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Summary: Miranda knows she's taken too long. What if it's too late to make amends after Paris? Will the people she care about even listen to her? Will Andrea even believe her?
A MirAndy story
By Gun Brooke
She wasn't at her desk. I stopped just inside the glass door leading into my outer office area. Emily was busy typing at her desk, but Andrea was not there. I had convinced myself ever since I woke up at 5.30 am she would sit there, bright eyed, smiling broadly, and greeting me with her usual 'Good morning, Miranda'. No one for wishful thinking normally, I had the silly idea if I crossed my fingers and kept my eyes closed all the way to work, Andrea would be there. All that rendered me was a concerned 'you okay, Ms. Priestly?' from Roy.
"Focus on the traffic," was my curt reply. That shut him up. Oddly enough, I saw no trace of him being affronted by my unfriendly tone. Instead he looked…empathetic.
"Miranda!" Emily stood so fast, her chair rolled away and hit the wall behind her. "Roy didn't—I mean, I wasn't—"
"Calm down. You're doing two assistants work and with your leg in a cast at that. I don't care to have you hopping alongside me all the way from the elevator and slip and break your other leg."
"Eh. Oh. All right. Thank you." Emily looked rather shell-shocked. "Speaking of a new second assistant—"
"No." I shook my head as I hung my own coat. Emily's eyes bugged out. "Not…not yet."
"Sure." Emily returned to her desk and gave me a handful of messages. I snatched them from her and entered my office.
This room had been my sanctuary for so long, but now, also a place that reminded me of Andrea's absence. I checked the calendar on my desk. Three weeks since Paris Fashion Week. Three weeks and two days since Andrea stepped out of the town car and disappeared. One moment she was letting me know how she felt about my disloyalty to Nigel when I stole his opportunity to shine on his own. Not only that, I felt it had been a long time coming, her disdain for the fashion industry, which was never her dream, her goal. I did my best to teach her and being smart and intelligent, she learned fast, but she never loved it.
How ironic she would leave me only a couple of days after I realized I loved her.
I forced my attention back on the notes in my hand. Two were from a new, high-strung designer that I was promoting three issues from now. He was brilliant, if a little rough around the edges, but nervous like a sparrow. I would call him and ask him to lunch. It would be tedious to calm him down, but worth the effort in the long run.
Two messages from Irv. Ha. I tossed them. I still wasn't talking to him or anyone on the board. They were all very upset that I foiled their plans, no doubt, but they deserved to sweat a little longer.
The fifth and last message was from…Andrea. I dropped it, cursed and picked it up from under the desk, and stared at it. No wonder Emily had looked more skittish than usual. The number on the note was new to me, since it was clearly her private cell. The subject box on the note was empty. Just her name, number, and the word 'anytime' regarding when it was most convenient to return her call.
I sure as hell wasn't going to call her from work. My fingers were itching to dial immediately, but another part of me, oddly enough located just below my sternum, was reluctant. I folded the note and placed it in my chest pocket. It was as if I could feel the scrap of paper through my silk shirt, which was beyond ridiculous.
Strangely enough the day flew by. My lunch meeting with the designer went smoother than I thought. He brought me two new sketches and looked so relieved when I gave them a nod, I nearly started chuckling. Somehow, he reminded me of a very young Nigel, the first time I met him. We were both rookies at Runway New York, and it was strange to remember the skinny young Rhode Island boy with a shock of black hair reaching his shoulders. His shoulder pads had been wide enough to nearly stop him from walking through doors and nobody could tell his clothes were homemade but me. He was always a fantastic tailor, a skill he hadn't used a lot since then. Now when I sat across from the new talent I was cultivating, I didn't see him—I saw Nigel.
When I returned to the office, I couldn't get the flashbacks from twenty-some years ago out of my head. I had failed Nigel and it hadn't been the first time. He most likely doubted I'd ever make it up to him. My hands trembled as I pulled my personal rolodex toward me. I had to prove him wrong. I had to prove her wrong.
