By the Candle Lights at Smith & Wollensky
A MirAndy short story
By Gun Brooke
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Other lucky people own these characters. I just play.
A/N: I'm still committed to finish my ongoing stories-all of them-but I've learned to go with the muse so I don't get writer's block. *shudder* I hope you'll like this two-part, one-shot.
It was unmistakable. The shiny white hair, the posture, and even the way this woman removed her Prada sunglasses was eerily familiar. Andy Sachs pressed her back to the wall. The large room was filled with people dressed to kill and the risk of Miranda Priestly noticing—or even recognizing—her former second assistant, was miniscule. Still Andy's knees weakened, which annoyed her to no end, and she would rather the wall swallow her up.
The fundraising was sponsored by most of the New York based presses, which included the one she'd worked for three years at, The Mirror. Andy's presence was mandatory, both business and pleasure. In her case, mainly business as she got serious flashbacks from her previous job at the fashion magazine Runway whenever she had to wear a cocktail dress or other evening wear.
"Want me to snap some crowd pics or?" Philip, her escort and photographer bumped her shoulder clumsily. "What's up with you? You look like you're hypnotized or something?"
"I'm fine. Yes. Do some crowd shots and I'll point out the main movers and shakers so you can zoom in on them later."
"Easy enough. Got to keep snapping whoever is receiving a smile from the Snow Queen over there." Pointing and not even trying to hide it, or to lower his voice, Philip moved his gum to the other side of his mouth.
"Just go take the shots." Andy wanted to disappear. If this had been Star Trek, she would've called for an emergency transport and beam back to the mother ship instantly. Instead she clung to her champagne glass and smiled automatically.
"Andy Sachs." A soft male voice made her jump.
Turning, Andy found herself looking into the kind, slightly sad, eyes of Nigel Kipling. Miranda's fashion director. He looked genuinely happy to see her, holding out both hands. Her smile went from polite to natural. She'd always liked Nigel. "You look dashing, Nigel," Andy said and kissed his cheek. He did. The dark, almost black, mauve tuxedo suited him.
"Why thank you. You clean up well too, even if it is off the rack. Guess the Mirror's closet isn't like Runway's."
"Ha. I would think not. Only thing we have in the closet is two gay guys almost ready to come out."
"Are they cute?" Nigel wiggled his eyebrows.
"One is darn cute. Too young for you though," Andy teased, happy to find it so easy to slip back into the friendly banter.
"Oh, boy. You should talk." Nigel performed a well-rehearsed huff.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
He motioned to Miranda and her entourage with his chin. "Uh-huh. Yeah? Thought I never knew, huh?"
Her mouth agape, Andy blinked. "Wh-what are you talking about?" Her palms grew damp and the champagne glass became slippery. She fought to hold it steadily.
"That reaction says it all." Looking serious now, Nigel cupped her left elbow and took her glass, placing it on a passing waiter's tray. "I apologize. I honestly thought you'd be over that crush by now. It's been long…what is it now? Three years?"
"Feels like forever," Andy muttered. "I wouldn't have been here if I knew she was coming. I know I'm a coward, but I fake migraines whenever she's going to be at a function covered by us. It's only happened four times over the years as The Mirror doesn't usually move in the same circles as her."
"So not merely a crush?" Nigel spoke quietly. "Don't worry. Your secret's safe with me."
"I have to go." Andy spoke fast and patted Nigel's arm. "It was great to catch up and maybe we can go out for drinks or something, but—"
"Andrea Sachs." Oh, that voice. So soft, so lethal, and so damn sexy.
Andy turned slowly, braising herself. "Miranda. How nice to meet you after—"
"You haven't told me you kept in touch with Andrea, Nigel." Miranda turned her laser focus on Nigel who swallowed visibly.
"I haven't," he said. "I was lucky to run into Andy a moment ago."
Andy stared at the man who looked nervous now.
"I see." Clearly Miranda didn't believe him.
"It's been a long time. I haven't seen anyone from Runway in years." Andy hoped this would get poor Nigel off the hook. "How are you doing, Miranda?"
Miranda didn't answer the polite question, probably recognizing it was just a polite nicety. Miranda never did believe in niceties or politeness.
"I want to hear all about your career and what you're up to these days, Andrea," Miranda stated firmly. "Why don't you join me for a late supper? Roy's waiting for me."
"Ehm. I can't. I'm working." Andy shrugged, her heart hammering as if it tossed itself against her ribcage like a captured bird.
"Working?" Looking annoyed now, Miranda glanced around her. Spotting Philip who happened to direct his camera toward her at the very second, she whipped her head back at Andy. "You're with this…this member of the paparazzi?"
"Philip is employed by the Mirror and here to take photos while I circle the room and get quotes regarding the charities." Andy was building up to anger now.
