A/N - I have tried posting this story here for a while now and hope to get it right now. Before, I only got HTML code in some chapters and it drove me crazy, trying in vain to fix it. So fingers crossed This story is also available at AO3. Thanks for your patience!
Stepping through the outer part of my office, I see Emily placing the last magazines and newspapers on my desk. Next to them, A glass of Pellegrino is ready for me, as is my Starbucks no-skimmed latte. I already know I will be less than cordial if it isn't hot enough.
"Good morning, Miranda," the new girl says but I refuse to look at her and mainly toss her my Vera Wang coat and Chanel bag across her desk. I think I hear a gasp, but I don't even bother to check. This new girl, the new Emily, is not her, so why would I care.
"Good morning, Miranda," Emily, who is actually named Emily and not just one that I cannot be bothered learning their names before I know they won't be fired, says, rounding her desk. "I left your messages on your desk." She busies herself at the shelf behind her desk, which is odd. Emily has calmed down a lot the last year and usually greets me with a smile and makes eye contact.
Am I imagining it, or is she acting too casual? I give that two seconds worth of thought, but hurry past her. It's as if I can't get into my office, in behind my desk, and flip open the large screen of my laptop and hide behind it. If it wasn't that so much rides on this issue of Runway, I may have contemplated calling in sick. But I'm fucking Miranda Priestly and I don't call in sick. Ever.
I pick up the messages and start flipping through them. Authors, photographers, designers, models, and more photographers, and yes, editors…they all need me desperately to return their call. I put the messages from Patrick Demarchelier, Anne Leibowitz, and Dimitri, the new Russian designer I'm cultivating, to the side—and freeze as I read the last one.
Andrea Sachs. I slump back in my chair. So, this explains Emily resorting to her former nervous approach.
It's been a year since I saw Andrea last. My former second assistant who left me, not Runway, me, in during Paris Fashion Show. I read the message. Of course, she wants an interview. Naturally her editor knows of her short stint at Runway and thinks sending Andrea will be a clever move.
My first reaction is to decline, or simply not answer, but I reel myself in. If I do that latter, Andrea will just hound me, like the tenacious reporter she's become. Normally, she writes about social injustices, political scandals, and, occasionally, environmental issues. I cannot fathom why she intends to do a fashion piece. Or perhaps it is about me? One thing I know, is that she doesn't ever do gossip. She was quite adamant in her protection of me when she worked at Runway, and of my girls.
I hate how my heart mellows at the thought of how Andrea took to my children, and they to her. It wasn't the Harry Potter incident, when Andrea managed to, against all odds, score an unpublished manuscript of the last Harry Potter novel. The girls never really knew who was behind that. No, it was the way she was with them when she was sent to pick them up from Daltons, or take them to piano lessons, or go with them for their fittings of new school uniforms. I would come home to "Andy did…Andy said…Andy thought…" each time, which I initially found utterly exasperating, but after a month, I began to really listen.
"Andy says she's learning so much working for you, Mom. Isn't that awesome?" Caroline once said, brimming with pride, and if it was for Andrea or me, I couldn't tell at first.
"That's nice, Bobbsey," I replied, no doubt sounding a bit too bored.
"No, it's true, Mom." Caroline grabbed my arm where she sat next to me in the town car. "She says she had no idea at first what it takes to create what you do. I think I didn't either, but when Andy listed everything that you need to approve or create to make just one single issue of Runway, I was pretty stoked. I mean, you're my mom and you do all that, all the time." Caroline beamed up at me and I had to swallow hard at her adoring expression.
"Not to mention when Andy explained why you're called the Dragon Lady," Cassidy chimed in.
I grew rigid. "And what, pray tell, did Andrea say about that?" This ought to be interesting, but it could also get Andrea fired.
"She had a cool take on it. That it could be said, and meant, in different ways." Cassidy turned on the seat and tilted her head. "One person could mean it as an insult, which she thinks has mostly to do with envy. That person can't do what you do, or at least, not as well. Then there's fear. You are pretty tough, Mom, and some, especially some men, Andy said, can't take that, so they try to be scornful." She stopped talking and unwrapped a Xylitol gum in her mouth. She chewed it until it was malleable enough and then continued. "And then it can be said as a compliment."
"Compliment?" I flinched.
