Chapter 19

Roy delivered Miranda to the practice field just as the vans with the team arrived on site. Andy was already there and to Miranda's delight, handed her a fresh latte as she sat down on the bench next to the beautiful young woman. Knowing that there was probably a great deal that Miranda would need to process about the meeting from which she'd just come, Andy didn't push for details. She merely sat next to her in companionable silence until Miranda brought the subject up.

"The meeting was interesting."

"What did you find out?"

Miranda chuckled quietly. "A great many things, not the least of which was that the gang was not involved in Caroline's kidnapping. That the men who attempted it and shot you were working independently or for someone else. At least, I believe they were. Enquiries are being made within that… community… to determine if another organization was helping them. I would imagine I'll hear more on that subject eventually."

"The police will keep investigating?"

"No, a very interesting young man named Santiago promised me he would try to find out."

"Santiago? Who's he?"

"The leader of Dedo Malvado."

"You've got a gang banger checking out who might have been helping Caroline's kidnappers? How did the police react to that news?"

"Not terribly well, as you might imagine. However, he was very compelling in his explanations and concern for the girls. I was most impressed with him. Not at all what I had expected."

Andy grinned and teased, "Do I need to be worried?"

Miranda's answering smile made her heart pound. "Not a bit. Now pay attention to practice before I do something that will land both of us back on Page Six again."

The two women settled back on the bench and watched the practice before them. Andy took the opportunity to explain some of the finer points of the game to Miranda and was able to indicate to her what Caroline and Cassidy would probably be doing in a game situation. Miranda, not being inclined towards athletics, could see only the large lacrosse sticks, the seemingly inadequate face guards and a plastic surgeon working on the ruined and bloodied faces of her daughters.

Andy laughed, "Relax, Mom. They'll be fine." Miranda just glared at her. Andy thought it amazing that The Look that used to freeze her in her tracks only last fall now made her smile.

Arriving back at the townhouse, the twins were dispatched upstairs to shower and change clothes while Miranda did the same and Andy kept her company. Andy took the time to peek in Miranda's closet for the first time and stopped dead in her tracks, stunned.

It shouldn't have surprised her; after all, Miranda did receive more clothing, shoes and accessories than anyone else on the planet did. Still, the fact that she had turned a spacious guest room adjoining the master suite into her closet was a bit daunting. Not to mention the fact that Mrs. Grant was in final 'packing mode' for the London trip and had eight pieces of custom-made Goyard luggage open on racks around the closet in various stages of being filled. Two of them looked suspiciously like steamer trunks to Andy, and she was further amazed to see a computerized packing inventory lying atop one of the trunks.

"HOLY SHIT, MIRANDA!" Andy's cry brought the twins through the door at a run, both expecting a row of some kind.

"What's wrong, Andy?" asked Caroline anxiously. Andy's peals of laughter relaxed her but not as much as the hug that followed or the smile on her mother's face.

"Nothing, kiddo. I just cannot believe the complex planning that goes into getting your mom ready for ten days in London. I've never seen so many clothes for a single trip before."

Cassidy picked up the thread. "That's because she's always got to be perfectly turned out. We used to think it was gross too, but she explained it to us. It's business. She is Runway Magazine to the rest of the world for Fashion Week and she has to be prepared for anything. The process takes almost three weeks to choose the ensembles, get them ready and pack them. She explained it all to us a couple of years ago."

Andy had a vague memory of a pile of luggage for Miranda on their trip to Paris last year, but she'd never dreamed that the logistics were this complex. "So what is all this?" The twins looked questioningly at Miranda and she smiled and told them to go ahead and explain the layout to Andy.

Caroline picked up the inventory and began identifying the various cases. "This trunk holds Mom's day wear; suits and dresses for the shows and luncheons. This trunk has eveningwear and shoes and her furs."

Cassidy picked up the explanation. "This large case holds eighteen pairs of shoes, this smaller one another twelve. That small case holds her Hermès scarves and jewelry."