"Ah. They still give you these menial tasks at the Mirror? After your series about high schools I would imagine you'd see more challenging work." Miranda lifted one corner of her lips in a disdainful smirk.
"I volunteered as the original journalist is having his appendix out as we speak. Regardless of what you think, this is important. If we get quotes from celebrities and known politicians, it will inspire other people to donate to these causes as well." Andy wasn't sure where her courage came from, perhaps her slow-burning anger at Miranda's never-changing attitude. "It certainly beats a whole spread about the pros and cons of high-end and drugstore makeup."
Two bright-pink spots ignited on Miranda's cheekbones. Andy knew her well enough to realize Miranda couldn't care less about anyone having misgivings about a makeup spread in Runway Magazine. Andy's audacity to criticize the Devil in Prada's pride and joy in public did not sit well with her however. "You are hardly qualified to voice such an opinion, counting, what is it, your three years as a cub reporter?" She gave that crocodile smile she'd give Andy on that day when she first called her 'Emily.'
Furious now, but smart enough to remain calm, Andy returned the smile with her own blinding variety. "You haven't changed, Miranda," she said softly. "You still use the same tired methods of trying to intimidate someone you feel are beneath you." Maybe not so calm after all, Andy took a step well within Miranda's personal space. "I know very well you possess a lot of power in the publishing industry in New York. If you scare my boss badly enough I might find myself unemployed by tomorrow morning, hell, maybe even at midnight. It's rather enlightening running into you again. I thought I was afraid of you, but I'm not."
Miranda's eyes grew wide and then…she laughed. The crowd around them had thickened when Andy gave her icy monologue, like terror-delighted spectators of a dog-fight. Now they all looked relieved and some even dared to chuckle, only to stop and cough when Miranda shot them a menacing glance.
"Andrea, you haven't changed either. What are you talking about? You were never afraid of me. Honestly," Miranda said, now addressing the crowd, "what's there to be afraid of? I'm a pussycat."
Andy quickly covered her mouth and cleared her throat.
"So, back to my original question," Miranda began, but then rolled her eyes at the people around them. "Go away." It was entertaining to watch people scurry to the dance floor and bar like startled chickens. "When are you done 'getting quotes'?"
Andy glanced at Nigel who looked much more interested in the architecture of the old hallway than helping her out. "In about half an hour. I can send off my text electronically." She was doomed. She had to have supper with the dragon-lady.
"Excellent. Roy and I will be waiting outside the west entrance." Miranda didn't wait around for Andy's reply.
"Thanks a lot," Andy muttered. "You're a big help. Or not."
"Probably 'or not'," Nigel confessed. "I'm sorry, Andy. She's not your boss anymore, or mine, but we still work closely together and I want to go to work on Monday not expecting a public beheading."
"Ha. If she wanted your head, she'd taken it now. I wonder what she wants with me." Chewing on her lower lip, Andy prepared to go find her last famous people and pester them for quotes.
"Oh, please. You're not that obtuse, are you? If you can't see what's clearly written on her face, then you may not have a future as a reporter after all."
Stopping and turning around so fast she nearly tripped a waiter, Andy poked Nigel in the chest with her index finger. "Explain that."
"Geez, Andy. The dragon is pulling you toward her lair. Supper in public is merely the first step."
"What?" Confused now, Andy's heart began to pound, each contraction painful.
"The dragon wants her fair maiden. Ever since Paris, I think. Listen. She suddenly subscribes to the Mirror. She goes to functions like these, where the Mirror is involved, than ever before. Once, Jocelyn brought you up as a warning example of what crossing Miranda would do to one's career, and that nearly ended hers. We all listened to a several minutes long recount on what had made you the best assistant she ever had and how far you'd come." Nigel patted Andy's shoulder. "Go do your thing. Better not keep the dragon waiting, because surely you must realize what she wants is you."
Moving like she was walking through ankle deep syrup, Andy approached one celebrity after another and perhaps they'd witnessed her and Miranda's exchange, because they willingly gave her all the quotes she wanted and then some. Finally the thirty minutes were over and she had no choice but to grab her coat and send her text…and go face Miranda.
Roy looked exactly the same. He greeted Andy and the only thing different was how he held the door open for her. Andy slipped inside the town car, immediately engulfed with Miranda's signature scent. So discreet and yet so overpowering of her senses.
"All done?" Miranda looked at Andy's phone and then up at her face.
"Yes. Sent it all. The night editor will take care of it."
"Roy. Smith & Wollensky." She smirked. "Perhaps you're right. I don't change much. I still like my steaks."
"I like their chicken, when I can afford to eat there." Andy nodded. "I'm quite familiar with their kitchen. They still recognize me. Once one of the younger chefs didn't and the maître d' practically grabbed him by the ear and told him I was Miranda Priestly's girl." Andy blushed as she heard how the maître d's words sounded when she repeated them.