After making three phone calls, one of them, the most important, to Massimo who wielded the most power to make things happen, I rose from my chair. Staring out the window for a moment, swallowing against the itching dryness in my throat, I realized I was nervous. If Nigel resented me strongly enough, he might let his pride rule and not see what I was offering him. If I could make him see this was not a consolation prize, but an even better opportunity for him than working with James Holt, he would leave Runway within two months. I needed him to stay this long to train his successor.
I passed Emily's desk without a word, but noticed how she was rubbing her leg. Shouldn't she keep it elevated? Shaking my head, I focused on what to tell Nigel.
He was alone in his office, going over photos with his magnifying glass, the one I gave him once he and I publicized our hundredth issue of Runway. Glancing up, he looked surprised for a moment and then schooled his expression into a polite smile. "Wow. The mountain comes to Mohammed. I'm flattered."
"Yes. Well." I stood next to him, looking blindly down at the photos. "Anything I need to know about this shoot?"
"Not a thing. Went like clockwork. Nice when it happens." He sounded wistful and a little sad.
"We haven't talked about Paris," I said, steeling myself at potentially having to face harsh words from my friend.
"No, I guess not."
"It was wrong of me to leave it for so long. You deserve so much better."
He shot me a stunned glance. "I do?"
"Of course you do. I handled the crisis in Paris the best way I knew how, which turned out great for me and for Runway—but cut you off at the knee caps." And drove Andrea away.
"It's what you do?"
I glared at him since it was true, but had to retort, "Saving Runway or cutting people's legs off?"
"Hm. Both. Then again, there is no way in hell I'd ever work with Follet or Thompson." He shrugged.
"You may not have to endure working with me much longer either—"
"You're firing me." He paled.
"Wh-what? No!" Frustrated now as this didn't go at all as I planned. "Listen. I have an offer for you, but if you rather stay on here in your current capacity, no one would be happier than I." I gripped the counter top. "Massimo is also sponsoring a new company, today run by six talented young designers who don't know anything about business or the fashion industry. They are located in Baltimore and from what I've seen of the sketches and photos Massimo emailed me; two of them could become bigger than James Holt."
"And?" Still pale, but his dark eyes alert and not missing a thing.
"And Massimo wasn't anymore thrilled to be stuck with Follet than you would've been, so when I talked to him, he asked if I'd put in a good word for him with you even before I mentioned you."
"He did? He really did?" His eyes glazing over with tears, Nigel blinked repeatedly. "Massimo wants me to work with these kids?"
"Yes. He wants you to be the president of their company, as well as their mentor. The money isn't bad and you'd more or less have carte blanch to draw up the guidelines together with the designers."
Nigel drew a deep breath, rubbed his nearly bald head and then laughed breathlessly. "I thought I just missed my last train, Miranda."
"I understand, but as you can tell, you didn't. I'll absolutely hate working here without you, but it's way beyond time for you to be your own boss. This way…" My voice broke and I tried again. "This way, I hope we can settle for being just friends. If you find that amenable."
"I do." Suddenly he flung his arms around me and hugged me for the first time in ages. I couldn't remember him embracing me ever since I gave him the magnifying glass. Too long ago between friends.
I patted his back. "Then call Massimo and set up a meeting. Bring your lawyer or borrow mine."
"All right." He pulled back and wiped at his eyes. "I'm trying to not get too excited in case it falls through somehow, but it's damn hard not to."
"It looks like a solid agreement to me." I kissed his cheeks. "Well, time to get some real work done. I just saw my inbox and it wasn't pretty."
"I hear you." He stopped me as I was about to leave. "Hey, have you heard from Andy since we got back? I've tried to call her personal cell and even stopped by her studio apartment a couple of times, but no luck.
I was about to lie to him, but my new inner voice reminded me he was just my friend now and if anyone had proven themselves trustworthy through the years, it was Nigel. "I had a message today. She wants to meet with me. I'm not thrilled at the idea of another bout of criticism hurled my way, but I…I need to have some closure."
Nigel looked like I'd grown wings and taken flight. "You need closure for firing a second assistant?" He gaped.