And Caroline finished up with "This case holds underclothes, PJs and hosiery. That medium one over there has her blouses, and the square one is for her makeup and stuff." Miranda nodded her approval at their mastery of her luggage scheme. Andy could only stare, dumbstruck. Finally, she looked at Miranda and smiled. "Remind me to stay out of your way when you're getting ready for a business trip."

Miranda sniffed. "It's only this complex when I'm traveling to Paris or London for the couture shows. Otherwise, I pack my own clothing like anyone else."

"Well, I'm just glad I don't have to be the one to schlep them downstairs."

Miranda threw a wicked grin in the direction of her daughters. "Lucky you. You get to supervise the slave labor." Andy and the twins just laughed.

The twins made a special effort to finish their homework early and everyone spent the rest of the evening after dinner completing the packing inventory and just being together one final time as Miranda pulled together the final parts of her London wardrobe. When everything was packed, the girls dug through a drawer in one of the built-ins of the closet and came out with high-tech luggage locks for all of the cases.

"You'll need these, Mom. They're the ones that US and British Customs can open if they need to but nobody else can." Miranda frowned slightly at the sight. "What's wrong, Mom?"

"I don't remember the combinations. I haven't used them in six months and I forget how I set them."

Caroline went back to the drawer and rummaged around again. Finally, she let out a small whoop of triumph and emerged with the instructions for the use and setting of the locks. "We can reset them for you. What combination do you want to use?"

Miranda smiled at the two strawberry blonde heads huddled over the locks. "3-3-7."

Cassidy concentrated mightily. "Those numbers don't mean anything that I can remember. Not birthdays or anything. Why those numbers?"

"They correspond to letters of the alphabet that mean a great deal to me. 3-3 and 16 or 1 plus 6. C-C-P for Cassidy and Caroline Priestly." The twins grinned and set about reprogramming the locks.

Andy leaned close to Miranda and murmured "You old softie! If your staff ever knew what a mush ball you were they'd…"

"Then isn't it wonderful that they won't ever know. Correct?"

"Absolutely. My lips are sealed."

"Good answer."

The twins moved the now-secured cases out into the hallway and then, one by one, carried them downstairs and neatly stacked them at one side of the foyer. Porters, working under the watchful eyes of their security detail, would be arriving early in the morning to transport the luggage to the private terminals from which they would depart at Teterboro. Roy would bring Emily to the townhouse and then take both her and Miranda to the airport before leaving with his wife for St. Thomas.

While the twins got ready for bed, Miranda sat down with Andy and went over a list of basic house rules she had dictated to Emily earlier as well as the final pre-flight itinerary for the upcoming week. Nobody knew better than Andy how much that schedule could change during the course of the week, but Miranda promised Emily would copy her on all changes so that Andy would be kept as current as possible. Andy nodded through all of it and when Miranda had finished, asked one final question of her own. "Okay, what about the house? Every house has some quirks. Which toilet handle do I have to jiggle? Which door do you need to knee to get it to close? You know; that kind of stuff."

Miranda cocked an eyebrow and regarded Andy with disbelief and just the tiniest bit of ire that she could think there would be something amiss with the townhouse. "Jiggle a toilet handle? Kick a door? If you discover any problem with the house, report it to Mrs. Grant immediately. She'll see to the repairs."

"Right, chief. And don't worry. Doug and I will take good care of the girls while you're gone. We'll talk to you every night and if there's something you need to know without the twins hearing about it, I'll call your cell privately. The Whitehall people will take care of the rest."

Miranda sighed. "I know all that in my head; it's just that right now my heart doesn't want to accept it or leave them. I know you'll take good care of them and I know the Whitehall people will protect all of you. I'd just feel better if I was closer."

"It's only for a week. We can manage for a week. All of us. Don't fool yourself; the girls are going to miss you every bit as much as you're going to miss them."

