” Nigel deadpanned, which earned a hearty laugh from Emily and a grunt from me.

Miranda narrowed her eyes at the man before turning her gaze to me.

“A bath sounds exquisite.”

I could feel my face flush at her comment. Me, Miranda, and baths all lumped together in one conversation was too much – time to change the subject.

I stood up and proudly declared it was time for my final drink of the evening and started my way towards the bar.

Lily however pointed an accusing finger at me and immediately stood up.

“Hey, birthday girl doesn’t pay.”

I sighed dramatically to tease her but smiled as we linked arms and walked to the bar.

After we ordered and waiting for our drinks, she was unusually quiet, looking at the proud display of bottles behind the bar.

“I think I get it,” she said softly, looking at me out of the corner of her eye, “What you see in her. What people see in her. She sucks you in, doesn’t she?”

I wasn’t sure where this was going, but it didn’t seem good.

“Lily.”

She waved me off with her hand and grinned.

“Just be careful.”

It was funny, how my best friend instantly knew. I mean, I had certainly been dropping hints, trying to explain my feelings, trying desperately not to disrupt the balance we had managed to regain. But she got it. And she supported me. It was as simple as that.

Miranda continued to be a huge success amongst my friends, and it really did make me feel proud to show them the true woman, not the crazy boss she needed to be in order to make her magazine successful. The woman that told funny stories of the time Snoop Dog showed up high to a party, the woman that rolled her eyes when someone called me Andy. The woman that wasn’t afraid to offer Doug and his very drunk roommate a ride home even if it meant us all squeezing in the backseat of the town car.

The car was quiet now that Jeff wasn’t drunkenly babbling and giggling.

“Thank you for driving them home.”

Miranda glanced from the window to me. “Safety is always my main priority.”

“Yeah, right,” I scoffed, slouching into the comfy, leather seat, “I’ve seen some of the heels you wear. That’s a safety hazard if I ever saw one.”

“Not for masters of the fashion world, such as myself.”

I rolled my eyes but couldn’t fight the smile that appeared. I nudged her with my shoulder; we were still sitting as if the car was still packed with other people.

“I remember almost breaking my ankles those first few weeks. But after you gave me the stare down, I was terrified not to wear them.”

Miranda innocently batted her eyelashes. “I have no idea what you could be alluding to.”

“The Stare of Death,” I hissed demonically, mustering my best attempt to glare daggers into the woman beside me. A beat passed, and Miranda’s face went unchanged.

“How ferocious,” she murmured, her evil smile not proving my point.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s better when you do it. Plus, I’m a little fuzzy right now.”

“Are you tired?”

“A bit. I had so much fun though.”

After a pause, Miranda asked, “Too tired for your present?”

Oh, no.

“I told you no gifts.”

Ignoring my complaint, she tapped twice on the partition. The barrier slowly lowered, allowing for Roy to produce a rather large, long box. It was black and tied with a thin, gold string. Miranda gently accepted it, and the screen moved back into place. Miranda kept her face expressionless as she then presented it to me. I frowned at her, but she nodded for me to open it.

So maybe I couldn’t exactly be mad at her for getting me a present. My curiosity got the better of me, and I turned to face the object now sitting on my lap. After pulling the string, I was able to lift the top, revealing an abundance of tissue paper that concealed the true prize.

I had once opened many shipments like this in the majestic Closet

“Did you get me clothes?” I jokingly asked the woman beside me. Surely she could see the irony in that. Or maybe it was a decoy?

Miranda rolled her eyes but again nodded her head towards the box. And so, I parted the tissue paper to discover my gift.

I was right, it had been clothes. But the word “clothes” didn’t come close to the garment I held before me. My hands almost trembled as they held it; the fabric begged to be touched, no, caressed softly. It was like water. The bodice appeared glitter ever so slightly under the passing streetlights from my window. As I pulled it even further out of the box, I could see that the cut was youthful but classic. But the fabric! I could only imagine how it would move and shine and glimmer. I didn’t know if I should smile or cry.

It was a cerulean gown.

“Oh, Miranda.”

“Valentino was thrilled to make it for you,” Miranda stated, glancing toward the box, “He remembered you from Fashion Week.”

“No way. Are you serious?”

A small smile appeared on her face, and she reached out to tenderly stroke the gown.