"I didn't fire her. She left. Right in the middle of the street in Paris, she up and left just as we were entering another showing. I know she took a plane home later that evening, but that's it. She gave me a piece of her mind regarding how I treated you and how she wouldn't want to be like me—ever." My voice shook and I hoped he didn't think I only helped him by calling Massimo to score points with Andrea.
Clearly, my scoring points with a former assistant weren't on Nigel's map at all. "And now you need to tell her off…or have her recant…or what?" He was thoroughly confused.
I had to chuckle as neither of the examples were even remotely close to the truth. "Oh, Nigel. No. I don't think she'll recant, and I certainly am not in a position to tell her off. I just want her to know I didn't abandon you as much as she thought. For some unfathomable reason, her words got to me and it matters to me that she hears me out. I'm not sure how to make that happen though. If we do as she suggested, meet up, she'll be braced for impact and probably not very inclined to listen with an open mind.
Nigel pursed his lips and tapped them, a gesture I recognized as one of my own. I was told I looked 'scary in a sultry way' by someone, but Nigel in turn looked just very smart and contemplating. Go figure.
"I think you need to catch her off guard. I know Andy quite well and if she has time to prepare, as much as she's immediate and heartfelt, she'll putt up a wall."
"Any recommendations how I do that?"
"Arrange to meet her after work somewhere not too far from where she lives. Then wait for her at her door and drive somewhere else. The confusion might just be enough to get under her skin." He gave me a knowing look that made sweat bead at the nape of my neck. "Now that we're being honest and merely friends, I can finally say I've seen how you look at her."
I had to sit down, but I refused. Not even in front of this friend, this longtime, devoted friend, could I show any weakness. An annoying inner voice merrily claimed Nigel, if anyone, knew of all my weaknesses anyway.
"How, pray tell, do I look at her?" Did I really want to know? I wasn't sure.
"Like she's the eighth wonder of your world and that you want to throttle her for it."
He was right. Nigel had hit the head of the nail so hard it travelled straight through the wall that was my armor. "God." Now I sat on the stool next to me. "Tell me it isn't obvious to anyone."
"It isn't obvious to anyone."
"You're not yanking my chain are you?" I narrowed my eyes in the way that usually made even him jump. This time he merely smiled kindly.
"No. Miranda, people here fear you, worship you, and suck up to you whenever possible. Nobody takes the time to regard you the way a friend does. I know you better than most here…hell, better than any of your husbands, I think. When you are around Andy, you glow. Your eyes follow her, never for long, but for long enough. You scan her outfits, but it doesn't end there. You use your eyes like fingers and you run them over her whenever you can get away with it. I would never have brought it up as it isn't my place, but since things have changed—a lot—and you're in more pain over losing her than Stephen…" He shrugged and patted my shoulder lightly. "No matter what you think about yourself, Miranda, you deserve to be happy. This idea you have that you're not good enough for any partner or spouse just isn't true. With someone like Andy, who cares about you right back I might add, it could happen."
"Who care about me right back? What the hell's that supposed to mean?" I reacted with anger, but not even that phased Nigel who pulled up another stool and sat down next to me. For anyone looking through the glass into his office we must look deep into a discussion regarding some enigmatic Runway issue.
"Just that. Andy cares. I wouldn't even presume to judge how much, but you're more than a boss or mentor. She never did approach being your assistance from the same angle as all the other girls who's worked for you. They arrived here knowing your entire resume by heart, ready to impress you and land their dream job. She arrived to New York to be a serious journalist and had to choose between this magazine and Auto Universe to make a living. That said, I think she was one of the best assistants you've had because she cared about helping you. She wasn't out to score points and suck up. Never. She was however ready to go to great length to make your life easier in any way she could."
"For example?" Weakly I leaned against the counter, my hands clasped.
"Do you know how many times she saved you from unexpected visits from Irv? Or how she juggled your schedule so you never missed going to your masseuse, the gym, your health checkups, the girls' recitals and other appointments? And yet you never missed anything important when it came to Runway."
It was true. I had noticed my life going smoother the last few months before Paris. I hadn't thought about it since you don't normally notice such things unless there's a screw up. She hadn't screwed up since that time when I missed the twins' piano recital.
