Author's Disclaimer: I do not own The Devil Wears Prada nor am I making any money from this fiction.
Beta: Revan2011 and dnd_lady. Thanks to the both of you!
One more month, Andy thought longingly, until she was out of Runway's chilly, clicky-clacky hallways forever.
“Andrea,” Miranda hissed.
Andy didn't flinch. “Yes, Miranda?”
“Find whoever is the source of that horrific screeching sound and arrange to have them disemboweled. I'm trying to work.”
Andy was pondering the consequences and benefits of visiting the question 'what sound' when she became distracted by a frantic Emily waving behind the glass wall. Andy turned her head carefully away from Miranda and raised a discreet eyebrow. Emily responded with a pointed tug of her scarf, which Andy hadn't noticed before.
Emily's red scarf.
The DEFCON One scarf.
“Of course, Miranda,” she said smoothly, making a graceful exit.
As soon as the glass door had clicked shut, Emily was tugging Andy's sleeve across the hall to a side room. “God, tell me she hasn't heard it, please.”
“That – ugh, that awful music, don't you hear it? Listen.”
Andy cocked an ear. Emily jerked her sleeve insistently. “Well?”
A quirky electronic tune, like a cell phone ringer, was emanating from the direction of Nigel's office – it abruptly stopped.
“It's Nigel's signal, do you not pay attention to anything I've taught you?”
“I don't hear anything,” said Andy, crossing her arms. “What's all this about? You said the red scarf was for life or death emergencies only.”
“It is, it's – oh thank god, Nigel!”
Nigel pressed his back against the door, panting. “Good lord, she's here. She's really here. Oh god, my mother is still named on my will. Why didn't I change that? Why did I never change that?”
Emily yanked him forcefully by the collar. “Nigel, get a hold of yourself, for pity's sake. We need to focus on survival – build yourself a bridge and get over it, will you? We need a plan.”
“Could someone please tell me what's going on?” Andy broke in. “Who are you talking about?”
“Who?” hissed Emily. “Cruella, that's who.”
Andy frowned -- the only Cruella she'd ever heard of was... but no, that woman in the halls of Runway? Associating with Miranda? “Cruella de Ville? That insane fashion designer? You can't be serious. Besides, she's got to be in prison or something, right?”
Attempting to murder over a hundred puppies for a single spotted coat? That had to lead to some kind of jail time, right? Or at least some form of state psychiatric care, for god's sake.
Emily ducked her head out the door, glancing around quickly before popping back in.
“She was released last week – good behavior. They say she's reformed or some other bullocks. She's been trying to get a hold of Miranda since Monday, but I've been blocking all her calls.”
“Did you tell Miranda?”
Emily snorted. “I'm still alive, aren't I? Don't be ridiculous – Miranda absolutely cannot know.”
“Well she's going to know pretty damn soon, isn't she?” Nigel jerked his head toward Miranda's office, who they could see through the window was rubbing her temples distractedly. “She'll be here any minute.”
“I can pay maintenance to emergency stop the elevators. But they'll only do it for so long...” Emily wrung her hands worriedly.
“I don't hear anything,” Andy repeated.
Emily and Nigel exchanged looks.
“Hey, it's Nate. Listen, I'm coming back from Boston for a few days. I left all my cooking shit under the sink, so if you could like, take a break from your super busy, high speed life to be home on Saturday to let me in, your peasant ex-boyfriend would appreciate it. See you Saturday.”
“Yes, a table for two. Yes. Le Piazza. Thanks. Thank you so much, Candy.”
Nigel hung up his desk phone, breathing a sigh that was half relief, half trepidation.
“I don't believe I've ever heard of Le Piazza, Nigel.”
Nigel jerked in his seat. “Miranda! How did you sneak in here?”
Miranda derisively rolled her eyes. “I didn't sneak, Nigel, I walked right in while you were blabbering.”
“Le Piazza? It's a new age mix of Italian and French. And they have an excellent steak. You would love it, Miranda.”
“I want the new layout on my desk by lunch. That's all.”
Nigel breathed a sigh that was one hundred percent relief as she left, then quickly re-picked up the phone and dialed Emily's extension.
“I got it.”
One more month, Andy thought.
Emily gasped from where she sat at the first assistant's desk. “Can you believe this? A disgusting sauce stain on a thousand dollar Prada bag? I don't even eat anything that goes with sauce.”
“What a shame,” said Andy unconvincingly. She clicked on a cell in her spreadsheet and turned it red. A few more clicks and she had made a happy face of cells in Miranda's schedule.
She overheard Emily picking up the phone – talking to Nigel, it sounded like.
“Thank goodness,” Emily said into the phone. “I'll tell maintenance to release the lifts. Go cut her off at the elevators and make the pitch, I'll keep Miranda distracted. God, we're cutting this so close. I love my job...”
“I don't,” said Andy bluntly.
“More wine, Miss?”
“Ah... I think I'm good for now,” Andy told the waiter. “Water, please?”
Under Emily's emphatic advisement, Andy had arrived thirty minutes early to the renowned Le Piazza restaurant to get properly sauced. It was the most sympathetic she had ever seen Emily, if she were being perfectly frank with herself – although she could not forget the fact that it was due to Emily's idea that Andy was being thrown under the bus in the first place.
Andy checked the time on her phone. As a matter of fact, said bus was due to arrive any minute.
The handsome waiter's hands flinched as he poured ice water into her glass, eyes bulging in an expression Andy normally associated with Miranda's arrival... except that this particular expression had more than the usual tinge of fear the queen of fashion's appearance normally heralded.
The waiter cringed. “Who is that... woman?”
Andy was throwing him a confused look and about to look behind her when a waft of pungent, grape-scented smoke pervaded her senses.
“Mirannnda darling, where are you?” Called out a hair-raising, sing-song voice. “She's... where is she? Who is this? Who the bloody hell is this?”
The maitre d' escorting her tugged his collar nervously. “I'm so sorry Miz de Ville, zer must be some misunderstanding. We 'ave her signed on the books for zis table--”
Andy stood up politely upon being addressed, a large (and extremely fake) smile plastered onto her face. “Ms. de Ville, I'm afraid Miranda couldn't make it. She was hit with a bad case of tuberculosis and had to be hospitalized this afternoon.”
She attempted to guide her eyes to find some safe point to focus on, away from the bizarre half white, half black hair... the ridiculously villainous cape... the clawed... gloves? Andy blinked furiously, starting to feel her eyeballs burn. “Of course she's hiding her condition to maintain an outward appearance of health.”
Emily's carefully crafted story had sounded so much more reasonable before Andy had said it out loud. “She doesn't want to get anyone sick, you see. Especially someone of – uh – someone like you. You're so dear to Miranda's heart.”
Andy watched in dreadful anticipation as Cruella's pale face grew paler and the woman's thinly painted lips twitched in something akin to anger.
“So she sent me in her place,” Andy drove on, throwing in as beaming a smile as she could muster. “I would have called ahead but she didn't let me know until the last minute – she thought she would be well enough to make it, you see.”
“I see.” The lips twitched again, seeming to crave turning into a vicious scowl – but then forcefully upturned into what was probably meant to be a smile... Andy hoped. “You. You're one of Miranda's little underlings, then?”
Cruella flicked her long stemmed cigarette in distaste and a tumble of ash fell to the plush carpet. Andy wondered how a woman of even Cruella de Ville's stature could get away with carrying a smoking cigarette into a restaurant. The maitre d' didn't seem too keen on telling her, in any case.
“I'm her personal assistant, Andrea Sachs,” she answered in a genial fashion. She resented the underling comment... even if it was true. “You can call me Andy.”
Cruella's mouth twisted, and at first Andy thought the woman was going to shout. Enormous olive eyes blinked at Andy as though seeing her for the first time. Andy, used to Miranda's death glare scrutiny, didn't fidget while Cruella inspected her up and down.
“Personal assistant, hmm?” said Cruella, seeming to be making a private joke.
Andy frowned. Would she always be judged poorly for not being a clacker? “Yes.”
Apparently having come to a decision, Cruella abruptly pulled out a chair and threw herself into it, crossing one leg over the other after adjusting her large, white fur coat. “I suppose since the dearheart is trying so hard for my health's sake, I can deal with you. I want House de Ville's comeback line to be featured in Runway.”
Emily had warned her this was what the mad fashion designer had been after in her harassing phone calls.
“Okay,” said Andy.
“In this month's Olympics feature.”
“Sure,” said Andy.
“I will have full control over the shoot. Everything will go through me. Darling Miranda will have no say.”
“Sounds reasonable,” agreed Andy.
Cruella took a drag from her long-stemmed cigarette, eying Andy suspiciously.
“Just agree to everything she wants, eat a giant steak in front of her and then leave,” Emily had told her. “We'll give her a fake copy of Runway at the end of the month. She lives so secludedly in that freaky mansion she'll never know the difference.”
Cruella's stare bored into her long and hard... and her face relaxed. She sniffed.
An appropriately frightened looking waiter immediately stopped the order he was taking at a table three meters away and scurried to Cruella's side.
Andy couldn't believe the insane plan was working – Emily had said Cruella was naive, but really.
“You first, please... Andy.”
Cruella grimaced (smiled?) at her encouragingly.
“I'll have the sixteen ounce ribeye,” said Andy. “As close to rare without being gross as you can get, please,” she added.
“Another reason it has to be you,” Emily had reasoned earlier,“you're the only one on the whole floor who can finish an entire cow in one sitting. She'll be impressed by that.”
Cruella's grimace grew wider. Was she in pain, Andy wondered?
“Salad,” sniffed Cruella. She twitched her thumb casually and a pile of ash from her cigarette landed on the waiter's finely shined shoe. Shit – had Emily passed Andy bad information?
“I've gone vegetarian since my... rehabilitation,” Cruella said of her own volition. “I don't mind if those around me partake in the finer delights of carnivorous behavior, however.”
“Good to know, Ms. De Ville.”
“Call me Cruella,” she purred in response.
I'd really rather not, thought Andy, smiling brittlely.
Andy waved over the waiter to ask for a bottle of wine. She had been a fool for thinking she'd had enough earlier, that much was for sure. Perhaps the waiter had been expecting that sentiment, since he produced a bottle of the same vintage remarkably fast.
“Ms... er, Cruella. Miranda tells me you hardly ever leave the London area. Was Runway your only reason for visiting New York?”
“Miranda,” she answered ambiguously, eyes flashing.
“Er...” Andy frowned when Cruella failed to explicate.
“Oh, oh, do forgive me dear Andy, I mean yes, I came here for Runway.” Cruella's eyes hardened, focusing on Andy's ridiculously expensive, ridiculously good looking dress. “Miranda owes me a few favors, and I need to get House De Ville back to being London's most prominent fashion designer. I'm pleased we were able to come to an agreement so quickly – it should satisfy one of the favors Miranda has pledged to me.”
Andy shifted uneasily. “Well, that's good.”
Cruella's hawk-like gaze hadn't left her dress. Was Cruella a fan of whatever namby pamby designed this? John somebody? John... Galliano? Yes, that was it.
“Mr. Galliano is a good friend of Miranda's,” she interjected. “He sends a lot of excellent dresses to our closet.”
“I'm sorry?” Large eyes blinked at her.
“My dress.” Andy indicated herself. “John Galliano? It seemed like you were interested in it, I'm sorry if I assumed...”
“Oh, of course, the dress... it is lovely – oh my.”
Cruella's eyes became, if at all possible, even larger.
Andy's steaming pink steak settled in front of her.
“Are you sure you don't mind me eating meat...?”
“Oh no, please.” Cruella wiggled her claw-gloved fingers in a go-ahead motion, not even noticing the salad being placed in front of her. “I adore meat-eating, really, I do. It's like when I quit smoking, it aided me immensely to be surrounded by the smell of nicotine.”
Yes, I can see how it helped you, thought Andy warily while Cruella utilized the holes of the salt shaker as an impromptu ash tray.
Andy cautiously cut out a section and brought the juicy piece to her mouth under the other woman's rapt attention.
“Are you sure I'm not...?”
“Yes, yes, yes.”
One more month.