Miranda's smile was mischievous. "And what about you?"

"I miss you already. I'll be counting the hours until you get home."

"Another good answer."

They went into the twins' rooms and bid the girls goodnight then went back downstairs to sit with the Whitehall agents and make sure that drivers and coverage were set for the upcoming week. As they sat in the kitchen insuring the safety of Andy and the Priestly children, those namesakes silently snuck downstairs, huddled over one of Miranda's bags and quietly left a gift for their mother. They relocked the case and were back upstairs innocently asleep in their beds before the adults even walked back through the foyer.

The next morning, Andy let the porters and their Whitehall supervisors in to load the luggage and then called the twins down to join Miranda and her at breakfast. Miranda explained her itinerary for the day one final time so the girls knew when to expect her call and the rest of their breakfast was spent talking about the upcoming week. Lacrosse practices, visits to physicians and counselors, Doug's arrival that evening but above all else, how much they would miss each other. Miranda genuinely surprised at the twins' affections. She had gone away to the couture shows since their births and never before had they been so demonstrative. Then it dawned on her that never before had she been as demonstrative with them. What amazed her even more is how natural it now felt when before it had always seemed awkward and slightly forced. Perhaps you really did need to nearly lose what you cherished to fully appreciate how precious it really was. Whatever the reason, for the first time in her life, Miranda ached at the thought of being separated from her daughters. She didn't even want to think about being parted from Andréa; that was just too new and unexplored to even be analyzed yet. She just wanted to get through the shows and business functions and get back home. That thought amazed her as well. Career-obsessed, totally focused, Ice Queen Miranda Priestly just wanted to get home again. Groundbreaking.

Roy and Emily arrived promptly and with final hugs for her family Miranda climbed into the rear of her town car and belted in. Roy pulled smoothly into traffic and after greeting everyone, Miranda studied what she could see of his injured face. The bruise, which had begun on high on his left cheek, had grown to cover the entire left side of his face, both eyes and a part of his neck. It had originally been nearly black but now was a riot of purples, reds, blues and assorted variant shades. Miranda winced just looking at it.

"Roy, you're all set for your vacation?"

"Yes ma'am. We're leaving this afternoon and we'll be returning the day before you're scheduled to fly back so I'll be waiting on the tarmac when you land."

"Excellent. St. Thomas, right? You must dine at the Banana Tree Grille one evening. Patrick's crab cocktail and New York strip are not to be missed. Nor is the key lime pie if memory serves. I seem to remember the girls eating three pieces between them one evening. Emily, when we arrive at the terminal, call and make them a reservation."

Both Roy and Emily chuckled as Em made a note and Miranda continued. "And did you bring the files on the cloisonné trends for the June issue? I'll want to read those over as soon as we get airborne. Was Nigel bringing the proofs from the Cavalli shoot? We'll need to…"

And just that quickly the insanity of Fashion Week began.

Andy's phone rang as she was making the final changes to an article about restructuring in the Office of the City Clerk. Frowning when she saw the caller on her display she answered quickly.

"Miranda? What's wrong? Aren't you supposed to halfway across the Atlantic by now?"

"We've been delayed by some problem with the plane. Apparently it cannot be flown in its current state and we're waiting for the decision to be made whether to attempt to repair the problem or not."

Andy grimaced at the sharp tone in Miranda's voice. "I know how you hate waiting. Try not to take it out on Emily, okay? She'll be nervous enough trying to keep all the arrangements straight. Will it help if I tell you I miss you already and you're only across the Hudson?"

Miranda's tone softened somewhat. "A bit. I miss you as well. What are you doing?"

"I'm at the office finishing an ancillary story on the fallout from the bid rigging. I'll grab lunch here and then head back to the house. Jen Ramsay called just a while ago and asked me if I'd like to come to practice next week and help with some of the offensive drills. I think I'm going to take her up on it; it'll be fun to work with the kids."