"Interesting," Miranda said, her voice even lower. "Miranda's girl? Hm."
"I've told them time and again I don't work for you anymore, but they don't care."
"They're good people."
"Yes." Andy plucked at the hem of her cocktail dress.
"What did Nigel say after I left?" Miranda asked, surprising Andy.
"N-Nigel? Oh, nothing much, really. We just—"
"I'm sure he said something about me in regard to you." Her eyes now steely-blue, Miranda refused to let Andy look away.
"He, he, uhm, he said you subscribe to The Mirror." That wasn't too bad. Andy smiled wobbly.
"Oh, come on, Andrea. What else? You're not afraid of me, remember."
"That's got nothing to do with what Nigel said," Andy objected. "Just because I don't want to retell everything he said, doesn't mean I'm afraid." Perhaps that wasn't entirely true. If she repeated what Nigel said and if Miranda laughed in her face, that tiny happy seed Nigel had planted, the words that made her float on air as she worked the room later, would crumble and wither before it even sprout roots.
"Then why not tell me?" Miranda's voice softened further.
"He told a story about you chewing Jocelyn out for something she said about me. I'm sure he exaggerated."
"Ah." Miranda nodded slowly. "I remember that. She spoke to one of her assistants who had the audacity to correct something I just said. To have to sit there and have her recount how you left me in Paris was far too…too painful, to ignore. Besides, nobody there knew the truth behind your departure. She had no right. Jocelyn knows better now."
Andy deliberately closed her slack jaw. Painful? Her absence in Paris had cause Miranda pain? How was that even possible? And what truth? She had to know.
"What truth are you talking about?" Andy turned her body toward Miranda.
"You left because you were afraid of compromising your soul, you sense of self, and your values. You left because the last thing you wanted to become was anything resembling me. I realized that after I stepped out of the car and you stood on the other side of the street one second and was gone the next. I don't think I've ever cared about being considered lacking before. So, hence the pain at that very moment. As the weeks went on, I learned of another sort of pain."
"Your divorce. How you feared the girls might be affected. I read some of what was written about it and it wasn't pretty, but you seem to have been able to keep Caroline and Cassidy out of it."
"I sent them to live with their father and paternal grandparents for most of the first six months. I missed them…terribly."
"Oh, Miranda." Andy's heart overflowed with empathy. Not really thinking about it, she slid closer on the backseat. "That must've been very lonely for you."
"It was." Miranda looked down at her hands. "And you weren't there either. Emily did her best, but she…she just wasn't you."
"I'm sorry. I bailed on your at the worst possible opportunity." Feeling like a total lowlife, no, like dirt on the total lowlife's shoes, Andy took Miranda's left hand between hers. "I should've given proper notice and done it the right way. I had to leave, you're right about how I felt, but it's not the whole truth."
The car came to a stop and Andy dropped Miranda's hand and slid back to her seat. Roy hurried around the car and opened Miranda's door. Andy opened her own and slid out, gasping at the cool air against her legs. She wore thin thigh-highs, but they sure were no match for the November wind.
Inside Smith & Wollensky, the tables all seemed occupied, but when the maître d' spotted them, he came toward them with long strides. "Mrs. Priestly! Ms. Sachs!" He motioned for one of the waiters. "Is Mrs. Priestly's favorite table…?"
"Cleared, yes, sir," the young woman answered smartly.
"Excellent. This way my ladies." The maître d' guided them to a corner booth. "I hope this is to your satisfaction, madam. May I offer you some complimentary wine?"
"If it's red, you may," Miranda said, finally getting a word in. "Andrea?"
"Yes, please, some red for me as well." Andy was glad to sit down. Her legs were trembling and so were her hands.
"And we'll make it easy for you," Miranda said and disregarded the menus the waiter tried to hand over. "I want my usual steak and Andrea likes the, hm, chicken, was it?"
Andy merely nodded, feeling a bit shell shocked.
"Yes, some chicken."
"We do a very special Chicken Alfredo with a twist—"
"Good. Make that." Miranda waved the serving staff away. Another waiter came with two glasses of ruby red wine, which Andy sipped cautiously. It slid down her throat like silk.
"Acceptable," said after tasting hers. "Now, where were we? Oh, yes. You were apologizing and also telling me I was unaware of the whole truth. Fill me in."
Just like that? Here? Andy blinked helplessly. The candle light illuminated Miranda's features, softening them, obscuring the expression in her eyes. A treacherous kind of light. It could hide the barracuda in Miranda. What if Andy said how she'd felt back then and Miranda turned on her like the scorpion that couldn't ignore its nature? "I was on a track that was wrong for me in many ways," Andy began slowly. "I knew I was compromising my values when it came to many things, and that's why it's so ironic that I kept them up when I left you hanging right during Paris fashion week and your divorce. I guess I was a bit in panic mode. I even tossed the work phone in the fountain when you called."