Emily manifested beside her the moment Andy stepped foot into the office.
She sighed, collapsing into her seat. “She bought it, but she wants to meet with Miranda personally after the de Ville shoot.”
“That's fine and all, we can recycle the same excuses later.” Emily waved her hands dismissively. “But she's not ever coming here, is she? To visit Miranda?”
Andy gave a noncommittal shrug. “As for next week I have no idea, but according to her, she's leaving for the Canadian wilderness tonight to shoot what I'm sure is going to be an affront against naturists everywhere, and not coming back until late on Monday.”
Both women froze.
“What, am I interrupting a lesbian powwow? No, that can't be true, because Nigel's missing. Would someone mind telling me where my scarves are?”
“Right here, Miranda,” Emily answered quickly, proffering a thin package to the editor who had managed to approach them in heels without them noticing.
The editor-in-chief eyed the redhead suspiciously before finally accepting the package. “More coffee.”
Miranda turned to leave, but not without a final, apprehensive look.
“What was that?” asked Andy, disturbed.
“I'd reckon she suspects we're hiding something. But when are we not hiding things from her? It's our job.”
“Are you sure?”
“Don't worry about it, she'll have forgotten all about it by dinnertime, sometime between one photoshoot disaster and the next.” Emily thrust a large bag of ladies' underthings into Andy's lap as a beauty director's assistant leaned on – and subsequently tipped over – an expensive-looking piece of equipment with a resounding crash. “See that? The fashion gods smile on the assistant above all others, Andy, that's why they boon us with these little fiascos. To cover up our fuck-ups.”
“Andy, it's Mom. Grandma called – she told us about Nate. You really need to call him. He's coming back to New York on Saturday. You can still try to fix what you did. I tried talking to him but – well, just call him. I can't keep fixing your mistakes, you know. Love you.”
Miranda peered through her reading glasses at the photos her private investigator had just faxed over.
...Cruella arriving at airport security, a TSA bomb dog cowering fearfully in her presence. Typical.
...Cruella attempting to pay a taxi driver in gold nuggets... Typically bizarre.
...Cruella entering the Elias-Clarke building.
...Cruella leaving the Elias-Clarke building, twenty minutes later.
Now that was unusual. Miranda pursed her lips. She had been certain Cruella was visiting New York for the sole purpose of either harassing her for apparently 'owed' favors or driving Runway into the ground. Either way, Miranda had expected a visit from the notorious puppy-napper, if not at least a dozen unpleasant phone calls.
Who would Cruella be visiting in Elias-Clarke if not her? Miranda flipped to the next photograph, which was of Cruella sitting in a restaurant with...
The redhead exchanged looks with her brunette counterpart, then promptly scurried to Miranda's doorway. “Yes, Miranda?”
“What sort of restaurant is Le Piazza?”
Emily blushed scarlet. “I've never been, Miranda. I'll find out right away.” Miranda peered at her skeptically.
“But you've heard of it.”
“Is it the type of place you might go for a business dinner, perhaps? Business informal, business casual, business corporate?”
The first assistant's eyes flickered, widening and tracking slightly to the left. “No, Miranda, none of those.”
“Definitely not,” said Emily more firmly. “It's ah, romantic. No one would ever have a business meeting there. Not ever. It would be strange.”
Miranda blinked at her, as though she had not considered the possibility. “Romantic?” Her eyes darted to a document on her desk which Emily couldn't quite make out from her angle.
Emily waited, holding her breath.
“Why would...?” Miranda blinked again, then seeming to recall Emily's presence, her visage hardened. “That's all, Emily.”
Emily scuttled from the room.
“Emily.” Nigel waved from beside Andy's desk. “Just heard the good news.”
“Ohmigod ohmigod – oh, Nigel, she knows something!”
Nigel looked appropriately aghast. “Oh god, what does she know?”
“I don't know, she kept asking about Le Piazza, and what sort of business meeting could be there? I don't know what it means!”
Andy calmly sipped her mochiatto and clicked on a minesweeper square.
“Oh! Good lord, don't frighten me like that. I mentioned they had good steak to her the other day, I recommended it.”
Emily was ventilating heavily through her nose.
“It's alright, Emily,” he reassured her.
Nigel nodded reassuringly. “I hope you didn't give anything away?”
“No,” she gasped. “I just kept denying any business could happen there. I told her it was a romantic restaurant.”
Nigel visibly relaxed, shoulders slumping. “Well that's something, then. That means she won't go near the place for the next year or so, anyway, until she finds a new male to lure to her web and eat. We can keep using it for meetings.”
“Oh damn,” said Andy. “I clicked on a mine.”
Saturday, 6:33 a.m.
“My pretty, pretty Ahndeeee. You don't recall my voice? I'm wounded, absolutely pierced!”
“C – Cruella?”
“Yes, it is I, Cruella. I need a favor, darling Andy.”
“How... how did you get this number, Cruella? I only gave you my email...”
“Miranda's other charming assistant gave it to me last night when I attempted to contact Miranda. Once again in the hospital, I hear?”
“Ah, right, yes, unfortunately.”
“Consumption is a terrible disease, my girl, terrible. That's beside the point, however. I'm afraid I need you to pop in for a bit. Is that possible?”
“Well that's where we're shooting, darling, let's not be silly.”
“Sill-- I mean, I'm sorry, but I don't think I can make it, Cruella, Runway doesn't have the funds for a last minute ticket and I --”
“Already bought, darling, and I'm afraid we simply must have your presence on the set. The lawyers are all saying a Runway representative needs to be at the shoot. They won't allow it to begin otherwise.”
“I... I... of course, Cruella. I'll start packing right away. You can email me the details.”
“Were you sleeping, my dear? Your voice sounds... fuzzy.”
“Yes, I was, but it's not a problem. I understand. This is an emergency.”
“Your voice is... quite nice.”
“I think I'll go pack now, Cruella. Thank you for calling.”
How long had Miranda's most capable assistant been in contact with Cruella? Had the restaurant been a first meeting, or the last of a long line of clandestine get togethers? And for what purpose?
Despite what Emily had implied about Le Piazza, the idea of romance between her second assistant and that monstrous creature of a woman was preposterous, whatever fancy restaurant they had been eating at.
Miranda paced around her king sized bed, flinging down her custom-made coat and kicking off her four inch Louboutins. First of all, Andrea would never entertain the idea of a relationship with a person as horrid as Cruella de Ville. Second, even if Andrea were to entertain the idea, it could never come to fruition because Cruella's vicious personality and disgusting habits (kidnapping cute animals and smoking those awful grape cigarettes, to name a few) would invariably push the girl away almost instantly.
Not that Cruella would even have the emotional depth needed to maintain a loving relationship. The psychopath possessed the empathetic capacity of a shoe rack. And Andrea could not possibly stand that awful, ominous flavored smoke that seemed to precede Cruella wherever she traveled.
Yet there was no way Andrea was selling Runway corporate secrets – it had been Miranda's first theory until Emily's romantic description of Le Piazza had effectively shot down the idea, but it wasn't like Runway really had any secrets to begin with. They were a fashion magazine, not a mafia gang.
That left only one possible explanation.
Cruella must have been professionally seducing (and Miranda shuddered at the word) Andrea in order to get back at the editor – some nefarious scheme that Miranda could only guess at, that involved using her second assistant in some dastardly way. That was the only explanation. Miranda knew Andrea's dream was to be a writer. With a promised writing position dangling in front of her second assistant's nose, there was no telling what Andrea would choose.
Either that, or...
No. Love was hardly Cruella's forte – although Cruella was infamous for her obsession of all things fine and soft.
Everyone knew what happened to the objects of Cruella's obsessions – she needed to possess them. She did everything within her power to obtain what she wanted, and then she would keep it, and coo to it, and no one else was ever allowed to wear it, or touch it, or savor its softness.
Miranda just had to talk some sense into the girl. Get Andrea's story, and then squash every iota of good feeling and trust Andrea had ever had in the madwoman. Miranda would promise to ensure every opportunity for advancement at Runway. Yes, all Miranda had to do was call her, and this would all be settled.
By the time Andy got through security after touching down in Ontario, a suited man had dragged her luggage into the back of a 1940's style Ford before returning with a garish red-and-yellow bouquet of flowers.
“These are from Miss de Ville, Miss Andy.”
“Uh, thank you.”
Andy brought the blossoms to her nose and sniffed. She stared at them. They smelled lovely.
The ride to the national park passed quickly. Andy sat with her flowers in the back seat, occasionally fiddling with her phone. It hadn't been working since she turned it back on after landing, but she could still play the games. She found herself taking a picture of the bouquet.
The old Ford rolled to a stop, crunching along the dirt path until the brakes squeaked. Andy's door opened before the driver had gotten out.
“Cruella, thank you for the flowers.”
A claw-gloved hand took Andy's own and assisted her chivalrously out of the vehicle.
Cruella bared her teeth. “My pleasure, darling.”
Andy inhaled as she took in her surroundings, spinning slowly in a circle, unable to tear her gaze from the orange and red treetops above. “This place is beauty itself, Cruella.”
Cruella looked briefly uncomfortable, pale cheeks tinging a faint pink. “Well yes, I thought so.”
Andy stopped spinning to examine the other woman.
As if sensing the inspection, Cruella clapped her hands and burly men began hauling around lighting equipment and unloading a generator from the back of a flatbed Andy hadn't noticed before.
“Chop chop now, we must hurry.”
A harried man dragging a cage filled with chipmunks wheezed by.
“Yo, it's Nate. Where the fuck are you? I've been waiting here half an hour, your mom said you'd be here... You know what, fuck this. Keep all of it. Not like you'd ever use it anyway. You're too busy trying to weigh fifty pounds or whatever to ever cook yourself a good meal. I'm outta here.”
“Natasha, hug the moose, darling. There there, nothing to be afraid of. That's a nice moosey.”
Andy licked a maple-flavored ice cream cone observing the chaos that embodied Cruella's bizarre photoshoot, which seemed to consist of making cute animals appear to be acting out various Olympic events while wispy models stared on dreamily.
“How are you doing, Andy darling? Would you like my parasol? You're looking a tad cooked.”
Andy smiled and shook her head, but Cruella took tentative steps towards her despite the negation, standing close enough to share the shade of her black and white umbrella.
“I need to be back at Runway by Monday morning, you know,” Andy warned.
Andy nodded, relieved.
“But I will see you in New York,” Cruella added.
“If you like.” Then Andy added hopefully, “Or you can go home to London straight after the shoot, and I'll just send you a copy of the August edition.”
Something in Cruella's tone made Andy glance over. Cruella was looking hard at a rock in the ground, nudging it around with the top of one black-and-white spotted heel.
“Is something wrong, Cruella?”
“Nothing,” Cruella responded in a way that communicated clearly to Andy that there certainly was something.
Andy edged closer into the other woman's aura beneath the parasol.
“I said nothing,” she assured her. “Nothing at all, dearest.”
“Hey, it's Lily. Your mom's harassing my mom again. Like usual, I should say. Might wanna call her, girl.”
“Want some?” Andy proffered her maple cone to Cruella, who jerked slightly.
“Ah,” the fashionista responded, blinking uncertainly as though she were facing some type of test. “No thank you?” guessed Cruella.
Cruella's sudden shyness tickled a soft spot inside Andy that was close to her heart, and it made her grin. There was something quirky about Cruella that she found appealing, Andy decided.
“Wrong answer,” she said smilingly, and placed the cone in Cruella's hand. Cruella looked at her uncertainly and upon receiving an encouraging nod, took a careful, tentative lick.
“Ah,” said Cruella. “It's good?”
“Girl, it's Lily. Your mom called. You know, again. Don't worry, I kept your cover. She firmly believes you're visiting some new love interest in Quebec somewhere. Not a peep out of me about the crazy-haired, puppy-kidnapping nutcase. Do me a favor though while you're up there – find yourself someone sexy as all get out, have a sweet little weekend affair and get the stress out of your system. Then come home and tell me all about it, 'cause I have no life, and I am desperate enough to live vicariously through you. Love ya.”