“The color was a rather difficult decision. You’ve looked very elegant in black before. You’d be capable of successfully donning a daring red. An earth tone would have drastically highlighted your eyes and hair, but this particular blue does compliment your complexion,” Miranda paused before finally looking at me, “After all, it is a special color.

It was our color.

I looked between her and the gift on my lap. “I can’t thank you enough.”

She tossed her head back and said nonchalantly, “Nonsense. You needed something to wear to the premiere.”

“Wait, what?”

“That documentary you’ve mentioned,” Miranda explained with a wave of her hand, “The premiere for the director and producers is next month.”

My mouth dropped open.

“You didn’t.”

“I most certainly did,” she crooned, a smile emerging across her beautiful face, “Happy Birthday, Andrea.”

Torn between crying and laughing, I acted on pure instinct.

I hugged Miranda Priestly.

I didn’t realize the full extent of my gift until a month later.

As far as Miranda was concerned, the event was very low key. It was technically a movie premiere, and there were cameras, but a documentary about the evil of animals in captivity was hardly a Hollywood blockbuster. A few other celebrity guests were there, but Miranda Priestly was one of the bigger names, and I was a personal guest of Miranda Priestly. She introduced me with ease to the director and producers even though she herself had never met them. They seemed happy to answer my questions (though Miranda eventually had to pull me away after the tenth question). It was like getting to go back stage at your favorite band’s concert before the music even started. Miranda beamed proudly when someone complimented my dress, and I was happy to show it off. By the time we all sat down in the theater, my mouth was hurting from smiling so much out of genuine joy for being there.

The director stood up and proudly introduced the movie. As the lights dimmed, I placed my hand over Miranda’s and leaned in so she could hear my whisper.

“This is the best birthday gift I’ve ever gotten.”

We shared a smile before turning to the screen and letting the narrator’s voice lull us in. We both forgot to move our hands away.

I was a lucky girl.

There was an after party, and we made a Priestly-style appearance, leaving shortly after one drink. The director was kind enough to humor me and ask for my opinion of the film. We decided to leave those that had worked on the movie to themselves to celebrate its official birth. Plus, it was already late, and, as beautiful as my dress was, I needed sweats and bed.

Admiring the woman next to me on the ride back was just as exciting as watching the movie. Unfortunately, she must have sensed my eyes upon her, and she turned to face me, sending me a questioning look.

“Why don’t you wear your hair like this more often?”

Her hair was combed back and sleek. I noticed she really only wore it that was to formal events.

“I find it doesn’t send the proper message in the office.”

“What do you mean?”

“This is more suitable when I’m attempting to be charming,” she purred, tilting her head regally.

“You’re always charming,” I responded with extreme sweetness, perhaps a little sarcastically.

Miranda rolled her eyes at my joke before clarifying, “It is not as intimidating.”

“I don’t think so,” I disagreed, running my eyes over her again, “It’s even more intimidating when you’re so suave.”

“Odd. You don’t seem to be quaking with fear.”

“Don’t you know? I’m Priestly proof.”

She stared at me a moment, her eyes wrinkling at the corners when she was trying not to laugh.

“Troublesome.”

I laughed enough for the both of us.

Neither one of seemed phased when we pulled up to the townhouse. Maybe we had forgotten to tell Roy to drop me home. Maybe he just assumed I was staying. I was practically living there most of the time.

When we entered, Patricia slowly trotted into the foyer, and I eagerly reached down to pet her head. Her master grunted, clearly displeased I was rewarded with a greeting first. The dog innocently followed Miranda up the stairs, and I, not-so-innocently, followed them both. The entire evening had been perfect, and yet, as we walked up the stairs, I felt a slow, numbing sadness begin to stir in my chest.

We might as well have been a married couple coming home to our pet dog, and, each step that brought us closer to our separate rooms, reminded me that was not, and never would be, the case. Reaching the top of the stairs, I watched as Patricia continued to follow the beautiful woman down the hallway while I stood before the first door I came to.

“Miranda?”

She turned to face me. Her hair was still elegantly brushed back, and her make up showed no signs of smudging. Her own dress had complimented mine, a royal blue. But her eyes! That was the real sight. There they were, a little tired, but alert, asking me what I wanted. The eyes that once judged me, challenged me, and now welcomed me with those damn wrinkles in the corner that made me warm.

When I stood in her office, I had nothing to lose.

Now I could lose absolutely everything.

“Thanks again.”

A beat passed before Miranda responded with a firm nod. I gave her a small smile and turned to enter my room. The guest room.