"Yeah! I mean, yes! She says there is nothing wrong with dragons. As a mythical creature, it has been misrepresented many times. That's what she thinks anyways. A dragon is someone forceful. If treated right and respected, just imagine what it can do, Andy said. It can be a powerful ally, a protector, and-and this is the best part—Andy says even dragons need love."
That was when I lost my breath and could only nod.
I get breathless right now, just thinking about it. Andrea kept doing things like that, many times, with my daughters and they adored her for it.
Before I chicken out, I am the Dragon Lady after all, I pick up the phone and dial the number Andrea has given myself. I certainly won't let Emily or Emily take care of this.
"The Daily Mirror, Andy Sachs." Her voice. How the hell could I be such a fool and not realize what it would do to my entire system to suddenly have her voice in my ear. Thankfully, decades of media training and self-control kicks in.
"This is Miranda Priestly returning your call." I know I sound my soft-spoken, indifferent self, but my heart is thundering in my chest. My hands are unsteady, and I pinch my thigh to get a grip of myself.
"M-Miranda." Clearly, Andrea wasn't expecting me to get back to her in person. Good. I'm not the only one out of sorts right now.
"You called my office," I say dryly.
"Yes, I did." I hear the noise of paper being shuffled, a faint curse, and then she was back. "Sorry. Dropped my pen. Now, as I mentioned, we're interested in doing an interview with you regarding the new and fresh approach Runway has taken to positive body image for women of all ages."
Of course. I should have known. My newest baby, which propelled sales way off the charts, is what has attracted the Mirror's—and Andrea's—interest. "I see. Am I to understand that you'll be doing the interview, if I agree?"
"Yes. Just me and my photographer." Andrea sounds a little too cheery. Clearly nerves on the other end as well. Excellent.
The idea of a strange, sub-par photographer does make me recoil though. "No photographer, if I do this." Oh, who am I fooling? The mere idea of having Andrea in my life, even for a couple of hours, is pulling me in like a be to a honeypot.
"But we'll need a fresh photo that isn't just one from your promotional stack." Andrea sounds more assertive, which is a nice sign that the young woman has grown.
"Then I'll ask one of my photographers to take an exclusive one. A headshot?"
"Does that mean you'll do it?" Andrea's smile is evident in her voice.
"Amazing. Yes, a headshot will be fine, but do ask them to do several so I have some to choose from. And if you will give us some photos from the shoots in questions, they will be paid for and credited to Runways, of course, that'd be great." Andrea was in one of her intensive modes right now.
"Something else?" I ask dryly.
"Um. No. Well, when and where, of course. For the interview itself." Andrea clears her throat.
I check my calendar. "Working lunch on Wednesday. The townhouse." I wait for her protest. It doesn't come.
"T-townhouse? Your townhouse?" It's Andrea's turn to lose her breath. I'm delighted. Any reaction than pure professionalism is rewarding. I can't—or won't—explain why that is to myself. It's just the way it is.
"Any other townhouse you can think of?" I say, unable to keep from teasing her as I can hear how fast the wheels turn in her head.
"No, no. Townhouse is great. Good for privacy. I mean, for the interview." Andrea coughs and then I hear her drink something. "Noon?"
"Noon." I consider saying goodbye, but instead I hang up, which is my habit. "Emily!"
The real Emily comes through the door, looking hesitant. The oddest thing is that I can understand why she is. Even she, who at the time hated Andrea, because she sensed how I came to value on her subordinate, missed Andrea when she simply vanished.
"Yes, Miranda," Emily says, raising her chin. Good. Not a doormat anymore.
"Pencil in a working lunch for me on Wednesday. Remove anything between noon and three pm."
"Yes, Miranda." She waits, and I can see how she's dying to know what I've decided and why. I'm not in a habit of explaining anything to anyone, but I can at least be civil to the one who didn't abandon me, but hopped on crutches for six weeks, to keep my office, and thus Runway, afloat.
"I'm giving an interview regarding our affirming body image pieces." I don't mention Andrea. I don't have to. Emily knows who the journalist is, and I don't want her to detect anything from my tone of voice.
"It is a very popular series and step forward for Runway," Emily says, her smile genuine now. She's back to her more-at-ease-less-stressed-out mode, which benefits all of us.
"Tell Nigel I want to talk to him. Now." I return my focus to my other messages. Even the ones I normally cater to immediately will have to wait. I'm going to see Andrea on Wednesday and thus I need to talk to Nigel. If anyone can help me—he can.