Andy bit her lip, watching the crew pack the last of the set items away onto the back of a semi truck. The animals had been penned and ferried away an hour ago by their handlers, citing Canada's strict animal labor policies, but they had finished their jobs admirably and on time, in any case.
Andy had been sending Cruella smoldering looks all afternoon, eating the other woman up with her gaze . So far, though, Cruella had yet to give any signal, positive or negative in response. It was true the other woman had been excessively polite and thoughtful with her needs, garnering some severely confused looks from the de Ville crew – Andy guessed Cruella wasn't normally super charitable, but really, they were acting like Cruella was some sort of alien clone replacement – but as far as conversational or physical advances, the woman acted as if she were oblivious. Normally, Andy would have gotten a few sly, returned smiles, a breathless comment, a few too-close brushes when walking past each other... she even would have accepted a disgruntled eyeroll to let her know she was barking up the wrong tree.
There were only so many ways to say, 'I like you,' and Andy had run out.
Was Cruella getting what Andy was doing at all? The brunette debated internally as she slid a hand into hers politely to assist her into the back of the car and instinctively sucked in her bottom lip at the sight of the other woman's curvy, white-clothed buttocks swerved in front of her face as Cruella climbed in.
Another night for Andy to return to bed alone, she thought, although the dramatization, even in her own mind, sounded whiny.
“Thank you,” said Cruella politely from the back seat, tone of voice suggesting she didn't utter those words a lot. “Would you, um, care to ride with me to your hotel?”
The question was a nervous one. Like Cruella was playing a game she'd never tried before.
Andy bent and peeked into the backseat of the classy vehicle. Cruella hadn't buckled up. In spite of the heat, she had wrapped herself in a lynx shawl and was tugging it distractedly around her front, luxuriously draping the naturally large swell of her breasts. Cruella's gaze was hard on Andy's body – who noticed belatedly that the woman was staring at her chest, which was peeking out of her blouse as she bent over to look into the car.
Cruella's cheeks were unusually ruddy for a pale complexion such as hers. Her eyes were glittering.
Cruella had definitely gotten it.
“Andy, it's Mom again. You're not answering your phone. I called your work friend, Emily? She said you were visiting some boyfriend in Canada? Then Lily said so too. Why haven't we heard about this unidentified person of interest? Just tell me you're not sleeping around again, damn it. I didn't raise a prostitute.”
Once you got passed the hair, the claws, the smoking and the criminal activities, et cetera, by her attributes alone Cruella de Ville was truly was a lovely woman.
By her attributes, Andy of course meant her breasts, her pale flat stomach, her sensuous thighs and the deliciously warm, unknown place between them.
In the backseat of Cruella's Ford, Andy could not stop thinking about that aching center as she unbuckled her seat belt and slid into the woman's lap. Cruella's wicked, wicked eyes were on her, making Andy's skin burn at their invisible contact.
Two hard peaks visible through the ivory fabric of her dress solidified the evidence of Cruella's arousal, who was breathing heavily, eyelids hooded. More than anything at that moment, all Andy wanted to do was peel the shawl away, push down the front of Cruella's dress and taste those opulent nipples for herself.
“I've been imagining you like this all day,” Cruella breathed, then her eyes narrowed accusingly. “You've been taunting me all day.”
Andy tentatively rearranged her legs, shifting so that she was straddling the other woman, all movements slow, ready for the slightest indication from her partner that this was not what she wanted. Cruella's breathe hitched, and a dark red tongue poked out, surely unconsciously, and ran across her bottom lip. Andy leaned forward, breathing in the sweet scent of perfume from the long, pale neck before her. “I can make up for it,” she promised Cruella's ear softly, and bit down gently on the lobe.
Cruella's entire long body shuddered and Andy became hyperaware of the hot center that was separated from her own by only the thinnest of cloth and panties. Unable to withhold her questing hands any longer, Andy pushed the shawl back and ran her fingers under the shoulder straps of the dress before giving both sides a pull. The top of the dress peeled downward, inch by inch revealing creamy flesh and, eventually, released full, heavy breasts marked by large, smokey areolas.
Cruella made a tiny, moaning sound as Andy felt the full weight of them in her palms, running a thumb over the tip of one. Cruella made another small noise, then a claw-gloved hand was pushing on the back of her head, desperately urging her mouth to the abused nipple.
Andy was only too happy to comply, rolling her hips against Cruella's lap as she swirled the tip of the breast around her tongue, one hand massaging the matching breast in aching sympathy, the other slightly up the panting woman's dress, stapled to a smooth, shapely thigh.
Andy ran the flat of her tongue along the bumps of the nipple before sucking deeply, earning her a shocked buck from Cruella's lower regions. The motion incented Andy further, eyes fluttering – the primal urge to sink to her knees, push up Cruella's dress and bury her tongue in the folds was almost overbearing. The sudden need to see the fashionista unravel, keening and moaning because of Andy's attentions, forced a hot clench between her legs.
The fly of Andy's Bill Blass slacks was wide open – how had that happened? She didn't have time to ponder it as a hand – bare, the glove discarded on the seat beside them – slipped down the outside of her panties and pushed aside the thin strip of fabric there.
Andy's hot moan was muffled by a decadent breast she couldn't pull away from as a thumb made contact with the brunette's clit and started to rub. “Oh... god...”
A delicate pressure pressed itself against her nether lips – she spread her legs far and pressed forward, nearly crying out in need. She glanced at Cruella's flushed complextion – she hadn't looked up in a while – and for one awful moment thought the woman would pull away in revenge for taunting her throughout the evening.
Then one delicious finger slid itself inside her hot channel, quickly followed by another.
“Fuuuck.” Andy's eyes fell shut, reveling in the tightness of her cunt before giving her lower muscles a titillating squeeze. Her orgasm was there, deep but rushing towards her with the rushing speed and sound of a freight train. Cruella's thumb continued to tease and rub as her fingers moved in and out, speeding up then slowing down, the erratic motions driving Andy to what had to be a form of insanity. “God – don't stop. Please, don't stop,”
Two long fingers curled and twisted inside her, pumping firmly, rubbing against the rough sweet spot on her upper wall, close to the entrance – Andy bucked. Her motions were near erratic, frantically searching, seeking the ultimate high she knew was charging up her bloodstream, screaming and surging towards her center in a race that would slow down for nothing.
“Yes, darling,” Cruella gasped, “ride me, ride my hand.”
Andy rode – stuttered. “Oh... Ooh...”
A warm wetness flooded the hand between her legs. Andy could not stop making tiny, whimpering noises as she rode out the ebbs of her orgasm, clenching with the final waves until the pleasure was too bright, too painful to continue.
Cruella did not stop her movements until Andy had collapsed on top of her, too breathless to speak. Andy lifted her head to look Cruella in the eyes – whose sharp, olive gaze was directing toward her an intense, fishing stare.
“Just give me a moment, Cruella,” Andy murmured into her cheek, still catching her breathe.
“Oh no no, my darling, take your time. I was only admiring your eyes. They're quite fetching, you know.”
Andy frowned at the compliment, unused to the praise. It was a peculiar feeling rising between their bodies – something sweet smelling and full of heart.
“Andrea? It is your job to assist me and if you insist on not returning my calls then you are no good at assisting at all, are you? If you have any interest in ever holding down a job more brain-intensive than 'window washer' in this city, respond immediately. That's all.”
“I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable before,” said Cruella. “I'm not... well, I thought that was the thing to do in these situations. Compliment you, I mean. From what I've read, anyway. I've never actually, you know, taken the time to – oh.” Cruella gasped as she was entered. “Lord, you're so deep.”
Cruella's eyes fluttered shut. Her hips undulated upwards, squeezing around three fingers. A tight curl inside her and a warm tongue forced her eyes open and unable to be closed – Cruella could not take her eyes off the brunette head bobbing delicately between her thighs.
Miranda furiously punched the call button for Emily's number. Saturday night or no Saturday night, her assistants should have been at her beck and call. “Hello? Emily?”
Miranda frowned at the fearful voice that answered her. Fear – how she detested the emotion. Andrea would never sound so frightful. “Emily, where is Andrea? I've been calling her all morning.”
“Andy? Er, I'm afraid she's –”
“Comatose in the hospital?” Miranda sneered. “Because that's the only excuse that will work at this point.”
At the sudden, unbidden thought of Andrea lying in the hospital, the cellphone in Miranda's palm turned ice cold. The chilly feeling ran up her wrist to the base of her throat as she took a shaky breathe.
What if Andrea was hurt? What if she had tripped in those five inch high heels she was unstable in, which Miranda always insisted she wear? What if she had been mugged on the subway? Andrea was always zipping around in that dirty little tube, visiting all her ungrateful little friends.
Andrea not diligently answering Miranda's every whim was so rare that she was genuinely beginning to consider the possibility of – of harm having befallen her prized assistant.
“She took a weekend trip to Canada. To er, visit a friend.”
“A friend? Which friend?” Miranda began pacing from the end of her bed to the bathroom door... back and forth, she couldn't stop herself.
“Her boyfriend who lives in Canada?” Miranda snorted disbelievingly. “Isn't the trope supposed to be the 'girlfriend in Canada'?”
“Oh god, you know!” Emily blurted.
Miranda froze, halting tentatively beside her nightstand. She opened her mouth to ask 'know what?' – then abruptly changed her mind.
“Yes,” said Miranda carefully. “I know, Emily. I've known for some time now.”
“Andrea is in Canada, but she's with – in Ontario with – well, we know how you feel about Cruella --”
“Oh,” Miranda nearly let slip a gasp, bringing a hand to her mouth. It was true.
“We thought being discreet would be in the best interests of Runway--”
“Andrea's seeing Cruella,” Miranda breathed to herself, momentarily forgetting the babbling voice on the other end of the line. There was no attempting to deny it any longer. No, no, no...
“Miranda, we have been doing our utmost to keep Runway untarnished, Nigel and I have an arrangement with Andrea --”
“You and Nigel made a deal with Andrea to hide Cruella from me.”
“Yes,” Emily bit off.
“Andrea is... involved... with Cruella.”
“I – yes, Miranda, but –”
“Emily, I want to be in the air, on a plane to Canada within the next sixty minutes. Make it happen, or don't bother calling back. Or coming back to work. Ever.”
“Do you still have to go back?”
The quiet question caused Andy's eyes to flutter open in the darkness. She adjusted the pillow she had been hugging beneath her head, blinking slowly at the silhouette of the woman with whom she shared the bed.
“I have to be back for work on Monday.”
“And I'll see you in New York...?”
Andy smiled genuinely. “Yes. Of course.”
This gave Andy pause. “You live in another country, Cruella. In Europe. I don't – I'm not sure what you're asking me.”
Andy closed her eyes, fully intending to reopen them after she had thought for a bit.
Miranda's plane touched down smoothly in Ontario early Sunday morning. She hadn't slept a wink during the flight. Images of Andrea together with – that woman continued to haunt her to the point of restlessness.
Miranda didn't deeply question why she was doing... whatever the hell it was she was doing. She did know that whatever happened, she could not allow Andrea to consort with Cruella unchecked. The situation simply could not be permitted. Not with her Andrea.
They could say whatever they wanted about Miranda's professional work ethic, but the editor simply would not allow her naive second assistant be caught up in Cruella's cruel claws.
And it didn't look good for Runway.
And also, puppies. Right.
So it was perfectly acceptable for her to take matters into her own hands, fly into Canada and stop this madness at once. For Runway's sake, and Andrea's.
Miranda emerged from the luggage gate into the brisk Canadian sunlight. A car pulled up to her smoothly and the driver hopped out to chivalrously open her door for her.
“Out of the way,” Miranda snapped, opening her own door. “Drive, for god's sake. That's what you're being paid for. We could be moving by now.”
The most annoying beeping known to man was bludgeoning Andy into consciousness. Her nemesis, the alarm clock.
“God, someone destroy that,” she groaned into her pillow. “Destroy it with fire.”
Andy blinked into wakefulness very abruptly. She sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
“Destroyed, darling,” a voice purred in her ear. “Back to sleep, lovie.”
Andy looked to her right – the hotel-provided alarm clock lie strewn in bits on the carpet.