"Just don't wear yourself out. You know the doctors said your shoulder wouldn't heal as quickly if you did."

"I remember, don't worry. It'll help that I'm getting all the sutures out Monday morning. And not a moment too soon; the side of my head is itching something fierce."

"And your shoulder isn't?"

"So far, no. I'm grateful for that. Otherwise I'd be rooting around looking for knitting needles to scratch with."

Miranda's amusement carried through the cell phone speaker. "And precisely who in our household is it you believe would keep knitting needles close at hand?"

Andy paused for a moment as the visual of a scowling Miranda murmuring 'knit 1, purl 2' while she struggled over a miniscule sweater ran through her head. She then promptly exploded in laughter.

"I'll assume that hilarity was in response to something that happened in your bullpen."

"Of course," Andy gasped, "there was, uh, I mean, um,…"

"Silence might perhaps be your best refuge at this point, Andréa."

"Uh huh. Sure is. Not saying anything more."

The sound of nearby voices carried over Miranda's phone before she came back on the line. "They've managed to replace the faulty indicator circuit. We're boarding now. I'll call you when we land in London."

"I'll be waiting. If there's any problem, I'll leave a message at the front desk for you. Be safe. I love you."

"And I you. Hug the girls for me. I'll call to you later."

As she set her cell phone back down on the desk, Andy Sachs wondered at her good fortune. She loves me too.

Seven hours later Miranda fastened her seatbelt and glanced out the window of the plane as their Gulfstream flared on final approach then touched down at Biggin Hill Airfield. The former WWII fighter base had evolved into one of the finest private aviation complexes in the world. Miranda noticed four other planes the same size as theirs already hangared, the Gannet Citation XLS notable among them. Once on the tarmac, they taxied into their hangar and were met there by customs officials who efficiently checked the luggage and authorized their travel documents. The waiting line of Bentleys and ubiquitous British taxis were quickly loaded and their caravan left for Mayfair and the Connaught.

Emily had verified, re-verified and re-re-verified the arrangements and the Connaught's staff made short work of checking them in despite the relatively late hour. The night manager and several bellmen swept Miranda and her luggage into The Apartment, the penthouse suite overlooking Carlos Place. There, he introduced her to Hastings, her butler, and the two maids who would see to the unpacking. When he learned of their flight delay, Hastings wasted no time in settling Miranda on the sofa in the living room and promptly re-appearing with a cheese and fruit platter and a chilled bottle of Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame for her.

When she'd had a few minutes to relax from the trip, he brought in several embossed notecards with messages that had been left for her. She read the first one and was on the house phone with Emily in moments.

"Have you heard about the John Richmond show? Apparently, a disaster. Some problem with the sprinklers. I don't know; right now everything's up in the air. We may need to adjust the spring issue. Call everyone and tell them to meet here in twenty minutes. We've got work to do."

Hastings had overheard the conversation and unobtrusively cleared his throat. "Will you be requiring refreshments for your staff, Mrs. Priestly?"

"Nothing extravagant."

"Then perhaps some tea and additional fruit and cheese platters?"

"Thank you, Hastings. That sounds perfect."

"I'll see to it, Madame."

Fifteen minutes later, he ushered the Runway group through the suite's front entry and into the living room. When they were seated, he wheeled in a cart with a large tea service to accompany the trays of food he had already placed within easy reach of everyone. When everyone had their drinks, he silently disappeared.

Nigel led off. "I called over there as soon as I got the message. The sprinklers in the showroom went off six hours ago and ruined not only the entire line but the set as well. They're scrambling to find another venue and get the clothing restored, but the organizers are having problems shuffling things around this late in the game. Everyone is set and nobody is willing to change their show times."