***

“It’s dreadful outside.”

I looked over at the woman standing by the window from my spot on the couch.

“It’s just drizzling,” I imitated in a high-pitched voice. My reward was a glare; I guess she remembered that phone call too.

I smiled, relenting my teasing. “I kind of like it. Listening to the rain is relaxing.”

“Like humming,” she murmured, looking again out the window.

“You’re a good hummer.”

Her head snapped back to glare at me once more. “I do not hum.”

“What was it you were humming the other day? At the park?” I attempted my rendition of it. It was something slow, long, and drawn out. Our picnic had been incredibly relaxing, and I could still remember Miranda’s light, musical tones while I napped on the blanket in the shade.

“It was an effort to drown out your snoring.”

“I don’t snore.”

She tilted her head and countered, “And I do not hum.”

“Maybe you were still grumbling about that woman with the baby and her poor shoe choice,” I chuckled, my laughter growing as Miranda rolled her eyes and attempted to hide her own smile.

“Everyone should listen to Miranda’s fashion advice, isn’t that right, Patricia?” I cooed, reaching over to pet the furry dog that lay by my feet.

But Patricia didn’t answer. She didn’t even move.

Miranda sensed my confusion and walked towards the couch.

“Patricia?” Still she did not move.

Turns out she never moved again.

The day Patricia Priestly died was the day I learned a side of Miranda that broke my heart more than the night I had stumbled into her Paris hotel room. Losing Stephen hurt Miranda’s pride. Losing her dog tugged at Miranda’s fiercely guarded soul.

I lapsed into the role of assistant. After grieving with Miranda, I immediately launched into phone calls, making arrangements and preparations over the next few days. I texted Emily that not a single soul in the office was to mention dogs or pets. I commissioned a special frame with a picture of the family with Patricia. I had her collar and one or two other key items properly packed and stored before cleaning the house of the too many reminders that still lingered. I even sat Miranda down and handed her the phone, holding her hand as she told the girls what had happened. For a few nights, I made sure I was waiting for her at the townhouse when she got home. We had dinner, sat in relative silence, and went to bed. Her silence was profound in its completeness; her face seemed empty.

Thankfully, it didn’t last too long. It took about a week of this simple routine before Miranda seemed to get her pep back. As another week passed, things finally seemed to go back to normal. Her appetite returned along with her sense of humor.

As we sat on the couch one night after dinner, she was actually able to talk about Patricia with a contented smile.

“Perhaps I should surprise the girls by acquiring another dog when they return.”

The queen of the fashion world was actually slouching into the couch. I once read somewhere that horses only lie totally on the ground when they’re supremely comfortable. It was nice to know after all this time together my own majestic animal didn’t feel threatened by my presence.

I looked over at the woman next to me. “You could always ask them how they feel about it.”

She nodded, agreeing with my point. “I brought Patricia home shortly after I divorced the girls’ father.”

“Did she help them?”

“Caroline and Cassidy were still very young. It was more or less for me,” she mused before huffing, “I can’t endure another divorce without her.”

I smirked. “Are you planning on getting married and divorced again already?”

“Considering the past two, it is more than likely.” Her tone was more playful than self-berating.

“Oh, stop.”

She grinned slightly, changing train of thought. “If I marry again, it will be for the right reasons. Not for propriety and image and expectations.”

What the hell could I possible say to that? I wanted her to be happy.

“You deserve every bit of happiness you can find, Miranda.”

Perhaps my tone was a touch too serious because she turned to look at me fully now, eyes wider. I meant it, it was genuine. But still. I didn’t mean to be so histrionic about it.

Miranda continued to stare at me as she stated, “You have been integral to restoring it these past few days.”

I smiled and shrugged, not really sure how to respond. I assumed that was her way of saying thank you, and, having it said it, the subject would change, like usual.

But this time, it didn’t.

“Our friendship is one of the most precious treasures in my life.”

My eyes widened in surprise. I knew us being friends was mutually beneficial and that she cared for me, but to hear her declare it so wholeheartedly made my heart beat faster.

She looked across the room and continued, “Your intelligence challenges me. Your compassion warms me. Your courage inspires me. That is, after all, what convinced me to hire you. To befriend you,” she turned to me again, sitting up straighter, “Now it is my turn to take the risk.”

“I don’t understand. There’s nothing to risk. I’ll always be here for you.”

“The safety you provide is perhaps the most terrifying of all,” she countered, actually appearing flustered, “I have all of you and yet cannot have all of you.”