“Cruella, you, ah – well, thank you. I have to get up though, I have a plane to catch.”
“Right,” mumbled Cruella, then she perked up. “I'll see you Monday, yes? To go over the shoot?”
Andy squinted at her, kicking out the blankets from her feet. “Yes. Um, I think... maybe we should talk about what's going on here.”
Cruella's breath hitched up a notch. “Whatever do you mean? We're just ah, having fun, hmm?”
“Right,” said Andy.
“It would be silly to think we could continue this after I return to London. So that will be that, then. I hope you didn't think...?”
“No! We're both on the same page then,” sighed Andy with a palpable sense of relief, slipping off the bed and reaching for her clothes.
Andy wasn't sure she could explain what had come over her Saturday evening, after the shoot had wrapped, and the models, photographers and animal handlers had vacated the set. Eventually only her, Cruella and the stout driver of the Ford had remained on site.
“So,” Cruella had said to her, “it was a pleasure working with you today.”
“Well... I had fun, too.”
Andy had contributed to several accomplishments that had led to the success of the photoshoot, including coaxing a belligerent mother goose and her goslings out from underneath a terrified female moose's stall, and the heroic successful squashing of a spider that had trapped several models clutching each other on top of the snacks table.
After their sexual encounter in the back seat of the Ford, which had been trundling up the dirt road toward civilization (thankfully an hour long drive), Cruella had breathlessly commented on Andy's valor in defeating the arachnid, then demurely complimented Andy's tender dealings with the animals, and what exactly was a nice girl like her doing working for Miranda Priestly anyway?
“A stepping stone, I guess. Roll with the punches, and all that,” Andy had sighed in response, slumping in her seat. She wasn't like Emily, who cared for Runway and fashion enough to stay on as first assistant for nearly two terms. “I can't wait for my year with Miranda to be over with.”
Cruella had blinked at Andy curiously. “A million girls would --”
“Kill for this job? Yeah, I know. Fashion's just not my dream. But it's a means to an end. One more month with Miranda and I'll have my pick of any publication I want.”
“And do what?”
Andy had smiled shyly. “Write.”
Cruella had smiled back. “You seem like the type to be good at it.”
They'd made out all the way to the hotel.
Andy slipped out of the bed as quietly as she could.
Andrea wasn't in her hotel room.
At least she better not have been, Miranda thought fiercely, because that would mean that Andrea had ignored ten minutes worth of Miranda knocking, banging and raising her voice to levels edging the borders of uncouthness.
It was four o'clock in the morning on a Sunday, and Andrea wasn't in her own bed.
Miranda very carefully reigned in her rebellious imagination. She wouldn't think about it. She would not.
“Ugh!” Miranda made an unladylike noise, raising a hand to cover her eyes as she winced, as though that could stymie the tide of images assaulting her.
Miranda glanced over her shoulder.
“Andrea,” she breathed.
“Miranda, what, uh --” Andrea faltered. She hovered hesitantly, running her large eyes up and down Miranda's finely dressed form. She was turning a magnetic key card over and over in her right hand.
Miranda's slitted eyes were glittering, her lips pursed. “Where have you been?”
“Miranda?” Andrea blinked, shifting from foot to foot. “I – what – what are you doing here?”
Miranda scanned Andrea's hastily put-together wardrobe. Her eyes narrowed as she took in the rumpled silk blouse only three quarters tucked into a skirt, the slightly smeared makeup, and the distinct frizzyness of Andrea's hair.
“Collect your things. I'm taking you back to New York.”
Andrea's frown deepened. She looked Miranda solidly in the eye before tilting her head in confusion. “I – well, that's why I'm here. To get my luggage. My flight leaves in three hours.”
Miranda shook her head. Her hands were shaking violently with the effort she was exerting to contain whatever the hell it was she was so upset about. Andrea's smug innocence, for one.
“I have a new ticket for you. You will leave accompanying me,” she informed Andrea firmly.
“I, ah, Miranda...” Andrea stuttered to a halt at Miranda's eyebrow, which had raised condescendingly in obvious distaste. “Yes, Miranda.”
Avoiding physical contact in any way, Andrea carefully sidled past Miranda and slid her magnetic key card down the lock.
Avoiding physical contact now are you, Miranda thought imperiously. There was a desperately sarcastic and cutting comment somewhere in there begging to be unleashed, and oh how she wanted to say something deliciously vicious and lashing. Miranda pushed the urge aside and focused on maintaining her professionalism – she didn't understand why keeping her emotions under control was such a struggle.
Miranda was hot on Andrea's heels as they entered the bedroom, which appeared to be immaculate – the bedspread wasn't even wrinkled. Had room service made her bed yesterday, or was that two nights in a row she had spent away from this room?
Miranda glanced over – Andrea was throwing into her suitcase the odd bits of herself that had somehow been distributed around the ill-used room: a laptop, a cellphone charger, a wad of papers covered in hand-written notes, and a multitudinous supply of spring-scent personal shampoos from the bath. She watched Andrea disappear behind the fridge to scrabble around with some wires before emerging with a hotplate.
“Could there possibly be anything else you need to gather? Have you started a vegetable garden somewhere you need to harvest? No? Well then.”
Miranda left the room with a parting nose-crinkle of disdain. She didn't like associating Andrea with hotel rooms or big beds or spring-scented shampoo. Andrea dutifully scurried behind her dragging a wheeled luggage case, hair magically in place and skirt properly straightened somehow while Miranda wasn't looking. Miranda could appreciate that, at least. Her assistant was never one to fail in meeting Miranda's standards for long.
“Call Emily and let her know we're on our way back, then get a hold of Dolce and Gabbana and get those fabric samples delivered to the airport and waiting for me when I step off the plane in New York. Call – no, have Emily call Cruella and make sure she knows that there will be no future intimacies with you, nor any communication at all for that matter. Also, coffee. Andrea?”
Without permission Miranda's throat employed an unfamiliar, uncertain tone to the name that frankly made her uncomfortable. The secure feeling of having her all-knowing assistant once again trailing her had disappeared sometime between passing a laundry room and reaching the elevator.
Miranda turned to verify that Andrea had indeed stopped wheeling her luggage. The blankest expression was on her face. Andrea's face was always expressing something, whether it was annoyance, or determination, or admiration, Miranda thought to herself, albeit to the girl's detriment. To see it blank was... strange.
“No further... intimacies?” Andrea parroted.
“With Cruella de Ville,” Miranda clarified, “and we won't speak another word of her.”
The frown that had been visiting and revisiting Andrea – as though she were trying to suppress its appearance – returned. “Miranda, is that why you're here? You don't want me sleeping with Cruella? How did you even know?”
Was Andrea even listening to her? Miranda had specifically dictated not to mention another word of that tramp. “Andrea, we're leaving. Come.”
Andrea appeared to be totally oblivious of Miranda's instructions today, however, and didn't budge. “Emily can't have known,” she said.
“Well that's bosh,” snapped Miranda, “because Emily is who informed me. And she told me about your little deal with her and Nigel to hide the entire affair, so don't try to deny anything else.”
“But I hadn't --”
“Whatever it is Cruella is offering you, I promise Runway can and would do better, Andrea, if that's what you're worried about. And unlike that vile, immoral trollop, I won't ask you to sleep with me in order to get it.”
“I don't – is that what this is about...? Miranda, no, I swear, I wouldn't do anything like that.” Andrea was looking at Miranda as though she had transformed into something that was dangerous and fascinating and befuddling all at once. “I don't know what Emily told you, but I'm here doing a shoot with Cruella to keep her occupied and away from Runway.”
“You've all but admitted your relation with her already,” Miranda accused. “'How did you even know?'” she mimicked.
Andrea wrapped her arms around herself, taking a step back. “What I do with my private life is none of your business.”
“Everything you do is my business.” Miranda had meant to say Runway's business, but she couldn't correct herself. That would be weak. “Why would you be with her if not to get ahead?”
“I – I like her, Miranda. So I had sex with her,” replied Andrea, clearly confused. “Is that so hard to believe?”
Miranda didn't know what the hell could be so confusing about not whoring around with Cruella de Ville. “Then stop.”
“Stop liking her?”
Miranda gritted her teeth. “Stop spreading your goddamn legs for her.”
The reeling hurt on her assistant's wide-eyed face was not something she was likely to forget – ever. It made Miranda relieved; perhaps she had finally gotten through to the young woman. And it made Miranda feel the slightest bit vindicated about her accusations.
And it made Miranda feel a little bit awful about herself.
“If I have to say this again, you'll be looking for another job on the other side of the country. Let's. Go.”
“It's my private --” Andrea stammered, “that's not --”
“You're fired,” said Miranda.
“I'm fired,” Andrea repeated, then suddenly seemed to realize what the words meant. “No. Just like that?”
Not just like that, Miranda thought. She just couldn't stand looking at Andrea and imagining her laying with that psychopathic harlot. That and the swift viciousness of cutting Andrea down was too much; Miranda detested guilt. The further she got away from Andrea and her wide stunned eyes, the less guilty she would feel.
Miranda continued to wait for a promise of renunciation, a guarantee of faithfulness to Runway if only the editor would allow her to keep her job, but instead Andrea nonsensically said, “One more month.”
Not sure of how to respond to that, Miranda pushed the call button for the elevator, which opened immediately, and left.
“Andy, it's Mom again. I just got off the phone with Lily, she said you were fired? I just can't believe it sweetie, what did you do? Well I knew when you started talking all that one year, I'll get a job anywhere spiel that it was a pipe dream, sweetheart, I'm sorry to say. But you'll get over this, you'll see. Maybe now you'll have more time to meet someone new. And for god's sake, call me. I hate having to call Lily to get the details of your life second hand.”
The next morning Miranda woke in her New York bedroom and opened her eyes expectantly, inhaling deeply to relish the non-guilt and lack of regret from dealing with the situation in Canada.
Now that Andrea was removed from her immediate person Miranda could carry on running her magazine without worrying about the fur-crazed madwoman or her misguided second assistant.
'One more month.'
It had taken some thought for Miranda to realize the meaning behind her former assistant's words. Andrea had been eleven months into her employment, which meant that within the next 30 days, she would have been rid of Miranda and Runway and flouncing off to any journalistic publication she so desired.
Well Miranda would be damned if she let Andrea – promiscuous traitor that she was – pursue her silly little dreams now. Not when Miranda felt so damn angry about it and couldn't get the image out of her mind of Andrea reeling from her cutting words.
Miranda spent the car ride to the Elias-Clarke building using her phone to email her publicity agent Andrea's details – he knew the protocols. Before noon everyone in fashion and (more importantly) the east coast's publishing industry would have Andrea Sach's name cataloged and flagged.
She scoffed as she exited the Rolls-Royce when she caught a glimpse of Roy texting speedily from the side view mirror. He was probably warning Emily of her impending 30 minute early arrival. Had Andrea still been employed, she would have been able to read Miranda's mood in the aftermath of the weekend's events and have warned the entire Runway staff the evening prior.
Thoughts of Andrea led her to the train of thought that had been encircling her since Sunday. What had Cruella been planning with the girl? Had Miranda foiled a crucial part of Cruella's plot to take down Runway with her firing of Andrea or had she only slowed her down? What role could Andrea have possibly played in the woman's mad schemes?
There was no way in hell that Cruella had seduced Andrea out of some foolish notion of love. With Cruella de Ville there was always a seedier motive.
“Emily,” she announced when the elevator arrived at the appropriate floor and she glided into a flurry of panicked activity. “Call my private investigator. Get me everything he's dug up since Saturday. Then contact human resources and find me a new Andrea. Less fat, more smart. Get it done.”
Miranda observed Emily scuttling off to do her bidding and unconsciously pursed her lips. Andrea didn't scuttle. She walked, strutted, and occasionally (obnoxiously) pranced. Andrea nimbly flitted from place to place, and Miranda had appreciated the self-confidence it took for Andrea to move herself the way she did.
To her great ire, Miranda spent the rest of the morning and afternoon lamenting her wayward assistant. Nothing was quite right in the office anymore.
