A DWP (MirAndy) story
By Gun Brooke
She operated the mouse and the computer tablet pen with ease, moving the background of the image there, cropping something else here, and adding another layer to her Photoshop creation. Smiling, she shook her head at her thundering heart. It was only a photo manipulation, for goodness sake. Not real. She had taken different photos of them and merged them, using them as base for her…well, she wouldn't go so far as to call it artwork, though it really took an effort and required skill to do it well. No, it was like wishful thinking. Something for her to gaze at, for her foolish heart to dream of.
In one picture, she had the two of them merely standing side by side, so close together it looked like they were holding hands. Chestnut hair blended with silver white, and their dresses matched, of course. In another picture, she'd managed to use several different shots of them both to have them embrace. So much better than air kisses, which was the normal thing during these events. A real hug.
She put the pictures in a secure folder and turned off the light. She had to go to bed. Runway was crazy these days, it seemed. So many people running around like headless chickens and, of course, the boss seemed to have a screw loose as well. Heading toward the bedroom, she hoped she'd dream of something nice. A friendly conversation, perhaps, or a hug that just might feel genuine for a little while.
Hope. She lived on it.
Andy yawned as she picked up the New York Post from her doormat and padded back to her kitchen area. For once, she'd had time to put out her outfit of the day last night, and her hair was cooperating, which meant she'd only had to shower this morning.
Placing the newspaper on the small table, she checked her cell phone clock. 5:45. Plenty of time to down her tea and browse the news. Some days she had no time or energy even to watch TV, let alone follow the news. The feeling of living in a Runway and Miranda bubble was commonplace and it was pure luxury to turn the pages in peace and quiet, with no one tapping their foot in the background.
She turned page five over and…just stared. Her jaw lost all cohesion and her breath stopped. Not until she became dizzy did Andy start breathing again, now gasping as she looked at the two photos. The two impossible photos. She leaned closer and watched the first one, following the outline of Miranda and her. They were at some function, hard to say which one, and Miranda had her left arm wrapped around Andy as she smiled warmly at her assistant.
"Am I losing it?" Andy squeaked. "Am I finally going mad after all this time at Runway?"
The second picture was smaller, but even more outrageously bizarre. Here, Andy, her broad smile in place, was running her fingertips along Miranda's cheek, and Miranda in turn was cupping her cheek.
"That never happened!" Her voice a husky whisper now, Andy knew she was in big trouble. Clearly these photos were doctored, but who ever had done it was clearly masterful, as they looked entirely real. Everyone else seeing the photos would assume Miranda had a relationship with her assistant. Granted, her divorce was finalized by now, but this could still cause the fashionista a lot of damage. Was that the motive? Could Irv be gunning again for Miranda after his failed attempt at firing her during Paris Fashion Week?
Andy dressed quickly, donned her makeup even faster, and ran out the door after pushing the New York Post into her bag. She hated it, and to be honest, she was scared shitless, but she had to do this. Pulling out her iPhone, she dialed Roy, Miranda's driver.
"Roy? Hey, it's Andy. I need a ride to Miranda's when you go to pick her up."
"Sure thing, Andy. You're in time for that without delaying her, I suppose."
"Gosh. Did you happen to read any morning paper today, by any chance?"
"Uhm. Yeah. The Post."
"Crap. So you saw?"
"If you by that mean I saw Page Six, yes. I did. Rather nice-looking, the pictures." Roy's friendly voice was friendly. "If you start moving toward the end of your block, I'll be there in two minutes to pick you up." Roy hung up before Andy could thank him.
She wasn't looking forward to confronting Miranda in the car, but it was better than having her sailing through Runway unprepared with everyone snickering. Heads were going to roll and one might be Andy's as Miranda had fired people for much less, but it wasn't fair to Miranda to play possum.
Roy arrived and Andy slid into the backseat. Breathing in the scent of leather and something else, the lingering scent of Miranda's perfume that she'd come to associate with this particular vehicle, Andy leaned her head against the backrest and sighed. If she was fired, she'd Runway, for sure. The worst thing would be not seeing Miranda every day. Not smell her enigmatic, signature scent. Not admire her perfect outfits and envy how her clothes hugged her lithe frame. And there would be no guilty glances at specific angles of Miranda's décolleté. The latter was a source of constant guilt, but not enough to make Andy stop.
It didn't take Roy long to pull up at Miranda's townhouse. As Andy waited with dread filling every cell in her body, she busied herself by going over Miranda's schedule for the day. She didn't doubt she would have to clear out her desk instantly, even if she had nothing to do with the fake photos, but she could still help Emily by marking the meetings that needed to be rescheduled immediately. God, if she was fired, and she hoped she wouldn't be, she was even going to miss that pesky Brit. Emily was soon to go onto bigger and better things, but perhaps that would be put on hold now if Andy was removed from the office. Emily would have to train yet another second assistant, which would drive the haughty Englishwoman right up the wall. Still there was such a thing as miracles. Miranda might realize this was not her fault. Yup. And snowballs were thriving in hell continuously.
"Here she is, Andy." Roy jumped out of the car and opened the door for Miranda who sat down with her eyes on the cell phone screen, not noticing Andy at first.
"Good morning, Miranda," Andy said quietly, and on any other day it would have been mighty entertaining to watch Miranda nearly jump out of her skin.
"Andrea!" Miranda had dropped her phone and was now reaching for it and glaring at Andy at the same time. "Why are you here? Set on giving your employer a coronary first thing?"
"I had to talk to you. Something's come up."
"Oh?" Miranda picked up her phone, but let it sit on her lap. "Then I suggest you get to the point as I bore easily."
"I take it you haven't read the Post today?"
"You know very well that I read all the morning papers at my desk when I have received my coffee." Miranda frowned. "Stop the twenty questions routine and get to the point."