She leaned forward, locking my gaze completely. “You are simultaneously my greatest happiness and my greatest disappointment, Andrea.”

She kissed me.

It wasn’t desperate or hungry. At first, her lips barely brushed mine, and I was still in shock, unmoving. My stiffness must have alarmed her because she tried to pull back.

I didn’t dare let her.

I cupped her cheek and pulled her back to me, deepening our kiss and answering her confession with my own. Her kiss had been polite, a chivalrous declaration leaving room for me to decline. My kiss was complete acceptance with additional assurance.

I think we both sighed with relief. She cupped my cheek, and I grabbed onto her shoulder, needing to feel her and know how very real it all was. We started slow, soft, somewhat unsure. Cautious. Our lips glided gently, kissing the newness away until something else grew in its place. Something that had been there all along but was finally allowed to breath and grow and consume.

Heat.

The kisses deepened. Our bodies melted closer together. One of her hands found my leg, and I gripped her arm. Teeth and tongue brushed against my bottom lip. More sighs. New gasps. We kept inching our bodies closer but quickly ran out of room. So much friction. We needed more. I needed so much more. The kisses continued to grow more frequent, wetter and rougher.

Now it was desperate and hungry and passionate – I pulled away.

“Can we go upstairs?” I blurted breathlessly.

The seductive haze in her eyes made me want her even more. She paused, blinking it away momentarily, looking at me steadily.

“You’re certain?” she asked, grabbing my hand.

A true gentlewoman until the very last.

“There’s only one room in this house I haven’t been in yet. And I want it. Now.”

The lusty fog seized her eyes again, and we both stood, moving towards the foyer.

One of her hands went my back, properly escorting me. She kissed the knuckles of my hand as we climbed the stairs. Her eyes never left mine, and all I could do was smile. All I could think was Finally.

I didn’t really have any expectations when she opened the door to her bedroom, and I sort of just assumed it would look vaguely similar to the size of the guest room with maybe a different color pallet. Miranda liked blue. The whole townhouse was blue.

I stepped inside and found it almost exactly as I had pictured it. Cream colors, some white, hints of light blue. But I didn’t really care. The bedroom was just a symbol, a metaphor that had preoccupied my dreams.

I turned to the true prize.

Miranda sarcastically quipped, “Everything you hoped it would be?”

I took a step closer, grabbing both of her hands.

“Let’s see.”

I knew about a lot of Miranda’s favorite things, but tonight I was going to learn something new about her.

So, I kissed her. I pulled her to me. I knew she was picky about her hair, but I learned that she would sigh happily every time I ran my hands through it. I already knew what her hands felt like on my hips from dancing, but I learned that she loved to glide her hands past them to grab my thighs. Kisses behind her ear made her gasp and touching her stomach made her groan. She wanted to leave the lamp light on. When we accidently bumped or our moving lips made an awkward noise, she hummed while I giggled. I learned so much.

Her hands were so gentle. I had seen the way she touched couture and clothes and textiles, and it was as if her touching them was what made them luxurious and expensive. This is what her touch did to me. I wrapped myself around her like silk, eager to touch every contour and remember her shape. At her hands, my sighs were soft like velvet.

‘Making love’ was an old-fashioned term that used to make me cringe. But there really was no better word to describe the manner in which Miranda whispered in my ear while she touched me, an utter softness that manifested like brushstrokes against a canvas. She was an artist illustrating my body with strokes of her tongue and fingers. She took her time; we had so much time. Spiritually and intellectually we had grown so close, and our bodies were simply catching up to a familiar rhythm they had only heard at a distance or in a dream. It was like waking up but as easy as falling asleep.

When I touched her, she smiled. Not her charismatic grin or her devilish snicker but a true smile that wrinkled her eyes. I kissed her there. I kissed her lips. With every kiss she continued smiling, sighing with pleasure, and so I continued to kiss every part of her I loved until she could not contain her own joy.

I learned that this powerful, headstrong woman found peace and warmth in the simple act of resting her head on my chest.

If you think about it, it wasn’t glamorous, how we came together. There wasn’t a big party or a dramatic confession in the middle of Paris. But I wasn’t glamorous. After all, my idea of a confession had been asking for friendship. It turns out that had been exactly what we needed. I fell in love with my boss, and then I fell in love with her again as my best friend.

In the end, I was just really glad I didn’t pick Auto Verse.