Her magazines were lain out blockily, lacking the feminine touch they had displayed before when Andrea had artistically fanned them out, feeling slightly thumbed through when Miranda cracked them open. Miranda had no idea why that tiny detail stood out to her that morning, but it did, and it irked her.
Miranda spent a meeting-less morning quietly going over a four page feature written on Christian Dior's new love for metallics. The open lobby outside her office maintained an eerie silence, punctured only by Emily's squeaky voice answering a phone or the Brit's ham-handed typing.
Miranda had spent more time than she had realized listening in on the quiet conversations that carried on between her two assistants. Her focus drifted from the article she was heavily critiquing onto an exchange she had chanced to overhear the previous Tuesday.
“Emily,” Andrea cooed.
“Leave me alone.”
“Look at it.”
“Kindly refrain from waving that disgusting morsel in front of my face. I'm busy,” Emily bit off.
“Not one piece?”
“No,” replied Emily firmly.
A minute or two of typing whiled away, until...
“I made a tootsie monster! Rawr.”
“What the hell is a – gah! Get that away from me!”
Miranda was nibbling on the tip of her glasses when she realised she was smirking at the memory. Andrea had possessed a condescending sort of humor that matched Miranda's own. The smirk slipped from her features.
Andy's first afternoon as an unemployed vagrant was passing uneventfully. There was little going on in her tiny apartment, mainly because she was celebrating her unemployment by not lifting a finger to do a damn thing.
Her cell phone had been ringing all morning. She had five missed calls and two voice messages from Emily that she hadn't bothered to listen to yet. Even if it was Emily calling to offer her her job back, Andy wouldn't have taken the job or the call.
She sucked halfheartedly on a spoonful of mint chocolate chip ice cream, watching passively as a potential contestant bombed on American Idol tryouts.
Her home phone started ringing. She ignored it.
“Andrea, where are you and what the bloody hell happened? Miranda has gone insane and everyone is flying in the dark. I need to know if this is about Cruella or what. Call me back as soon as you get this. Oh, and your mother won't stop calling your office phone, she's harassing the new girl. If you have the slightest amount of consideration for those of us who've managed to keep our jobs, get her to stop before Miranda notices.”
So Emily and Nigel had managed to keep their jobs through this mess. Well, neither of them had 'spread their god damn legs' for one of Miranda's enemies, now had they, Andy thought scornfully.
Now her livelihood had been stolen out from under her. Journalism might as well have been a fairytale as likely as it was for her to break into the industry now.
“One more month,” she mumbled absently to herself, taking another bite.
Andy had passed out and was napping pleasantly on her couch when she was dragged back to reality by a rapping on her apartment door. She roused briefly, sniffed, rubbed her cheek and turned over, intent on burying the sound with her blanket. She clutched the pillow tighter to her head.
A doorknob twisted and clicked before Andy recalled that she'd been too out of it to lock her own door.
“Lovie, you must tell me why – Andy! Whatever is the matter?”
“How do you know where I live, Cruella?” Andy mumbled into a couch cushion.
“Andy?” said Cruella hesitantly. “Are you – have I done something?”
“Nothing at all,” sighed Andy. “I know you were looking forward to it, but I'm just not up for one last hurrah.”
“Um,” said Cruella.
“It was just a bit of fun, right? So no harm done,” Andy said face-down. “Was it Emily who gave you my address? She really shouldn't have.”
“I... you understand I was concerned for your well-being when that other girl showed up at the restaurant to go over the shoot. You – you had promised, you see, and --”
“I'm so sorry Cruella,” said Andy miserably, and promptly burst into tears.
“It's not like we could've seen this coming,” Nigel told Emily confidentially the next morning. “Firing her beloved little Six. Who would've thought?”
“Discussing she-who-shall-not-be-named is forbidden,” Emily sang back, determinedly concentrating on arranging a rack of summer skirts according to length.
“Miranda had been demanding more and more of Andy's time,” Nigel continued conversationally. “In a normal person, we would have assumed she enjoyed Six's company. Just because it's Miranda, it never occurred to us.”
“I don't know what you're on about and I don't care,” Emily announced.
“And now Six is fired and blacklisted. This doesn't intrigue you?”
Emily set him a look. “Where are you going with this?”
“I mean, has she ever actually seemed to enjoy spending time with anyone?”
“Stephen,” came the answer automatically, before Emily could stop herself. “Before she found out he, you know. Cheated. But that's completely different.”
“What's completely different?” Miranda swooped down on them like a hawk. “These skirts? Because you're right, these are Vera Wang formal skirts, when I specifically asked for summer. Is that too much to ask for? That the models not look like they're attending a funeral when they're on the beach this afternoon? Are we going for the strict schoolmarm look this year and no one told me? Hmm?”
As soon as she had appeared, Miranda was sweeping away in a cloud of displeasure.
“It's like she's going through the divorce all over again,” said Nigel, giving Emily a stern glance. “Don't let her get attached to the new girl.”
Cruella fixed Andy tea, insistent that the beverage would magically cure any and all woes that may have been wracking her. While the surrealism of having Cruella de Ville tinkering in her kitchen and setting a kettle didn't escape her, Andy felt melancholy with the realization that Cruella had possibly done more kind acts for her in the past 72 hours than had been done for her the past 11 months at Runway.
When Andy was presented with the mug and took a tentative sip, Cruella watching on tenterhooks beside her on the couch, to her surprise she did feel the tiniest bit better.
“Hm?” said Cruella.
“Mm,” Andy bit her lip, “it may have worked just a little bit.”
“Just a little bit?”
At Cruella's quirk of a smile, Andy allowed herself to reflect it back. “Yeah.”
Cruella readjusted herself on Andy's loveseat, sitting straight and twisting her hands in her lap, glancing around the apartment politely. “Well that's something, then.”
“I'm sorry for dumping all of this on you,” Andy finally sighed, after stirring her tea for an unusually lengthy amount of time. Cruella shot her a quick, searching look.
“Your days are free, then? You have no obligations?”
“Besides getting a job as a bricklayer somewhere?” She groaned and covered her eyes at the prospect. “No, no plans. Do you want to go out to eat somewhere?” Andy peeked out from underneath her arm and nearly didn't noticed Cruella's hands moving from one side of her lap to the other, not sure what to do with themselves. But there was no way Cruella was nervous. Was she?
“You could come back with me to London.” Cruella grabbed her mug from the coffee table and gulped down the last dregs of her tea. “I can show you the manor, the grounds, the designs for next season. It'll be brilliant!” She flashed Andy her trademark baring-of-teeth before becoming aware of herself, and the near-maniacal grin slipped from her features to make way for uncertainty.
It struck Andy how Cruella's tentativeness had increased with every conversation between them. It made her want to smirk, at least until her breathe caught at the idea of what the other woman was suggesting, even as Cruella was regarding her anxiously. Go to another country? Up and leave, just like that? She shook her head. “I'd love to visit someday, but without a steady income I'd rather wait to buy a ticket until I can –“
“No one would need to buy anyone a ticket,” Cruella waved the preposterous thought away like she was shooing away an annoying bee, “you'd come with me on my jet.”
A million excuses flooded through Andy's mind, top amongst them the automatic revile she felt for luxury and an instinctual unwillingness to change her surroundings in a time of crisis. Frankly, the offer made her uncomfortable. Just like the flowers she'd been presented in Canada, and the compliments Cruella had given her all Saturday night.
“Just to have fun,” Cruella tacked on hastily.
When had a person doing nice things for her made her uncomfortable? Andy couldn't remember a time before Runway – before Miranda – that she had ever felt that way.
The small acts of kindness Cruella had shown her had struck her as so alien, she had recoiled as though they were slaps to her face. The slightest complement from the woman had made Andy confused, unsure of herself and of how to react to them.
“I can't believe...”
“I'm sorry?” Cruella questioned with a note of confusion. “Can't believe what?”
...How like Miranda I've become, thought Andy. Instead of answering she swallowed the words, which settled queasily into her stomach, but where the weight of them did not disappear.
“I'll think about it, Cruella,” she said instead. “Honest.”
Cruella beamed.“We take off tomorrow evening. 8:20.”
“I'll call you,” Andy promised. “I have your number.”
Cruella fiddled with her empty mug. “I suppose I should be leaving, then.” She set the mug firmly on the table and reached out, possibly to touch Andy's hand, but retracted at the last second.
The withholding of affection stung – just a little bit, but it did. Was this how she had treated Cruella over the weekend? Had she become just as icy and heartless as the boss who had thrown her on her ass for something as simple as having the wrong lover?
“Wait,” she said. Cruella was already standing up and straightening her long dress, adjusting the lemur fur wrap around her thin shoulders. “Let me walk you out of the building.” She touched Cruella's arm gently, then moved her touch upward to tie the knot of the wrap for her.
The seemingly inconsequential acknowledgment of their familiarity picked up the corners of Cruella's mouth, more so when Andy opened the door for her. She bit her lip as she escorted Cruella down the stairs, the latter navigating the steps easily despite her sharp stilettos.
Andy hesitated at the bottom of the steps, and Cruella was two steps ahead of her before she realized her companion was missing.
Andy stepped hesitantly into Cruella's personal space, having to crane her neck slightly to meet the other woman's uncertain gaze. “In case I don't see you tomorrow.”
She stood on tip-toes to reach the tall woman's lips, kissing them soundly. Cruella was slow to respond, seemingly stunned – but eventually she deepened the embrace, palm drifting to caress Andy's cheek before allowing Andy's tongue access to her mouth.
After a long minute, Andy broke away, sorry that it had to end but smiling just the same.
“Um,” said Cruella, glancing outside. Her driver had pulled up the Ford outside the front entrance. “Until we meet again, Andy.” She gave an uncertain wave, an action that did not fit Cruella's persona in Andy's opinion, and departed with that.
She wasn't supposed to feel guilty. She wasn't supposed to miss her. All of Monday, and now worse today, and it was unbearable.
Before this afternoon, Miranda had never truly comprehended what it meant to be haunted. She couldn't help but see Andrea's ghost sitting behind the second assistant's desk, cleverly insulting Emily while fielding calls and balancing Miranda's appointments like an expert juggler. She couldn't help but long for Andrea's calm presence taking down Miranda's notes without batting a pretty cinnamon eye. Not quivering in terror, like the new girl was right now.
Miranda waved distractedly, all focus on the mock-up spread out on her desk. “You're fired. Go away.” The girl's mouth gaped open like a fish's.
Miranda scrolled through the photographs her private investigator had just sent to her Blackberry. Cruella at customs, returning from Canada. Cruella knocking on Andrea's apartment door. Andrea somewhere in her apartment building, smiling openly, eyes bright and pleased at something Cruella was saying.
Andrea intimately kissing Cruella de Ville full on the mouth, eyes still bright and pleased and – something more.
Her desk phone buzzed – Miranda picked it up before it could finish its first ring. “What?”
“Is this Miranda Priestly?” an older female voice demanded after a pause.
Miranda scrunched her nose at the woman's nasal tone, but maintained her polite bearing. She wasn't a barbarian, after all. “Yes it is, with whom am I speaking?”
“The woman whose daughter you fired this weekend, Mrs. Priestly, now I would like an --”
“A good day to you,” said Miranda, and promptly hung up.
Miranda pushed the phone away, rubbing the spot between her eyes. A small shuffling caught her attention. The new girl was standing shiftily, still lingering in the orbit of Miranda's desk.
“I – um...”
“Emily,” Miranda pressed the intercom button on her telephone set, “come collect your garbage, please. I'm going out for a walk. Hold my schedule.”
Miranda left the idiot girl in her office, collected her coat and bag from an anxious Emily – she was always anxious whenever Miranda committed a sin against the ever-sacred schedule – and slipped into the elevator's sterile privacy.
She needed fresh air. Not something she usually needed, but desperation was an atypical director that she rarely allowed reign to.
She needed to breathe and think somewhere she didn't associate with the cheery, smiling demeanor of Andrea Sachs.
She could not let herself think that dangerous thought. That dangerous, unmentionable desire. Miranda squeezed her eyes shut as the floors counted down.
She could not be that pathetic.
The doors thunked and slid open; Miranda opened her eyes immediately. A crowd that had been waiting to board the elevator surged back at the sight of her, allowing a broad swathe for her to pass through.
