"Miranda. We are going out tonight."
Miranda leaned back in her chair and shot her most intimidating glare at her long-time friend.
"I'm not going anywhere."
Nigel sat on the corner of the desk and boldly closed the Book, Miranda was working on. Ignoring the deadly expression on the editor's face he repeated calmly.
"You and I going out tonight."
"I have work to do. I'm not in the mood. I hate you. Choose one or all as my reason to decline your offer and leave me alone." She returned to the Book, hoping Nigel would take the obvious hint and disappear. But he didn't budge. After ten minutes Miranda had had enough.
"Are you going to sit there and keep staring at me?" she growled, without looking up. "I'm sure you can spend your Friday night more fruitfully than that."
"All right." answered Nigel "You asked for this. FIN."
"No, no. You can't play the FIN card."
"Yes, I can and I will. It's not against the rules."
"It's not but…"
"No ifs ands or buts Miranda. One year. I've spent the last twelve months being your companion in your crazy journey. I didn't ask any questions. You told me to jump and I did. Literally. Not once but three times. Volcano bungee jumping in Chile. Base jump in Venezuela. Zip lining in Puerto Rico. Did I ask for an explanation? No. Also, I didn't ask about the Mexican wrestling, the robot fighting show, swimming with sharks in a cage. I sat with you in the Ellen Show's audience for hours. I made a snow angel. Naked. Did I ask why? I didn't. And you didn't have to play the Friend In Need card, because I would have done those things for you regardless."
Although he didn't raise his voice or sounded overly agitated, Miranda knew him well enough to understand his state of mind. He was upset. And he was right. He's been such a good friend, followed Miranda's lead obediently, without batting an eye. Yes, they had been going through the list. However he knew nothing about it. Nor anyone else. Doing the list was what kept Miranda sane these past months. The journal was her sanctuary, her last connection to Andrea. Dropping her glasses on the table she rubbed her forehead. Nigel deserved better. She considered going out with him as a small favor, hardly enough to repay her debt, it was a good start though.
"All right." She said "When and where? I'll give you the same courtesy and won't ask why."
She didn't have to ask. Nigel was more than eager to share.
"I met someone. And" he added quickly "it's not what you think. Or maybe it is. I don't know. I like him. I really do and not in the, I just want to get in to his boxers kind of way."
"Oh, that's new." She teased him "I'm happy for you Nigel."
"Yeah, there is one little issue though. I'm not sure he is interested. Hell, he might not even be gay. Also he is your greatest fan, so be prepared."
"Nigel." groaned Miranda. "Please tell me that this is not going to turn into another Gerard situation."
Nigel threw his arms into the air and cried out dramatically.
"One mistake. One little mistake and you never let me hear the end of it."
"I wouldn't call it little. It was quite impressive if I remember correctly. "
"Absolutely true. For a tiny person he was really well… developed. Such a waste." He sighed. "I promise you Miranda that Doug won't show up at your house wearing a kilt."
"It wasn't a kilt Nigel. It was a Versace skirt from the Closet and it wasn't his size, and that's putting it nicely. Poor Carina was in shock for days after his visit. I almost lost my housekeeper, thanks to precious Gerard."
Nigel had never been too lucky with men. Although his relationships were always short term and, almost all ended in disaster, he never gave up. He was looking for the happily ever after and five years ago it seemed that he had found it. Gerard was handsome, charming, sophisticated and apparently a cross dresser who only used Nigel to get close to his obsession Miranda Priestly.
"Doug is nothing like him. He appreciates your fashion icon status, however his admiration is based on your charity work."
"I don't follow you, Nigel. My "charity work" is not a public knowledge. How would he know about it?"
"He is an accountant at Anja's Cerulean Scarf Foundation."
Miranda inhaled sharply, her naturally pale skin turned even whiter. Coping with the foundation didn't provide the same comfort as the bucket list did. Quite the opposite. Albeit, she sent a donation regularly, she stayed away, never associating with it directly. Spending time with someone who worked for the foundation seemed like an impossible task to fulfill.
"Nigel. On a second thought…" Nigel didn't let her finish.
"I'll pick you up at seven." He slid off the desk and rushed out before Miranda could cancel their evening.
"Wonderful." murmured Miranda. She gathered the Book and called out for her first assistant. "Emily. Coat. Bag."
Nigel was ten minutes early, whilst Miranda was running late. She'd been never late before, so it was no wonder that Nigel eyed her warily, as she approached the car at half past seven. Miranda shocked him even more by muttering a half-hearted apology. Miranda Priestly never apologized. Ever.
"Everything all right?" he signaled the driver and the town car eased into the heavy evening traffic. Pulling up the privacy window, he asked again.
"Miranda? Is everything all right?"
Miranda nodded, forcing a smile. She had decided earlier, that it was time to talk to Nigel, about the bucket list, about Andrea and about how Miranda lost her heart to someone who might only have been an illusion. She clutched her bag, where Andrea's journal was hiding and hoped that her oldest and dearest friend wouldn't turn his back after hearing her crazy story.
"I believe we have a marvelous evening to look forward to, Miranda."
"Do we? You never revealed our destination."
"You'll be pleased, don't worry. Your favorite restaurant is hosting a private event. Very low key, no press, you can sit back and enjoy a quiet evening."
Nigel's words slowly reached her brain and generated an alarming realization. Her favorite restaurant. Where she first met Andrea. Where she hasn't visited since then. This was not going to work.
"Nigel, I don't think…" but it was too late. They had arrived and Nigel quickly got out of the car. She was led to the restaurant, and seated with Nigel grinning like an idiot when a young man approached them.
"I said." repeated Nigel "This is Doug."
Doug was cute and Miranda concluded that Nigel was indeed an idiot if he thought the man wasn't interested. He obviously was, if his hungry, admiring look was any indication.