"There are a multitude of little things she thought of and I daresay she did so because she cared about you on a personal level. Even Emily noticed and half resented her for it." Nigel smirked.
"Oh, for heaven's sake." I rubbed my forehead with my fingertips. "I do worry for Emily. I should hire a second assistant, but—" I stopped and swallowed. "I can't imagine looking at her desk and see a stranger's face. Some other girl who'll fetch my Starbucks and Calvin Kline skirts…"
"Then hire a young man. Enough young men out there are ready to kill for that job," Nigel deadpanned.
I started laughing, slightly hysterically, but it relieved some of the tension. "Oh, my. You might just be onto something. I'll have Emily call human resources with such specifications. A young man. That's a great idea." I stood. "Thank you, Nigel. Am I forgiven?" I said it lightly, but not flippantly.
"Yes. And you needn't ask. I've never felt more your friend and vice versa than I do right now—new job or not." Nigel tilted his head and adjusted my bangs. "There. Perfection."
"Silly man." I smiled and left his office. Feeling ten pounds lighter, I decided to call it quits for today. I'd go home. Call Andrea and set up a meeting as soon as possible. As I passed Emily, I stopped and looked at her pale face. Her stark makeup suited her, but it also emphasized the circles under her eyes that her concealer couldn't hide. "Call human resources. Have them pre-interview young men for Andrea's job. You do the final hiring."
Her mouth agape for a moment, Emily stared at me with huge eyes. "A young man. Right. I'll call the immediately." She was already reaching for the receiver."
"Thought you would," I said and smirked. Then I let my smile become real. "You've been a rock the last few weeks. There'll be a bonus this month, Emily."
Blushing profusely now, Emily blinked hard. "Thank you, Miranda," she whispered.
"I'm leaving for the day. Don't get up. I'll get my own coat. Until you have hired someone, or can stand without crutches, that's how it's going to be."
"Yes, Miranda." Her eyes soft now, Emily dialed human resources.
The girls were doing their homework in their mutual study and I closed the door behind me as I entered mine. Using my personal cellphone, which I normally just used for calling privately, I dialed Andrea. It rang three times and my nerves were getting to me, but then she answered.
"This is Andy."
"Miranda here." I spoke curtly because my mouth was dry and I'd forgotten my glass of Pellegrino in the kitchen.
She was quite for several moments, which made me wonder if we lost the connection. "Miranda. Hello. I'm glad you called."
"Yes. You left a message."
"I did. I mean, it's been three weeks and—" Her voice began to tremble and I realized she was just as nervous as I was, perhaps more. "I thought I could just move on and leave it at that, but as it turns out, that's not working so well for me."
"I see. The glowing review I sent the editor at the Mirror wasn't enough?" Now why did I have to go and sound pesky? I just couldn't help myself, obviously.
"The one where you stated I was your biggest disappointment? It helped land me the job, for which I'm grateful, but it brought me more questions than answers." Sounding surer now, Andrea continued. "If anything, it made me realize I must've missed something. Something crucial."
"I have no idea what you're talking about." I sat down in my favorite armchair and pulled my legs up.
"When I left, which wasn't at all my style, I mean, to do it that way. I was angry, I felt entitled to that anger, and it hurt. I pretended it felt good to toss the phone in the fountain—"
"Yeah, I know. Very dramatic. I stormed off, back to the hotel, packed my bags and took a cab to the airport where I maxed out my credit card to get a flight back to New York. Only when I got here, did I realize I fled. I didn't just leave. I escaped because of fear, anger, outrage, and pain." She sighed. "I left you when you needed an assistant the most and went against everything I've been taught and take pride in. It took me days of self-exploration to come to terms with my own actions."
"I see." I really didn't, but I wanted her to continue. "Why afraid, angry, outraged and pained?"
"I think we need to save this for a face-to-face meeting if you can imagine seeing me in person."
I wanted answers now. I didn't want to wait, but I knew I had to. This was too important to debate over the phone. Also, the girls could poke their heads in right when it was the least convenient as children tend to do.
"All right. How about a coffee shop close to your address?"
"Oh. Okay?" She sounded a bit taken aback. "There's a great place just on my corner. O'Grady's Grind?"