This was who Miranda was – someone to be respected. Someone strong. Impossible to defeat.
Emerging from the lobby into the stark, cold New York air, she slipped her phone from her pocket, pulling up the photos once more.
There should be no such thing as a forbidden desire for a woman like me. Miranda tucked the phone into her bag and adopted a longer stride, shouldering through the pedestrian crowd. She had gotten to where she was by setting her sights on exactly what she wanted, sinking her teeth into it and refusing to release her grip.
Cruella had stolen Andrea because she had realized something that Miranda hadn't – that Andrea was the perfect partner for people like them. Demanding people like Cruella and Miranda. Miranda had been foolishly wondering what Cruella's game had been, what plot there was to overthrow Runway, but there had been nothing.
Miranda's greatest asset was now Cruella's, and more. Not only did Cruella possess Andrea's prodigal talents for organization, people-connecting and near telepathic all around ability to accomplish the impossible for the de Ville fashion house, Cruella had Andrea in every aspect of her life. To have Andrea around twenty-four seven – Miranda was frankly stunned she hadn't thought of it before.
And there was the forbidden thought.
It could have been her.
The soft, crinkled eyes Andrea made while regarding Cruella in that picture – Miranda had bore witness to shadows of it before. It had been present a few times when Andrea had handed her a piping hot coffee. The look had been lurking behind a wink when Andrea had conveniently let one of her ex-husband's calls go to voicemail, and Miranda had granted her an appreciative nod. It had made an appearance once when she walked in on Miranda chewing nervously at the tip of her glasses, eying a particularly dreadful mock-up with a deadline looming.
Those tiny, affectionate looks were full blown when directed at Cruella.
Those looks could have been Miranda's. They should have been hers.
But it was not only that.
Cruella would continue to seduce Andrea, abusing the woman's generosity and skills without a second thought to Andrea's wants or livelihood. Cruella was a psychopath who was taking advantage; she didn't deserve those soft looks.
Miranda, however, now that the idea had been planted in her mind – she could imagine Andrea gazing at her so openheartedly.
Sometimes, when she allowed herself to believe the fantastic, she could imagine herself gazing similarly back. The thought of it caused a flutter just on the inside her chest.
Andrea had to listen to the voice of reason eventually, and when she did, she would know the people she truly belonged with. In time she would be forced to understand how utterly ridiculous she was being. She only had to listen to Miranda's advice and get out of that dastardly woman's influence.
“Andy, darling.” Cruella's voice was breathless over the phone. “I've been so hopeful you would call.”
Andy took a deep breath, slipping her passport into the outside pocket of her laptop bag. “Still have room for one more?”
A sharp intake of air cut through the other line. “Always, dearie.”
“You've been incredibly kind to me, Cruella.”
“I know,” Cruella mused, sounding genuinely baffled. “Bizarre, isn't it?
“Ha. You're not saying you're not usually this generous to others, are you?”
“That's precisely what I”m saying. But you're different,” Cruella continued perplexedly, then her voice sharpened dramatically. “Why, when you were crying yesterday I couldn't imagine anyone being so cruel to you.”
There was a dangerous undercurrent flowing beneath Cruella's tone of voice there, but Andy chose to disregard it. Cruella wasn't close enough to her to get so terribly upset over a firing that she would do something drastic. Andy had yet to witness the woman's infamous temper and was beginning to consider everything she had heard before as unsubstantiated rumors. Besides, there wasn't much Cruella could do to a woman like Miranda Priestly, was there?
Still, there was a very intimate element to Cruella's protectiveness of her. Andy didn't say it out loud, but she would be equally as upset if similar circumstances were to befall Cruella's career – or if she were ever witness to the woman's tears.
Andy threw in one last pair of socks into her suitcase, latched it and set it next to the front door, making a decision. “I hate to be the one to point out the obvious here,” she said quietly, “but this isn't exactly the way friends behave around each other. Not even friends with benefits,” she added wistfully.
“That's not...” Cruella started to respond hesitantly.
“No, I'm sorry, this isn't the type of thing we should talk about over the phone,” she retracted quickly. “We don't have to talk about this right now.”
“It's quite alright, I – perhaps secretly I do wish for more,” whispered Cruella as though she were admitting something terribly shameful.
“Andy... I'm so sorry. Don't think that I--”
“Don't be sorry,” said Andy fiercely. “I was only making an observation. I'm truly sorry if I made you paranoid – I wouldn't mind taking us a bit more seriously. Exploring and seeing where this takes us, I guess. I mean, if it's what you want, too.”
She bit her lip. Cruella's silence was unnerving.
“Explore?” she finally asked.
“We can see each other in London, and hang out, and I guess if that goes somewhere, then it does, and if it doesn't go anywhere, it doesn't matter either way, does it?”
“I'd like that,” Cruella exhaled. “I'm not sure as to the why, but I'd like that very much.”
Andy swallowed. “Me too.”
“I – I'll pick you up, then,” said Cruella, pitch slightly high.
“I already called a cab, don't worry. It's at JFK, right? Could I meet you somewhere? At security?”
“Andy, it's Mom. I spoke with Nate the other morning. He's doing well, despite the fact that you haven't called him in months. Still quite taken with you. I'm going to give him a call and have him meet you for dinner this weekend, okay? I'll call you later with the details.”
“Message deleted. Next message.”
“Andy? It's Mom. Well, dinner – maybe some other time, he said. Um... Andy. You – this is going to sound nuts, sweetie. Nate sa... I mean, you and um, Miranda Priestly. There was nothing, um, funny going on, was there? Please don't tell me there was. You know I can't deal with your problems right now. Call me back.”
Miranda was afraid the driver of the dinghy cab that had dropped her off had made some grievous error until she spotted a familiar brunette head bent over, turning a key in the lock of an apartment.
Miranda's breathe caught. It had only been days since she'd seen her, but in those days Andrea had only existed in pictures, and Miranda had never been away from her for longer than a weekend before that.
Andrea twirled around, mouth fallen open in surprise. Too late, Miranda noticed the laptop satchel slung over her shoulder and the suitcase set against the wall.
“Leaving for somewhere?”
Just tell me it's not with that harlot, Miranda mentally ordered her. Anything but that.
“What are you doing here?” Andrea's arms folded defensively around her.
Miranda fought not to cringe at Andrea's guarded wariness – like she was expecting to be hurt. Miranda would not appear weak.
“I'm here to apologize, Andrea.”
Whatever Andrea had been expecting, apparently, hadn't been that, because as she held herself tighter her eyelids dropped speculatively, suspicion coloring her every aspect.
“That's very big of you,” she responded bitterly. Her large eyes were unusually shiny with moisture, Miranda noted. “Am I not blacklisted, then, or is that too much to hope for?”
“Not at all,” she answered immediately. “In fact, if you'd like your employment returned to you, you can be back at your desk by tomorrow morning.”
“Changed your mind, did you.” Andrea was setting her a stony glare. It was a caustic stubbornness Miranda hadn't before witnessed on the younger woman. She had caused that.
Miranda breathed in, breathed out. Breathed in, breathed out. “I'd like you to reconsider your relationship with Cruella de Ville and propose a proper candidate.” Yes, that sounded good. Professional and respectful of Andrea's feelings; a good start, in Miranda's not-so-humble opinion.
“A proper –?” Andrea dropped the vindictive act, regarding her perplexedly. “What, have you and my mother started a club?”
“Be with me instead, Andrea.”
Andrea had been fiddling with the zipper of her satchel; she promptly stopped.
“I am wealthy and influential, to say the least. I am intelligent and well read. I am not mentally ill.”
“Are you kidding me?” Andrea rudely interrupted.
Miranda continued doggedly, “I am capable of positively influencing your career in journalism, if you so wish. I am a good mother. My girls would adore another positive female influence. In all cases and situations, I would be a better, fitter partner than Cruella de Ville. And in return, I would gain the benefit of having your mind and skills in every aspect of my life, and the girls' lives. I will no longer have to deal with selfish partners constantly seeking to undermine me, or misunderstand me. You understand me better than anyone I've ever known. Andrea, we would be the perfect match.”
Miranda left the weak things unsaid. Words like, 'you could never grow to hate me,' and 'I'm lonely,' and 'it's strange, but I can imagine us spending every day together, forever, and not get tired of each other.'
Andrea's face was soft and thoughtful. She looked Miranda in the eye, and Miranda knew – she knew – that even though she hadn't said those things, Andrea knew. Somehow, she knew everything weak about Miranda. “You've obviously given this some thought.”
“I'm aware this is abrupt, but your current relationship forced my hand. I had to inform you that I was an alternative choice. Otherwise, I would have no one else to blame when you didn't choose me.” Miranda turned away from her to leave, unable to bear Andrea's knowing expression any longer. “I've said my piece. Just consider it.”
“Miranda,” she called after her. “I don't have to think about it. I can't.”
A cold hand wrapped around Miranda's heart and squeezed it cruelly. She turned around, raising an eyebrow. “Don't speak ahead of yourself. Think it over for a week. Or two.”
Andrea shook her head, waves of brunette hair falling to graze her cheek. Miranda resisted the urge to step forward and tuck it behind her ear.
“I couldn't – please, don't take this wrong. I think you're a good person, Miranda. You're right, we would be a good match. But I couldn't – you're not what I need right now.”
Miranda didn't know how she could need anything else. She thought she had sold herself very well, and she hadn't been exaggerating.
“Perhaps you underestimate me. What is your concern?”
An annoying jingle filled the hallway accompanied with a buzz. Andrea pulled a cellphone from her pocket and Miranda caught a glance at the screen. Cruella was calling; the phone was lit up with her name and a picture of an outright hideous bouquet of flowers.
Andrea silenced the phone, gazing at the photo of the bouquet a long moment before proffering the picture to Miranda.
“These flowers, Miranda, they were the first nice thing anyone's done for me in a long time. So long, I don't even remember.”
“I see,” said Miranda, quite patiently she thought. “They're... very unique.”
“Cruella de Ville – Cruella freaking de Ville – was the first person to be genuinely kind to me in so long – I didn't even know what to do. I hadn't been treated like a real person, with real feelings, for so long, I didn't even know how to react. It made me uncomfortable.” Andrea shook her head sadly, arms returning to their defensive position around her middle. “Isn't that pathetic?”
“I,” Miranda started, having some idea of where this was going, “you were my assistant. A relationship would be different. Everything would be different between us. Completely different.”
'I would treat you like a queen,' went unsaid.
“I'm so sorry, Miranda, I can't risk that.” Andrea grabbed the handle of her wheelie suitcase. “Now that I have it, I'm not going to throw it away. I can't be in a relationship with someone who is arbitrarily cruel. I know you, I know you don't mean it like people take it. But I can't do it. My answer is no, and it won't change.”
“It wouldn't be like that,” said Miranda helplessly. “I could never – would never – where are you going?”
Andrea was halfway down the hallway to the stairs. “London. I'm going away for a while.”
“Andrea.” Miranda followed her pertinaciously, easily catching up despite her heels. “Wait.”
“I won't say it again.”
Her staunchly fought for control was wriggling from her grasp, yet Miranda found she couldn't make herself care.
“You don't get to just be with Cruella, and stop considering me, and never give me another chance! How is that fair? She shouldn't get to keep you!”
“Why the hell not? That's how it works, Miranda. There's her, and there's me, and we work, Miranda. There's no dating on the side. There's no you anywhere in this scenario.”
Andrea still would not look Miranda in the eye. She tightened the strap of the satchel over her shoulder, shrugging in an attempt at nonchalance. “Go back to your magazine, Miranda.”
Miranda's face reddened. She bit her bottom lip, hands clenching into tight fists. “I won't take no for an answer.”
Andrea threw her a long-suffering, incredulous look. “I know this will be a shock to you, but yes, in this case, you literally do have to take no for an answer.”
That was something she hadn't done in twenty years. Miranda would not fail now. Not when it was so painfully obvious just how good they would be together.
Discovering her feelings for Andrea had been a revelation in beauty. It was like finding the perfect evening gown to go with her shoes and her accessories after hours of searching her closet, and then putting it on makes her feel magical.