"Doug?" Miranda raised an eyebrow.
"Well it's Douglas." Answered Nigel, catching the meaning of the question.
"Ms. Priestly. It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Douglas. Call me Miranda." Miranda leaned in and kissed his cheek. Doug almost fainted and joined Nigel in the, who can grin more idiotically contest.
"We are so honored, that you are here."
"This," he motioned around "is my friend's special project. Tonight she is showing vignettes from her new record. All the money from the sales will go to Anja's Cerulean Scarf Foundation. We all know how the foundation was born, thus we are grateful for your presence. Excuse me now, duty calls."
He hurried to the temporary stage in the middle of the dining area and grabbed the microphone.
"Ladies and Gentleman. Dear friends. Tonight we remember. Remember those who fought but couldn't win. Remember our loved ones who we lost. Tonight we celebrate. Celebrate their courage. Celebrate their life. And celebrate those who survived and are still here with us." Doug paused and waited until the applause that followed his speech lulled.
"Tonight, our friend who herself fought her own battles and won not once but twice, will take us through an incredible journey with her music."
Nigel turned to Miranda and whispered behind his hand.
"His friend is a spectacular young woman. In the past one and half years she has been in coma twice. Somehow, no one really understands, she recovered miraculously."
"Ladies and Gentlemen. Andy Sachs."
Miranda's sharp cry was swallowed by the loud applause that greeted the young woman, stepping to the small podium. Miranda closed her eyes. No. This wasn't possible. Andrea was dead. DEAD. Opening her eyes she looked at the woman. There was no mistake. Her hair was longer, her skin complexion improved greatly, the ghostly white color was gone. She looked healthy. She looked alive. She was indeed alive.
"Thank you." Andy smiled sweetly and waved at the audience. "Thank you, Doug." Doug quickly hugged her and retreated. Andy sat at the piano and pulled the attached mic closer.
"Don't worry guys. I'm not going to sing." There were some giggles and someone clapped. Andy laughed.
"Come on. You're not supposed to be that happy about it." She winked and her responsive listeners laughed again.
"All right guys. First of all, thank you for coming tonight. Anja's Cerulean Scarf Foundation is close to my heart. They work hard and make a great impact in our community. They need all the help they can get, and that's why the earnings from my new record, The Woman of Every Season, will go exclusively to them. Enjoy."
Frozen in place, Miranda couldn't take her eyes off Andy. The music was magical. Their first kiss. Their ride in the park. The sunset in the shore. Everything they went through together was there in those tunes. The melody of their story, every unspoken word. The love they never expressed. It was overwhelming. Painful. Devastating. Yet Miranda wished the moment would never pass.
Miranda felt the first unmistakable signs of the disaster that was coming. Out of nowhere her heartbeat sped up and a sudden chill run through her body. Hot flushes. Panic attack. Did it matter? Both started the same way and there was not much difference in what followed either. She stood swiftly, excused herself and hurried toward the bathroom. Behind her the music came to an end and there was clapping and cheering. Someone whistled. An appreciative audience, no doubt.
She dropped her bag and leaned against the marble sink. Despite her condition she didn't miss the irony of the situation. The same bathroom, the same misery. Closing her eyes she inhaled deeply. Suddenly, a cold, wet cloth was placed on her neck and someone gently squeezed her arm.
"Breathe slowly. You'll feel better soon."
Andrea, Miranda's eyes popped open and she spun around. The fast movement made her lose balance and she reached out to steady herself. Fragile fingers held on to her and she stilled, trying to gain back her stability.
"Hey. It's all right. Just breathe slowly." The young woman frowned. "Umm…. "She let out a nervous laugh "Have we done this before? I just had one of those weird sensations…you know, déjà vu?"
Not trusting her voice, Miranda shook her head in denial. She had to get out of there. Reaching behind, she took hold of her bag and shaking Andy's hand off she stepped forward. Andy moved at the same time, and they collided. It wasn't the Hallmark type meeting in the middle. It was more like a clumsy bumping into each other from a B movie comedy. Jumping backwards Andy stumbled and not so gracefully landed on her ass with a muffled thump. The bag slipped through Miranda's fingers and fell in Andy's lap, littering her with it contents.
"And again," muttered Andy, "have we done this before?" She lifted the bag and her eyes widened. She looked up at Miranda, then looked back to her lap. The pink journal. Her journal. Her life. Memories. Miranda.
"Oh my God." She whispered "How?"
Miranda sighed and flopped down, next to Andy.
"I don't know. You tell me."
Andy shook her head. She caressed the journal with trembling fingers.
"I remember you. I remember everything. But that's not possible."
"No, it's not. Yet here we are."
They were sitting there quietly, because sometimes you don't need words to express how you feel. Sometimes all you need is someone you can sit with. It could be a friend or a stranger you just met. Or a stranger who wasn't really a stranger and you loved her anyway.
There was a loud knock on the door and someone called out.
"Miranda? Andy? Is everything alright?"
"We have to go."
"Yes. We do." Yet neither moved.
"Where do we go from here?"
Miranda took the journal from Andy and opened it.
"How about we go on with your list? Starting with # 180?"
Andy glanced at the page and grinned.
"I'm game. Let's go."
Gathering their belongings they stood and holding hands they walked out of the bathroom. They were immediately stopped by Nigel and Doug who were waiting for them anxiously.
"Miranda?" asked Nigel. "What's happening?"
Miranda shoved the open journal at his chest and declared happily.
"#180. That's what happening."
Doug's eyes followed the giggling couple until they were out of the door, then poked Nigel, who just stood there with his mouth open.
"Let me see."
Nigel held up the journal.
# 180: Living Happily Ever After