"I'll find it."
"How about after work tomorrow? Or is that too soon?"
Not soon enough. I smiled my crocodile grin. "Seven?
"All right. I'll be inside, getting a table. It's a popular place, but they have booths that provide some privacy."
"Good. See you tomorrow." I hesitated. "Good night, Andrea."
"Good night, Miranda."
The silence after our brief conversation was deafening somehow. Her voice had sounded so close, like she was here right next to me. It was as if I could've turned my head and find her almost cheek-to-cheek with me. This had happened on several occasions when she'd handed me papers and then pointed things out while standing behind my chair.
Sometimes her hair would fall forward and caress my cheek and she'd gasp, fearful of my reaction. I, of course, would not react at all, merely focusing on the work, even if her scent and the feeling of those silky tresses lingered for a long time.
I rose to fetch my Pellegrino. The Book arrived electronically while Emily was out of commission with her leg. A small part of me was ashamed for not having had her replace Andrea instantly, as I normally would've done. I wondered if anyone thought anything of my unusual reaction, but then decided to block such thoughts. I was nervous enough about seeing Andrea tomorrow as it was. Nigel's idea about taking Andrea to another location than the one she suggested now seemed uncalled for. Andrea had been very honest with me, I felt, over the phone. She wasn't going to put up a wall—or at least I didn't think so. I knew her fairly well in some regards, and the way she spoke to me tonight was honest and very personal. She clearly didn't see me as her fearful boss anymore. I wondered how she did see me. As someone she treated without professionalism toward the end and wanted to set that right? Or someone she finally could approach on a personal level? Or…someone she could actually care for, like Nigel insisted?
I hated not knowing. I detested these endless, fruitless speculations on my part. I would no doubt find out tomorrow. Deciding there and then I would meet her at the coffee shop and not ambush her, as I felt it was uncalled for; I sat down at my desk, booted my stationary computer and opened the digital version of the Book. I immediately could tell I had hours of work ahead of me. What else was new?
O'Grady's Grind was a rather charming establishment. Like a mix between an Irish pub and restaurant. Besides a multitude of hot beverages, they also offered pies, sandwiches, salads, donuts, and pastries. Andrea stood as I came in, having secured the corner booth which was indeed very private. If she hadn't stood up, I wouldn't have spotted her. Walking toward her, I kept my head high even if my knees trembled. Not used to this, I wasn't certain my stride was as confident as it normally was.
"Welcome to my neighborhood," Andrea said and helped me out of my coat. She never did that at Runway, as I normally tossed it at her like a missile together with my purse. Now she carefully hung my Burberry coat where I could keep an eye on it as it cost more than most people around here made in a few months.
"Thank you. This place is very…quaint."
"It sure is." She smiled gratefully to have a topic, I surmised. "You will enjoy their latte. I already ordered coffee for us to be made as soon as you stepped inside. I know you hate wasting time."
"Oh, don't concern yourself with my time, Andrea. I've made sure I have all the time I need tonight." It was pretty entertaining to see her stop and think about what that possibly could mean.
"Are you hungry? I can get anything of their pretty quick. My treat." She smiled and for some reason her eagerness to please made me swallow hard.
"A salad. Thank you."
"I'll let Mikey know." She rose and rounded the counter, clearly quite friendly with the staff.
Who was Mikey? The owner? The chef? Oh, God. Not her chef? Had they gotten back together after Paris? Had that whiny man-child weaseled his way back into her life?
"Coming right up," Andrea said and sat down across from me. "Mikey's salads are famous around here. They're like a full dinner."
"Thank you for coming, Miranda. I haven't been able to figure out what to say and how and I couldn't do it over the phone. I needed to see your face. I mean, I know your voice pretty well, but when you talk about something important it's so much better if—oh, God. I'm rambling. You hate people rambling."
I did. Oddly enough, I could've listened to her go on and on all evening and been quite content doing so. "You were going to tell me why you were filled with such overpowering emotions when you left in Paris."
Andrea winced. Had I been too direct? Perhaps she would withdraw emotionally after all?