A fat drop of rainwater splashed Miranda's cheek.
They were both outside on the curb and Andrea was raising her arm. Had Miranda followed her all the way out here without realizing?
A taxi screeched to a halt, thoroughly spraying Miranda from an inconveniently located puddle. “Wait, Andrea! Tell me what to do to make this happen. Tell me and I'll do it.”
Miranda made to follow Andrea into the cab, but the door slammed too quickly for her to get in.
Miranda tapped on the window, which was spot-marked with splashes of rain. Andrea refused to turn her head, focusing instead on saying something indeterminable to the cabbie.
Andrea turned her head – finally, which Miranda thanked god for because she was not saying that awful nickname again – and established eye contact.
Her large brown eyes were not blinking. Andrea's mouth had formed a thin, uncertain line.
The cab jerked forward, inserting itself into traffic before Miranda could blink.
Miranda sat studiously at her desk, carefully examining next week's set budget.
Someone was going to walk in on them.
The brief panic Miranda experienced was overwritten by light fingers pushing her skirt to ride up her thighs, then palms pressing the skin of her inner legs to spread them gently apart.
The door wasn't even locked, thought Miranda desperately as Andrea ran a wet tongue up from beside her knee.
Miranda squirmed slightly, but Andrea pushed her head forward, settling it firmly between Miranda's legs and oh-god-it-felt-so-hot-there.
“If you don't like what I'm doing, Miranda, just ignore me,” Miranda heard Andrea murmur. “That budget's important.”
On that, Miranda would have vehemently agreed, but at that moment Miranda couldn't keep her eyes focused enough on the budget to see it straight.
Not when Andrea was pulling Miranda's lingerie panties to the side like that. Not when a hot, flat tongue pressed firmly to her wet labia – oh god – like that. Miranda's hips jerked.
This was such a wrong thing to do. The accounting team was due in twenty minutes. What if they came early? What if...?
Miranda felt Andrea's lips smile against her, as if she knew what she had been thinking, then swiped her tongue upward, grazing the tip of Miranda's clitoris. Miranda fought in vain to stymie another of her hips' jerks, and couldn't help a tiny little moan.
That was all the acknowledgment Andrea needed, apparently, because then her tongue was pressing a steady, constant beat on her clit, licking and sucking. Miranda wantonly spread her legs wider, granting Andrea full access, and abandoning all pretenses of doing any kind of respectable paperwork.
A light pressure touched her lower lips. Andrea's hand was hesitating at her entrance, not sure if Miranda wanted it. Miranda groaned in response. She needed more. She needed her inside. How she wished she could see Andrea's eyes, but the hem of her skirt and the desk blocked everything she desperately wanted to see. Miranda was sure those eyes would be burning.
Andrea must have understood what Miranda had meant, because she then thrust two deliciously long fingers deep inside Miranda's tight channel. The burning stretch between Miranda's thighs wasn't enough. “More,” she struggled to say, grudgingly aware that having her reduced to this nonverbal mess excited her Andrea deeply. Andrea conceded a third finger to Miranda's cunt, stretching it wide and making it – god – so full.
Miranda shoved her fist into her mouth as she cried out. Andrea's fingers were moving steadily as her sinful mouth sucked Miranda's clit.
The budget was a crinkled ball on the floor. Miranda had no idea how it had gotten there, but there her pens were too, knocked carelessly over, strewn across the carpet.
Then all Miranda could care about was the twisted clenching in her center. She was so close...
“Thanks for holding my spot, dearie.”
A claw-gloved hand clamped down painfully on Miranda's shoulder and squeezed. Miranda gasped as she was tugged from her own chair, yanked from Andrea's hold.
Cruella smiled cruelly at Miranda, then blew a puff of grape-scented smoke in her face. “Now be a good darling and guard the door for us, will you? Oh, and find somewhere for this.” The fur-clad woman placed her long-stemmed, still burning cigarette in Miranda's stunned open palm.
By the time Miranda had found an ashtray, Cruella was sitting in her chair leaning back, legs splay.
“Guard the door, Miranda,” Cruella repeated, smirking.
Miranda cradled the ashtray and stood stupidly by the door as Cruella quickly bucked and thrashed under Andrea's ministrations. Miranda struggled to tear her eyes away, but she couldn't – even when she deliberately stuck her fingertips into the ashes of the burning cigarette – in spite of the searing pain, she couldn't look away. It wasn't long before the black-and-white haired woman was shuddering her release, then pulling a purring Andrea into her lap for a searing kiss.
Miranda reared her arm back to throw the ashtray straight at that devil woman's head –
The editor flinched and blinked rapidly, glancing around her office. New girl number two was hovering beside her biting her lip, clutching a grande cup of Starbucks.
“I have your coffee here. Wow, I guess you really need it, huh?” The girl adjusted her glasses, squinting at the editor's figure. “You know if you fall asleep at work regularly, it could be a sign of an iron deficiency.”
“Really?” said Miranda. “You're fired.”
There had been a leak.
A false leak, but that only made it the more aggravating. A falsehood that she would give a great deal to transform into a truth.
Miranda flipped through the stack of gossip columns Emily had left on her desk.
PRIESTLY CONTINUES DENYING LESBIAN RELATIONSHIP DESPITE HARD EVIDENCE – Exclusive photos inside!
Miranda had examined the photos. Her and Andrea exchanging loving looks, kissing, holding hands – all things that had never happened. And would never happen.
The phone rang – she picked up the receiver and slammed it down. She didn't know how Andrea's mother had gotten her personal desk phone number, but the woman's accusing calls were verging on harassment. On top of that were the hateful, homophobic letters, and the looming threat of Irv taking advantage of the situation to portray her as weak to the board.
LA PRIESTLY BECOMES LA LESBIAN!
Her eye twitched.
Miranda was paying the price in blood for a relationship with Andrea Sachs – and getting NONE of the benefits. Such as actually BEING with Andrea.
Was that so much to ask for? That she not pay the price for something she did not possess, would never possess, and when she had tried had only had the attempt thrown in her face?
She threw her coffee cup too hard at the trash can and it bounced off.
“God damn it,” she hissed, and stomped on it with her heel in vengeance before throwing it again. It bounced off again. She glanced down at the next article.
TRUE LOVE AT LAST FOR THE DRAGON LADY?
It was accompanied by a sweet picture of the couple exchanging soft looks at a fashion show in Paris. Miranda sat straight up. It wasn't a fake photo. That had actually happened.
She ran a finger down the black and white version of Andrea's face. She had once gazed at Miranda like that, and she had gazed back. She remembered why – a particularly silly outfitted model had been prancing down the catwalk. Miranda had had to suppress a snort, but Andrea had looked at her knowingly, a similar repressed grin on her face. To her surprise at the time, Miranda had found it in herself to share the joke, and smiled back.
Andrea had returned to New York yesterday, according to Emily, who Miranda had been interrogating regularly to keep in contact with her former assistant.
She must have been a masochist in a previous life. Miranda called for her coat and bag.
“...worthless there, sweetheart, don't you see that? When are you going to come back home? There's nothing left for you in New York. You could come back home and make something out of yourself. Or you can stay, and keep doing whatever the hell it is you're doing. Call me. Love you.”
Miranda recognized the voice coming from Andrea's half-open apartment door. It was Andrea's mother, the aggravating woman who had been harassing her day in and day out. So it turned out she was just as condescending and despicable with her own daughter as she was to Miranda, she thought grimly.
Surely Andrea wouldn't leave her apartment door open on purpose? Could something have happened?
“Andrea?” she called out loudly.
The lack of response convinced Miranda to take a chance and pull the door all the way open. She slipped inside – she'd never been inside before, but what she saw was neat and tidy, if somewhat cluttered. A small sink, counter and kitchen table was to her left, and sitting by the table in a hard chair, finger on the delete button of her answering machine, was her Andrea.
Her beautiful Andrea with tears in her eyes, hand on her mouth, shoulders shaking.
“It's okay, ah,” Miranda struggled for something comforting to say. “Everything's alright.”
Andrea wiped the tears from her eyes quickly, looking away, cheeks reddening. “You shouldn't be in here,” she mumbled. “You can't just barge in wherever you want, you know.”
Miranda ignored her protestations and approached, laying a hand on her shoulder. Words of comfort clearly were not going to work here. “Don't listen to the garbage your mother substitutes for words. She's been calling me every day – believe me, I know.”
“I don't.” She crossed her arms, sniffing. “I just let it get to me this once. Just being stupid, I guess.”
“I understand,” Miranda replied honestly. She pulled out a second chair and sat, waiting for a rebuke that thankfully did not come, and continued. “She told me I was wasting my time and money with fashion. Do you know what I did?”
Andrea shrugged, still sniffing. She wouldn't make eye contact, gaze wandering from the living room, to the kitchen, to the front door. “You proved her wrong by becoming a success.”
“I proved my mother wrong in every way possible, and then I squashed her.”
Andrea looked at her then, curiosity picqued. “Squashed her?”
“I rubbed it in her face, and she never got a dime,” she explained. The brunette frowned in distaste, so she took a different tack.
“Andrea, if you ever decide to listen to anything I have to say, believe me in this. If your family is anything like your mother, you're better than all of them. You're here because you deserve to be here. They're there because they're pathetic.”
Andrea smiled softly, and there it was.
Miranda soaked it in for all it was worth. Who knew when she would be witness to it again?
“You know,” said Andrea, “you called me Andy last time we spoke.”
Miranda stiffened. “I don't recall that.”
She did recall. Andrea didn't need to know that, however.
“I bet you could do it again, if you tried.” Andrea smiled at her teasingly.
“That atrocious nickname simply will not fall from my lips.”
“Say it with me. Annndy.”
Miranda frowned in concentration. “An – And – And... Andrea. No, no, the pronunciation of that horrid word simply refuses to defile my tongue. It's a lost cause.”
Andrea rolled her eyes with unnecessary vigor. “Well... I guess... I'm sorry, I need to grab my keys from the landlord downstairs. That's why my door was open, I lost them earlier and it locks automatically if you close it. There's a TV in my bedroom if you don't want to sit out here by yourself.”
Miranda did not usually watch TV, but she wouldn't be doing anything but looking at her own fingernails had she stayed in the kitchen, so she nodded. Andrea scooted her chair back and left the table, Miranda dutifully following, before leaving her to her own devices.
“Be right back,” she said, as Miranda scanned her clothing for the first time that day. Well cut designer jeans, Prada flats and a white t-shirt that had probably been bought pre-packaged with five other ones, that for some reason made her heart beat faster.
Miranda watched TV for ten minutes before Andrea returned.
Andrea had returned for ten seconds before Cruella, in stark black heels, ebony lynx-fur wrap and slinky red dress, wandered in behind her.
Cruella took one look at Andrea's red face and puffy eyes before turning an accusing look at Miranda, whose hackles instantly raised.
“You,” she growled, head dropping like a cat who was ready to pounce.
“Hey you two,” Andy said warningly.
“Please, Cruella, frighten some small child with your antics. I am not cowed, though perhaps concerned that your deranged methods will result in you harming yourself.”
“You stay away from Andy!”
“I'll do whatever I damn well please, Cruella. Now go have a conversation with a fur coat somewhere and leave us in peace!”
“You! You!” Cruella seemed unable to say more than that, her mouth working fast, as she stomped into Miranda's personal space.
“You stay away from me!” hissed Miranda aggressively, but it was Cruella who raised one claw-gloved hand.
Miranda instinctively protected her face with her hands. “Gah!” The strike propelled her backwards to bounce onto the spread duvet while clutching her cheek, which stung sharply.
Cruella leered at her, baring her teeth.
“If you two are going fight, then please do it somewhere else!” cried Andy, interjecting herself between Cruella and the still-reeling Miranda, who was crawling to her knees atop Andy's wide bed.
“Stay back, Andrea,” warned Miranda, casting her a protective eye, “she's a madwoman.”
Cruella's enormous red-shot eyes bulged, if possible, even larger. “I'll show you a madwoman, you OCD, snotty little twat!”