"The Richmond line was to be the key feature of the next issue. We're holding a sizeable block of space for it. I would really like to stay with his line; some of his designs were quite innovative. But we need to be ready with a couple of other features from this week if they can't manage to get it together. Nigel, stay on top of this and keep me posted. We can only hold that space for a day or so before we're going to have to switch the focus elsewhere." They discussed other designer possibilities for feature spreads and within ten minutes had managed to come up with four alternatives if the Richmond house could not salvage its show.

Nigel cleared his throat to catch Miranda's attention and indicated that she needed to look behind her. Hastings was standing by the hallway to the master suite.

"Yes, Hastings?"

"Madame, there is a small problem with the unpacking that requires your attention."

"Hastings, I'm busy, what is it?"

"Perhaps Madame would step into the bedroom to attend to it?"

"I'm in the middle of a meeting. What is the problem?"

"Madame, please…"

"Just tell me what's wrong."

"This is all the sleepwear that was packed in your luggage."

Hastings gestured to the maids who were standing just out of sight in the hallway. Together, they stepped into the living room. One of them was holding a grey henley tee shirt and a pair of royal blue silk boxer shorts with orange polka dots and the other a pair of neon-green fuzzy alligator slippers.

Jaws dropped in unison around the sitting room. Nobody moved. Nobody dared breathe. Eyes wide in horror, the executive staff of Runway Magazine watched as their Editor's jaw clenched and her fists balled. She finally broke the ponderous silence.

"They were switched at birth. They cannot be mine." Turning to Emily, she hissed. "Find convent schools. In Tierra del Fuego. Convent schools high up in the Andes. Without running water let alone internet access. Run by nuns from the Middle Ages." Miranda then turned and fastened her laser glare back on the offending clothing.

Nigel broke first. Unable to hold it in any longer, his guffaw exploded in the silence and echoed around the sitting room. Then, one by one, knowing they could likely be fired for the offense but unable to help themselves and giddy with fatigue and jet lag, the rest of the staff collapsed in helpless mirth. Emily held out longest, but finally even she joined in the laughter and soon tears were rolling down her cheeks as well.

Miranda swung back to her staff. Her lips pursed. She glared. Everyone else in the room tensed. Then the most amazing occurrence any of the Runway staff had ever witnessed unfolded.

Miranda Priestly began to laugh. Her shoulders twitched, her lips quirked, she gave a small snort and then began to chuckle. Then laugh. Then howl along with her staff. Finally, regaining a modicum of control, she turned back to the butler and maids.

"Just lay those out for me, please. And Hastings? Thank you for your…restraint."

His eyes twinkling with mirth, he replied "Yes, Madame," and retreated into the master bedroom to finish the unpacking. The Runway staff, after several bracing sips of tea, managed to regain control of itself and continued with the planning meeting.

"Miranda, I'll call the De La Renta showroom first thing in the morning and arrange for more pajamas for you," said Emily.

"Don't bother. This is my daughters' idea of adult sleepwear. Clearly I have failed in their upbringing, but I should at least be familiar with it before I condemn it out of hand. I'll let you know if you need to call De La Renta later in the week."

Andy and Doug were working in the downstairs office while the twins worked on their homework when the phone rang. Doug grinned at the smile that lit up Andy's face, but the twins were suspiciously busy with their homework and appeared not to notice that their mother was finally calling. Andy chatted, laughing with Miranda for several minutes before her face grew solemn.

"What? When? How would I know? You and I were together all of last night. If you didn't see them do it then I didn't see them either. In front of the entire editorial staff? Oh my God…,"

Turning to face the twins she extended the receiver and said quietly, "You mother would like to speak with you."

Cassidy took the handset from Andy and Caroline picked up an extension handset across the room. Apparently their plan was to brazen it out.

"Hi Mom! How was the trip over?" Cass asked brightly, a moment before her face paled as did Caroline's. Neither twin said a word for almost a full minute and then both murmured "Yes, ma'am," hung up and turned to the adults, thoroughly chastised.

"Andy, where exactly is Tierra del Fuego?"