"Page Six." Andy pulled out her own copy of the paper and handed it to Miranda.
Miranda didn't say anything, but switched on the reading light and opened the newspaper. Finding Page Six, she glanced over it and Andy could tell the instant her gaze found the photos. Honestly, Andy had never seen anyone go so white and not faint right after. Then Miranda's color changed to dark red and Andy hugged herself discreetly, waiting for the blow. She wanted to say something in her defense, but there was nothing to say, as she had nothing to do with this.
"Oh. God." Miranda's voice was a mere whisper. The newspaper was shaking now, fluttering like an autumn leaf before it falls to the ground.
"I don't know who made those, Miranda. I have nothing to do with it. Obviously you're the target, but I'm a victim of this horrible prank as well."
"Prank?" Miranda sounded drunk. "Yes. Yes. A prank."
"Miranda?" Worried now, Andy unbuckled her belt and scooted closer to her boss. "We'll make sure they publish a strong denial—"
"I said, 'No.'" Miranda folded the New York Post tightly and held it with white-knuckled hands. She gave Andy a withering glare that made her scoot right back and buckle back up again.
Andy was mostly baffled that she wasn't fired. Yet. They rode into Elias-Clark in silence, but Andy didn't think she'd ever experienced such a quietness, one so saturated with unspoken words that sweat broke on her forehead.
When Roy turned into the street leading up to the offices of Runway, Andy knew she had to open her mouth again, no matter what. "A lot of people read the Post. Most people."
"So I understand."
"And even if they don't, they go to the online digital version. Which also holds Page Six."
Finally snapping, Andy flung her hands in the air. "So, they'll have seen these…these pictures and some of them might assume."
"Assume what, Andrea?" Miranda asked with a cotton-soft voice.
"A-assume that we do—that, for real." Her cheeks so warm now, she was probably close to purple, Andy refused to let Miranda stare her down.
"Do what, for real? Do be specific." Miranda tilted her head, her eyes like cold blue ice.
"One picture had us hugging and the other had us clinging to each other. It's pretty obvious that someone's out to embarrass you. Suggest that we're fooling around. Or something." Andy knew that last part sounded juvenile, but there were limits. No way she was going to use the words "having an affair" or worse, "fucking around," when her boss was concerned.
"Yes, that would be my conclusion also." Miranda didn't wait for Roy when the car rolled to a stop. She flung the door open and stepped outside. "Come along, Andrea. Don't drag your feet again."
"Again?" Andy muttered and hurried after Miranda who strode at her usual efficient pace. "I wish I'd known it was even an option."
It should have been a shock that Miranda motioned for her to ride in the elevator together, but it actually made sense in a strange way. Andy had only done that once before, at James Holt's studio, and that time she had let her nerves get the better of her and tried to chat with Miranda. Now she stood ramrod straight at Miranda's side and didn't say a word.
"What about you?" Miranda asked as they passed the third floor.
"What? How do you mean?" Andy forgot about giving Miranda her space and privacy in the elevator.
"You said the motive for publishing these pictures was to embarrass me. What about you?"
"Oh, me. Nah, I'm nobody. They won't bother with me. You're the one that has a reputation to uphold. You're the one with children who might suffer for this."
The last sentence made Miranda go pale again. "The girls." She pressed her lips together.
"As you see, this is really only bad for you. Everyone else will envy me." Andy tried for a lame joke, but Miranda snapped her head around, her eyes widening.
"What? What is that supposed to mean?"
"I mean, people adore you. Men and women alike. They'd walk over my size four ass to get to you, if they could." Smiling tremulously, Andy hoped Miranda would know she was half joking.
"They would?" Miranda shook her head. "Silly girl."
The elevator stopped at their floor and as soon as they stepped onto the marble floor, Andy knew the rumor mill was alive and well. Those who had seen the pictures had informed the others and now everyone was waiting with equal parts bated breath and dread to see what Miranda would say and do.
Miranda didn't say anything, but barreled down the corridor toward her office while spouting orders to Andy as usual. Nobody should be surprised, Andy thought. Miranda never explained anything to anyone.
Nigel and Emily were waiting in the outer office. Only there did Miranda halt and stop just inside the door. "For heaven's sake. I assume the two of you have read the Post."
"Yes, we have." Nigel looked baffled. "Are we to offer our congratulations or our condolences?"
"Nigel!" Andy hissed. "Not funny."
"Actually, it was a little bit funny. Trust you to see the humorous side, Nigel." Miranda tossed her coat and bag toward Emily and then entered her office. "Andrea, call the IT department and have them send what goes for their top employee there."
"Right away." Andy went to her desk and perhaps something in her face said "back off" very loudly, as neither Nigel nor Emily dared whisper a word about the pictures.
The computer tech looked nervous. "You've had several incursions over the last twenty-four hours, ma'am."
"I see. Can you tell me which files have been accessed?" Miranda stood by the window, tugging at her long necklace.
"As far as I can tell, it's some picture folders, mainly. Your email is secure, as are your digital versions of the Book."
"But your personal picture files have been accessed and some images downloaded. Do you wish for me to check what they entailed?"
"No. That's all."
"But don't you want me to—"
"No." Miranda sat down at her desk again after the computer tech left, not sure what her options were now. One was to throw herself out the window, but that would only please Irv and she had no doubt that he somehow was behind this little stunt. Why else would this incursion be so specific and non-Runway related? Irv was trying to dig out dirt, and, oh God, she had given him plenty to gloat over. She sat up straight. Unless… Tapping her lower lip, as was her habit when new plans and ideas were hatching, she squinted as her mind calculated the pros and cons. It was risky. The whole idea was as risky as it was preposterous, but it might just work.