"Andrea." Miranda Priestly's voice, soft yet so lethal just by uttering my name from inside her ultra-modern office, sends the now so familiar shudders through my entire system. I grab my notebook and circle my desk so fast I nearly slide over to Emily's. My colleague, Miranda's first assistant, sneers at me, but there is little emphasis behind it as Emily and I got on better this days. I think all the clothes I brought back from Paris fashion week eight weeks ago when she was in hospital with a broken leg, helped to smooth the waters between us.
"There you are. What can possibly take you so long?" Miranda glances up at me over her reading glasses and that look; I swear sometimes I suspect she knows what it does to me. If she knows, does it give her a power kick to see me all flustered and trembling? I tell myself I'm being paranoid. Miranda couldn't care less about her second assistant's response to her. The woman behind the glass desk is all about her work, keeping Runway the best magazine worldwide.
"I'm sorry, Miranda," I murmur and take a seat across from her, ready with my notepad. I grip my pen hard to avoid the telltale tremors.
"We're going on a road trip." Miranda removes her glasses and taps the frame against her lips. "Arrange for a minivan. Seven seats. As much as I loathe such transportation, we need to cut costs. Are you a good driver? Safe?"
I blink. "Uhm. Yes, I think so. I haven't driven much since I moved here—"
"Good. You, Serena and I will take turns."
We were going to be gone that long? I gathered my courage. "How long will we be gone?"
"Two weeks. Why? Do you have somewhere better to be?" Snapping her gaze back to me, Miranda frowns. She places her glasses on her desk and laces her fingers loosely. Though her pose is relaxed, she still manages to look like she might pounce at any given moment.
"Not at all. Just trying to figure out the details as we're getting into the holiday season."
"Well. The team will be the usual. You, Emily, Nigel, Serena and me."
"That's five," I point out and regret it immediately. "Uhm, why can't Roy drive us?"
"I do know how to count, Andrea." Her tone icy now, Miranda raps her fingernails on the desk. "I want two seats available for resting and for an in-car office area. We're going to hit six cities along the Eastern Seaboard. Smaller cities that normally isn't included when we travel. Local designers are arranging shows for us to attend. I'm hoping for new energy and inspiration as Paris disappointed me in so many ways." This time I know her glance is deliberate. Skewering me, she doesn't have to put into words how I failed her in Paris. I came close to leaving her high and dry and only the fact I missed the fountain by an inch when I tossed my phone away, saved my job—and possibly my heart from breaking.
I take rest of the notes without any more foolish questions. Shutting up and doing my job just like she told me in Paris when I happened to walk in on her as she was in tears, vulnerable about the divorce papers her idiot husband had overnighted her. As I stand up to leave, Miranda startles me by getting up just as quickly.
"I hope you realize this is your last and only chance, Andrea," she said quietly.
I'm so taken aback, I can barely think of what she can mean by that. "Miranda?" I'm afraid to ask, hoping she doesn't think I'm contradicting her.
"You nearly walked out on me in Paris when I needed you the most. Granted you have not done anything to warrant criticism since we got back, but your poor judgement in Paris is unsettling. I want your word you won't pull another stunt like that again." She pressed her lips together and for a breathless moment I think I see shininess in her eyes as if tears formed for a millisecond. I know that's and insane idea and when I look again, she gazes at me with the same steely expressions as before.
I have to choose my words carefully. Thinking fast, I speak with as much certainty as I can. "I have already apologized, more than once, for my reaction in Paris, Miranda. I've also promised to not leave my job without proper notice." I could have added that her own actions in Paris by far out-stunt mine, but I'm no fool. I keep quiet about how she blindsided Nigel by taking his dream away from him without warning and I don't mention how she slammed the door in my face when I was trying to warn her—even if she already knew everything that was going on. I'm not going to get into a childish bickering about who did what to whom.
When I stop talking and take a closer look at Miranda, I flinch. There it is again, the dampness and widening of her eyes. What did I say wrong now?
"You're thinking of giving notice?" Miranda's voice is low and raspy and very far from its usual smoothness.
"What? Now? No!" Shocked at how she homed in on that part, I try to wrap my brain around why she looks so stricken. "I have no plans to quit. At all." The idea of giving notice, of never seeing her again, except on Page Six on the arm of the newest eligible bachelor once her divorce is over, makes it painful to even breathe.
"Then why would you say such a thing?" Miranda sits down slowly. "Honestly, Andrea."
I hurry to my desk and fling myself down on my chair. I gaze down at the leg space under my desk and wonder if I'll fit. Probably not. Set on distracting myself from all the question marks my conversation with Miranda left behind, I get started on my to-do list. We're going on a road trip with Miranda Priestly. Emily is going to freak out and stop eating, Serena will take it in stride, but I might have to blackmail Nigel to come along as he is still licking his wound and barely able to remain civil around her. I sigh and lift the receiver. When Nigel's "Not only no, but hell no!" dies out from having rung in my ear, I feel kind of proud that I managed to persuade him to come along.
Across the outer office, I hear Emily mutter to herself. "Oh-my-god-oh-my-god, what-do-I-wear? Bollocks! I-love-my-job, I-love-my-job, I-love-my-job."
I huff and keep working. That redhead Brit's got it easy. She loves her job more than anything and overcompensates at any given opportunity.
I however am in much bigger trouble than Emily ever could be. She loves her job, but I—God help me—I love Miranda Priestly.
TBC in part 2