Disclaimer: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters do not belong to me. I am making no profit from this story.
Author's Note: Thanks to my mother and my fiancée for being my best critics; their feedback was invaluable.
Miranda Priestly swept into her office very early Monday morning, so early that the halls of Runway were empty. She did this sometimes, coming into work before dawn when she couldn't sleep and the townhouse felt confining.
She put her coat and bag away and seated herself at her desk. Rather than booting up her computer, she turned her chair so that she could look out the window at the lights of New York City. She loved this view, often found both inspiration and consolation in it, but this morning she was not really seeing it. Instead, her thoughts drifted to La Ville-Lumière, The City of Light, and the events of Paris Fashion Week.
Miranda had been deeply shaken by those events. So deeply shaken, in fact, that she had resolved to make some changes upon her return to New York. And she had begun—gradually and subtly—to implement those changes. She relinquished some control and delegated more to those on her staff who had proved themselves capable and creative, which allowed her to spend more time with her twin girls. Though she was still demanding, exacting, and critical, wielding her infamous sharp tongue to eviscerate the incompetent, it was not unheard of for her to offer a word of praise for a job exceptionally well done.
Her first assistant, Andréa Sachs, consistently did her job exceptionally well. She had demonstrated compassion and loyalty to Miranda even though Miranda deserved neither. It made Miranda physically ill to think of how close she had come to driving away the young woman. The girl had said nothing to indicate that she was mere moments from quitting there and then, but Miranda had seen the look in her eyes, the shock and dismay and disgust on her face, the tension in the set of her shoulders. Everything about Andréa had communicated her readiness to flee.
Thank God she hadn't.
In the ensuing months, Andréa had become absolutely indispensable to the editor as Miranda navigated an ugly divorce, broke in a new art director, and moved to oust Irv Ravitz as CEO of Elias-Clarke—and it had little to do with the fact that Emily Charlton, Miranda's then-senior assistant, had been on crutches for six weeks and thus limited in what duties she could perform.
And while it did have a great deal to do with the young woman's ability to anticipate Miranda's needs and to find solutions to problems, Miranda had to admit that it also had to do with Andréa's warmth and kindness and steady presence, which were much more in evidence now that Miranda was less of a bitch in the office. Having the girl near her helped her stay focused and calm.
She was also, Miranda admitted to herself, a pleasure to look at, especially when she smiled.
But, Miranda realized with a frown, lately Andréa's smile had been appearing less frequently and the light seemed to have gone out of her brown eyes. She was still as efficient and professional and reliable as ever—and not all that long ago that's all Miranda would have cared about—but the new and improved Miranda was worried.
Miranda had heard that Andréa and her boyfriend had broken up just after Paris Fashion Week. Perhaps her assistant was experiencing some sort of delayed depressive episode related to that. Or was something else going on? It pained the editor to think how little she knew of Andréa's life, how little she knew of her thoughts, perceptions, and opinions.
She was brought out of her reverie by the pinging of the elevator. She looked at her watch. Hmm. Still another hour before any of her staff would normally arrive. She turned her chair back toward her desk and looked toward the door. Who else had felt compelled to arrive extra early today?
The dim light in her outer office illuminated the figure of Andréa Sachs. Miranda stifled a gasp. Her assistant looked terrible. She was dressed in a pair of baggy sweatpants, a t-shirt, and sneakers. Her beautiful face, which was without a trace of makeup, was ashen. Her right arm was in a cast—and in a sling that held the arm in external rotation, an indication that Andréa had also sustained a shoulder injury.
Dear God, what had happened to the girl?
Miranda stood and walked quickly to the door, her footsteps muffled by the carpet.
"Andréa," she called softly, hoping not to startle her too badly.
Andy jumped as adrenalin coursed through her, causing her heart to pound. Oh, no. "Miranda," she breathed in horror. Her boss wasn't supposed to be here yet. No, she was not due in for at least another hour, which would have given Andy time to type (one-handedly) a formal letter of resignation. More importantly, it would have given Andy time to gird her loins emotionally so that maybe, just maybe, she could leave Runway—leave Miranda—with a modicum of dignity.
She watched as icy blue eyes raked over her, saw with a sinking heart the pursing of lips. Andy dropped her gaze to the floor in despair.
Miranda studied the young woman closely. Andréa, she observed, was barely holding it together, though she was making a valiant attempt. She was trembling, her jaw was set, and her left hand was now clenched into a tight fist. She looked exhausted, as if she might collapse at any moment, and there was a tightness to her mouth and around her eyes that indicated she was in considerable pain.
The editor was struck by a fierce desire to take her into her arms. She was not so much stunned by the impulse itself as by the strength of it. She managed to restrain herself—of course she did—and instead asked gently, "How did you sustain your injuries?"
Andy's eyes flew up in surprise. Though her boss had become less draconian since Paris, Miranda was still notorious for being uninterested in explanations and part of Andy still expected that the editor's sole concern would be that she was down one assistant.
Andy gave a self-deprecating shrug with her good shoulder. "I fell down some stairs. Clumsy of me."
Is that what really happened? Miranda wondered, not convinced that was the whole story. Because if someone—that scruffy cook, for instance—raised a hand to this girl, I will make sure that he spends his life in prison as someone's bitch.
"Obviously"—Andy gestured weakly with her left hand to her dominant right arm—"I am not able to fulfill my duties as your assistant." Ruthlessly suppressing her tears and praying that her voice would not crack, she said, "So I am tendering my resignation, effective immediately."
Andréa leave? No! Not like this. Unacceptable.
"Andréa, I do not accept your resignation."
Andy gaped and stuttered, "B-but—"
Miranda held up an elegant hand. "For how long do you anticipate you will be incapacitated?"
"The broken wrist should take about four weeks to heal, but the shoulder—I dislocated it—will require physical therapy. I've been told I'll be in a sling for a minimum of four weeks and that it could take up to six months to return to full fitness." Andy tried to keep the details to a minimum. "Though it won't take six months to get to the point that I can take notes or dress myself appropriately enough to be here, it will still be weeks—"
"When you have recovered enough to function without significant pain, you will return to work—I don't care what you wear—to train and supervise your replacement. At that point, we will discuss your professional future." As much as the editor hated the thought of losing the best assistant she had ever had, she knew that even if Andréa had not been injured, it was about time for the young woman to move on anyway. "In the meantime, you are entitled to medical leave and you will use it. Starting now. Roy will drive you home. That's all."
Andy couldn't stop the tears of gratitude and relief from falling. "Miranda," she choked out, "thank you."
Miranda allowed a small smile of acknowledgment to play on her lips. "Go," she said sternly, but her blue eyes were soft.