"It's not easy to talk about. I need some guarantees before I do," she murmured and just as I was about to ask what she could possibly mean by this, the coffee arrived before us.
I sipped it cautiously and then moaned and closed my eyes, taking a bigger gulp. This wasn't just coffee. This was amazing coffee.
"I knew you'd like it," Andrea said and sipped hers.
"What guarantees?" I managed after drinking some more.
"That you won't laugh. Or ridicule me. Or be all disdainful or acerbic. If you can't do your best about that, there's no point in me spilling my guts."
The analogy was distasteful, but honest. "I promise." I hadn't felt less like laughing in my life. I was all knots inside and only the coffee mug kept my hands warm.
"All right. Good." Andrea looked surprised and relieved. "I resented you for stabbing Nigel in the back. He said you'd make it up to him, but he didn't look sure." She regarded me steadily. "Have you?"
Her mouth described a perfect 'o' and then stretched into a wide smile. "Miranda. That makes me so happy. He's been calling me and I've been unable to talk to him before I talked to you. I needed to see you first, but now…now I can finally call him. He's been wonderful to me."
"Yes. To me too," I confessed. I could tell this made her eyes focus closely at me, as if this statement peaked her interest.
"Then I was outraged at the scheming against you, and how you dealt with it. I mean, you were clever about it, but I guess I'm just not cut out for such high-level throat-cutting. I'm not stupid. I realize that the business level you're at is tough. Especially for a woman who has to battle the old boys club and so on. I just hated what it made you do. How feral and pleased you looked and not even a glance at Nigel."
"May I say something about that last part?" I asked quietly and traced the rim of my coffee mug.
"Sure." Andrea looked nervous but alert.
"I didn't look at your or Nigel, that's true. I couldn't. If I'd looked at either one of you, I doubt I could've kept the mask I slapped on earlier in the day. I had to play my part to save Runway from Follet and Thompson. If I hadn't been able to pull this off, the magazine would've been gone in a year, two at the most. Nigel told me today if Follet and Thompson had taken over the helm, he would've quit. We'd both be out of a job and no doubt you and Emily as well. I would've faired pretty well, even if it would've broken my heart, but the rest of you…not so much. So, I kept my gaze on the barracuda and I let everyone know who ran the show. Inside, I knew I just broke my friend's heart. And you…I could feel your contempt come at me in waves. Don't think I didn't know."
"And yet you seemed so pleased in the car. Compared me to you, even. I suppose you were right how I treated Emily, but it wasn't quite the same. You know that too."
"Yes. I do. I think I was trying to justify some aspects to myself to not crumble." I closed my eyes for a second. "When I exited the car, you were there one second, gone the next. I thought you were inside, or gotten lost among the paparazzi. You never showed up and I had to pretend everything was all right." I stared at her, as if nailing her in place with my eyes. "Nothing was."
"God, Miranda." Andrea paled. "I know. I felt the same way. On my way to the airport, it dawned on me I had left you with no assistance, in the upstart of your divorce, and alone with the man you just betrayed. That's what pained me more than anything. I'd become so protective of you and here I left you to fend for yourself. I took pride in being your shield, and—" She shrugged and sipped her coffee. "And I failed you. I saved some of my sanity, but I failed you and thus broke my own heart."
I could hardly believe my ears. I knew she was the honest type and had no reason to doubt her words. Broken her heart? In what respect?
Our salads arrived, carried by a tall, sinewy woman in her late thirties.
"These look great, Mikey. Thanks. This is my, uhm, friend. Miranda. Miranda, this is Mikey. She's the manager of O'Grady's Grind." Andrea looked relieved for the break. I was less pleased, but also delighted that Mikey was a woman. Then I realized Mikey was a very handsome, decidedly butch woman who looked at Andrea with far too much heat in her green eyes.
"Nice to meet you," I said through clenched teeth.
"Likewise, Miranda," Mikey said politely. Perhaps I had misread how she looked at Andrea? "Let me know if you need anything. Anything at all, Andy." Mikey flashed Andrea a broad smile. No. I hadn't exaggerated my interpretation of her glances.