"You did?" Miranda lowered her wine glass, placing it carefully on the white linen table cloth. "Go on."
"I had broken up with my boyfriend of several years, had a horrible one-night-stand with the guy who was out to frame you, and as if that didn't make me all sick inside from guilt, I found myself pining for someone who could never in a million years take an interest in me."
Her eyes darker now, Miranda laced her fingers loosely together. "Who?"
God, this woman was abrasive. Never sugarcoating, never any niceties unless it served her purpose, and certainly never with any regard for someone else's feelings. Should Andy risk baring her throat to Miranda when the woman might produce her very own designed katana and chop her head off at any given moment. Realizing she was becoming slightly hysterical and allowing her mind to create silly images like a sword wielding fashion editor.
"Andrea?" Miranda sounded less stern now.
"You know." Of course Miranda knew. She'd had to have guessed by now. Still, Andy knew Miranda wouldn't settle for anything but a full confession. It was only fair, Andy supposed. Miranda probably detested guessing as much as the next person. "I dreamed of you, Miranda."
There. There it was, out in the open, in public, to boot. Andy forced herself to breathe evenly and sip some water. Somehow adding alcohol to this seemed like a huge mistake. She needed to be clearheaded, as much as that was possible around this woman.
"Oh." Miranda's fingers tightened enough to whiten her knuckles. "Well, that's not the first time that's happened."
"Excuse me?" Hearing her own incredulous voice lower into a growl, Andy stared at Miranda. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means you're not the first assistant who's developed a crush on her boss, no matter their gender. I do believe that when it comes to my assistants, it's more a case of the Stockholm syndrome."
"Huh?" The less-than eloquent sound erupted from Andy.
"A survival technique."
"You're something else, aren't you? You think you know everything, and I suppose you do when it comes to fashion and beauty related stuff." Andy hissed now at having the feelings that scorched her very soul dismissed so flippantly. "Surely you know that your social skill, especially at work, leave a lot to be desired, and your ability to read people on a personal level—or should I say, care about people on a personal level, is, to quote you, abhorrent."
"I did not invite you to dinner to be criticized." Miranda said, barely audible. Her blue eyes were almost without color as she narrowed them at Andy.
"Then why did you ask me here? You have asked so many questions and now it's my turn."
The waiter arrived with their food, making Andy grind her teeth since this gave Miranda time to gather her thoughts and deliver some smokescreen line. The waiter left, but Andy didn't pay any attention to her Chicken Alfredo.
"I asked you here because we have things unspoken, unresolved if you will. I thought talking on neutral ground would—"
"Neutral ground?" Andy snorted unhappily. "You make it sound like we're at war."
"Not war," Miranda said and placed the napkin in her lap. Picking up her utensils, she began to slice into her steak. "But perhaps negotiations?"
Andy thought about Miranda's choice of words. Maybe she was right? "All right. Then, here's the deal. I didn't have a crush on you. I wasn't infatuated or obsessed, and definitely not out to see what being in Miranda Priestly's inner circle could get me. In fact, I was trying to pull away. I knew was in big trouble when your face was all I saw when I spoke to other people and when—" She stopped herself before she said too much.
"Yes? When what?" Of course Miranda didn't settle for anything. She was delicately slicing and chewing as Andy spoke.
Oh, fuck. Well, she asked. Andy cleared her throat and tossed her hair back over her shoulders. "When I was with Nate, my former boyfriend. He'd make love to me, but all I saw was your face. I resented him for not smelling like you, for having stubble, for having the wrong lips…for not being you."
Miranda lowered her knife and fork, actually dropping them onto her plate with a rattling noise. "You—you…what?" Her lips parted and her eyes darkened to almost violet.
"You asked. There it is. The truth." Feeling the need for alcohol now, Andy sipped her wine, never taking her eyes off Miranda. Perhaps the poor woman would need CPR or something. She looked rather pale.
"And now?" Miranda whispered and her hands trembled as she fumbled for her napkin.
Andy knew this was one of those moments that she would look back at later in life and deem as defining. Was she strong enough to be honest? Miranda's reaction could go either way. Either she would be shocked and horrified at Andy's audacity, or she might actually be kind and even flattered. Somehow the latter seemed even worse. "Nothing's changed," Andy said gruffly. She looked miserably at her plate, unable to even contemplate eating.
"Then we're not where we need to be." After these rapid, cryptic words, Miranda caught the waitress' attention and told her to add their food to her account and box Andy's food. "I've eaten what I need, but you haven't touched yours."
Andy took the box and followed Miranda where she strode between the tables toward the door. "Where are we going?" she asked even if she could guess.
'The dragon's lair.' Nigel's words echoed in Andy's mind. Oh, boy. This was not going to be easy. In fact, it seemed dangerous.
Concluded in pt 2