"She seems…attentive," I said and speared a mushroom as if it wasn't merely an inanimate vegetable.
"Yeah, she's always really nice to me." Andy smiled and began eating. "Oh, this dressing is what really sets it apart from any other salad." She moaned around the bite she just took, which made me cross my legs. As for Mikey's glances, I didn't think Andrea caught on just how nice this cook wanted to be toward her.
"Speaking of cooks. How's your boyfriend?" I asked darkly.
"My…Nate?" Andrea stopped with her fork halfway to her lips. "He's in Boston. We broke up more than a month ago."
"No sign of him having second thoughts?" That crazy young man didn't deserve her.
"No such signs. We're done." She looked down at her plate. "It's been hard. Not just the breakup, but the fact that my friend Lily and my parents joined forces in blaming me for everything. Only Doug keeps an open mind. He's pretty aware of what it was like for Nate and me the last month we were together."
"I overheard you talking to him on several occasions," I said. "I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but it was clear to me your situation mimicked my own in a strange way, if on a whole different level. Same principle though."
"I suppose. There were times when I wanted to clone myself. Be in two places at one time. The last month before Paris, I stopped thinking that. I just wanted—" Andrea stopped and her eyes filled with tears.
"Please. Tell me." I wasn't thinking clearly now, because I reached for her hand. "Andrea. Tell me what you wanted."
"I didn't want to clone myself. I only wanted to be where you were." She whispered that last part and put down her fork. She looked down at our joined hands. "Why did you agree to meet with me, Miranda?" she asked hoarsely.
"Because I stopped wanting to clone myself about six weeks ago. At least when Stephen was concerned. I still hated being away from my girls so much, but all I wanted was Runway…and you." There, I'd said it. I'd lowered my guard and bared my jugular for her to slice it with one quick word. I knew I must look like the proverbial deer-in-the-headlight, but it was too late to take back the words now.
"Then I didn't imagine it." Andrea whispered the words as if speaking them aloud would be too presumptuous or something.
"No. Neither did I?"
"No." She finally looked up. Her chocolate-and-brandy eyes glittered with residual tears, but also shone with something else. Hope? Joy? Relief? "Thank you for telling me."
"Now, that sounds like the prelude to goodbye." I frowned.
"I have no expectations. I just needed to know I wasn't alone and not crazy for hurting so, for missing you so, for…for this." She waved her free hand back and forth between us. "You know." Only then did I realize I was clinging to her hand.
"I do have expectations," I said firmly. After all, I was Miranda Priestly and staying true to myself I went after what I wanted, no matter if it was ill advised or not. "Now that you've told me you…care, and I've done the same, I refuse to just let you go again."
"Technically you didn't let me go. And you really haven't admitted to anything. Technically." Andrea tilted her head.
"I can't let you go, no matter if I did before or not. There's too much at stake for me to just turn my back on all…all these…" I stuttered and flicked my free hand impatiently. "All these damn emotions!" I hissed the last words with contempt, but her smile grew exponentially.
"Want the god's honest truth, Miranda," she said and leaned her head in her hand. "Here, at O'Grady's Grind, among the starving artist, blue collar workers?"
"Yes." I wasn't quite sure.
"I'm heads over heels in love with you, Miranda." She beamed and trembled at the same time.
I stared. Glowered even, I'm sure. And no matter what, whatever she saw on my face, in my eyes, she looked calmer, more at ease and turned her hand beneath mine, placing her palm against mine. I couldn't help it. I fought it, I really did. Then I let go of all the fears and trepidations and smiled.
"Andrea Sachs, how is it I know for a fact you'll drive me crazy for days to come?" I laced my fingers with hers.
"Because I'm good at that." The tip of her tongue ran quickly along her lower lip. Those lush, full lips, so ready, so ripe. "Because when you look at me like that, I know exactly what you feel."
"You do, huh?" I squeezed her hand.
"You, Miranda Priestly, love me." There was no triumph, as there was no war, no victory. Just a statement of facts in the most beautiful, caring way. "I've never been happier."
I looked and looked at her. Ate her up with my eyes and knew she was right. "Neither," I said, "have I."