Andy heard a shocked squeal from behind her as Cruella lurched left and she had to leap to block Miranda from her path. Cruella ducked to the right and straight under Andy's outstretched arm – a feint. Andy twisted to catch sight of a white and black blur impacting Miranda's body.
“Oof!” Miranda was flailing ungainly beneath the wiry woman. “Get off me, you vile creature. Off!”
“Hold still, damn it, I'm going to strangle that stick out of your ass,” Cruella raged.
“What are you two doing? Stop it!” Andy grabbed the limb nearest to her, which turned out to be Cruella's left clawed hand which had been struggling to tame Miranda's bucking waist as the right attempted to curl itself around the editor's throat.
“Back, Andrea, be careful. I can handle this lunatic in a perfectly capable – ugh – manner,” Miranda gasped. Andy duly ignored her and shouldered her way between the two combatants. Directly after placing herself between the pair of women, two events occurred.
One was Andy's uncomfortable, untimely realization of her own arousal as she hovered on all fours above Miranda's openly enraged complexion, mussed white hair and flushed chest. Cruella's breasts were pressed fully into Andy's back as she twisted her head around Andy's body to shoot Miranda a withering glare. Miranda ignored it – her eyes were locked on Andrea.
The second event was the opening and closing of the front door.
“Andy? You home?”
Cruella and Miranda, for their parts, froze in place.
For two seconds, Andy regretted leaving her apartment unlocked and leaving her bedroom door wide open, and for one second entertained wondering about what she would say should Lily actually have the gall to wander into her private bedroom.
Lily's round face poked around the door frame, peering around inquisitively. “An – uh.”
“Uh,” responded Andy weakly.
Several indignant, accusatory sentences flew through her mind and were quickly discarded, so Andy settled on, “Hang on a sec.”
Lily's eyes were shut and turned hurriedly away as she cautiously retreated, palms raised high. “No no, I'm um, I didn't mean to --”
“Lily,” Andy called as she disentangled herself, “whatever it is you're thinking, don't.”
“I'm an idiot Andy, I thought you were still in London, I swear I never would've – I mean, I'm not – oh fuck.”
Lily's sudden look of absolute horror rattled Andy's bones to the core. “Lily, what?”
“Your mom,” Lily whispered weakly, “she's coming up the stairs.”
On the bedspread Miranda's eyes flashed and she sat straight with a purpose and gave the fiercest scowl Andy had ever seen on her. “That woman.” Cruella only shot Andy a bewildered look as she picked herself up, melee forgotten.
Before Andy could say “Oh shit,” she was there.
The sight of her mother peering wide-eyed around the door frame brought her to a stuttering halt, whatever she had opened her mouth to say immediately falling out of her head. Andy had been associating the misery of her mother so often with listening to her nasal voice over the voice mail recorder that she had nearly forgotten the woman possessed the capability to appear in person.
“Andy?” Clutching a large, faux-bejeweled handbag that would have given Miranda apoplexy upon physical contact, hair in a tight, severe bun, her mother peered at her critically over her glasses. “What – sweetie, I'm so glad you're here, I – who are all these people?”
'All these people,' namely Miranda and Cruella, stiffened as her mother scanned them with a grimace of clear distaste. Her eyes focused like a hawk's on their ruffled clothing and tossed hair, shrewdly taking note of the crumpled bedspread and Miranda's four inch Prada heels, which were strewn at two odd intervals across the bedroom (which Andy could not honestly recall noticing in the heat of the moment).
“I know you to be fully aware of who I am, Margaret.” Miranda sneered. “You talk about me enough to the papers. Don't tell me you've forgotten already.”
“You!” Andy's mother did a double take, taking half a step backward as though repulsed by Miranda's immediate proximity. “I know who you are, although I did nothing of the sort. I would be too ashamed,” she shot a despairing look at Andy, who was still struggling to catch her breath after the tussle without being too obvious about it, “to ever go public with the fact that my daughter is having – relations – with a con artist like you.”
“Mom, please.” Andy stepped forward and placed a pleading hand on her elbow. “We can talk about this sometime. Don't argue with my friends, please. What are you doing in New York?”
“I was worried about you! I called your landlord and he said you're moving to England? You wouldn't answer any of my calls --”
“I told you I can only handle one call a month, mom, that's what we agreed to,” said Andy gently. “Remember?”
But her mother's eyes refocused on Miranda, then Cruella. Her eyes narrowed. “What... what exactly is going on here?”
“A business meeting,” said Miranda matter-of-factly, before Andy – who cringed -- could answer on her own. Even Cruella gave the editor a strange look.
Margaret shook her head. “In my daughter's bedroom? With Cruella de Ville? On her bed – oh, god. Oh god, is this what I think it is?” She darted a look at Lily, who only gulped guiltily. “When you came in here – were they – ?”
“Were we what?” asked Miranda blankly. Then... “Excuse me? I am sure you could not possibly be insinuating what I believe you to be –”
“No, mom, what? What the hell? You barge into my apartment, my personal life and make judgments of what I'm doing, in the privacy of my own home?”
“We were not doing a god damn thing,” Miranda forced out.
“I can't – Andy, I don't believe this.” Margaret was shaking her head again, disappointment etched in every line of her face.
Miranda looked to her right – Andrea was looking down at the ground.
“Mom,” Andrea said. “Please... let's go somewhere else...”
“For what, so your two friends can skedaddle? So you have time to come up with some story that explains how you're not some city slut?”
It was right then that Miranda decided to hit two people in one evening, a record for her. Hitting anyone was a record for her, really. In her peripheral vision she saw Cruella adopt a hostile stance.
Then Andrea said, “Yep.”
Margaret looked at her sharply. “What?”
“Yes. Both of them,” she ground out. “Not even separate. I fuck both of them at the same time, because one is not enough. Every day. I just can't fucking get enough of it. Fuck, fuck, fuck. All the time.”
Her mother's mouth dropped open in horror – Miranda suspected more from the swear words than anything her daughter had been up to.
“And I plan on telling everyone. Everyone at home is going to know you're the mother of the world's biggest, sluttiest lesbian to ever grace the face of the earth.”
Margaret's face crumpled to a disbelieving frown. “Are you threatening me?”
“If I have to,” said Andy firmly. Her expression brokered no sympathy. “Mom, we're going to continue what we were doing. You can leave whenever you like.”
Andrea reached out and grabbed Miranda, latching on to Cruella with the other arm, and leaned down slightly.
Miranda wasn't sure what Andrea was doing, putting her face so close to hers, until her lips brushed Miranda's.
It lasted a millisecond, but the tingle remained for full seconds after.
Andrea's eyes glanced towards her mother, who still hadn't left, standing in the doorway, looking on in morbid, horrified curiosity.
“Well,” Andy ventured. “If my mother refuses to speak to me ever again...”
“So?” said Cruella. “How about it?”
“Um,” Andrea said.
Miranda crossed her arms. “It cannot possibly be that simple.”
Andrea cast a questioning glance toward Cruella, who was glaring hatefully at the spot her mother had stood. “Are you for real?”
“If I can't have Andrea, that's that. I outright refuse to share anything of mine. Especially with you,” she added with extra venom. Cruella did not flinch, only breaking away from her brooding to stare at Miranda's obstinate, pouty stance with fascination.
“Hm,” Cruella said.
“What am I saying?” Andrea's expression was speculative, lips pressed together firmly. “Why not?”
“Why not? Is that a serious question?” Miranda repeated.
Andrea looked to Cruella, who was still examining Miranda with a new found, almost scientific fascination, then back to Miranda.
Miranda was familiar with that look. It was the look that told her that Andrea knew all her secrets. All her weaknesses. She knew how badly Miranda wanted her.
“I'm sorry to hear that, Miranda,” she said. “So... walk away.”
Andrea gave her a strange look that made her skin tingle. “Walk away.”
They were alone, the three of them, in Andrea's bedroom. Merely the word bedroom could be enough to send shivers across Miranda's skin, but the smokey look Andrea cast her sent shivers to other places as well.
“Cruella, you can't possibly--?”
Cruella's gaze was still on her as she absently stroked her fur shawl. She didn't answer.
Eyes still on Miranda, Andrea took two steps towards Cruella and wrapped her arms around the taller woman's high collar. Excrutiatingly slow, Andrea's long legs raised to wrap themselves around Cruella's hips. Miranda's eyes followed their slow ascent, until Andrea's ankles were set and crossed.
Miranda turned her head. She refused to subject herself to watching her Andrea in the arms of a madwoman. She had to leave, quickly. She would not be a party to this. She could not even imagine having a coherent relationship with Cruella, much less having intercourse with her in the same bed. Perhaps Andrea would negotiate? Perhaps –
A soft moan grazed the edges of her ear.
She'd never heard, nor imagined, Andrea making that sound.
Andrea made another one. Another noise that made the blood in Miranda's body rush in ways it never had before, towards a place that was screaming at her to turn around and watch.
She heard something low and muffled that had to be from Cruella, and the sultry voice followed the same path that Andrea's moans had taken, straight to the aching center that made Miranda bite her lip.
This was what Andrea knew, Miranda realized.
That she could never walk away.
She was too weak.
“I want dinner,” she said suddenly. The movement behind her ceased. Someone was breathing heavily. Miranda still hadn't dared to look – she knew herself better than to do that. “Then... I must be insane. Then... we can talk about this. I won't walk away.”
A warm body pressed into her back, firm breasts pushed into her skin. A jolt of electricity between her legs made Miranda grit her teeth. Small hands ran along her shoulders, then gripped firmly and twisted Miranda on her heels.
There was Andrea's face. Right there.
Miranda had never been so close.
Her lips were parted slightly, and their combined breathes filled the air between them.
Andrea did not budge a centimeter.
She expected Miranda to do something.
Miranda looked at those lips again – red, soft, swollen... and so kissable.
Her heels made her even with Andrea's height. She reached out a thumb, hesitantly, to touch Andrea's cheek.
Andrea's large brown eyes fluttered shut at the touch. Her head leaned into Miranda's touch. The skin was soft, but hot from someone else's attentions. The thought made Miranda want to kiss and lay claim all of her, to mark what was hers.
Andrea was pleading her with her eyes.
Miranda leaned forward, hesitating just a moment before pressing herself gently to her mouth. Andrea pushed back encouragingly, groaning as Miranda's tongue darted forward, asking for entrance. Her lips parted instantly. Miranda took full advantage of the opening as Andrea's hands flew into her hair, pulling her closer. Their breasts rubbed against each other as they deepened the kiss, which was broken only by the sounds of Andrea's soft mewls.
Miranda broke the kiss, panting slightly. She was pleased to see Andrea equally as breathless, rosy hue high on her cheeks.
“If you want dinner, we need to stop,” Andrea murmured. “I think Cruella is about to die.”
Miranda glanced over Andrea's shoulder. Cruella's eyes had glazed over to something fierce and animalistic, and she was suspiciously close and out of breath – had she been kissing Andrea too, at the same time? Miranda spotted a red mark marring the side of Andrea's pale, elegant neck as the brunette left her and wandered into the kitchen area.
Well, she wasn't sure what she thought about that.
Then Andrea called her name – never before had her name been so well said than when it fell from that woman's lips – and Miranda loyally appeared by her side.
Andrea was holding a package of ramen noodles. “Haven't been grocery shopping in a while. This is all I have.”
Cruella looked at the tiny red package apprehensively, then poked it.
Andrea stifled a laugh. Her eyes drifted to Miranda, who was containing a smile.
For Andrea, Miranda allowed the smile a brief appearance. Andrea's eyes softened, full of affection, and Miranda felt herself glowing from the light of it.
Miranda knew, even without a mirror, that she was returning the look.
Miranda wasn't walking away.
Twenty minutes later.
Her mother was sitting on the building steps, arms around her knees, facing the city. She twisted when Andy called her name and raised an eyebrow as if to say, 'What took so long?'
“I thought you were going back to Ohio?” Andy tried not to sound too inappropriately disappointed that her mother hadn't disappeared back into the Midwest as promised.
Margaret didn't answer directly, and said instead, “There was a whole rabble of press out here, you know.” She gestured to the barren sidewalk. “They must have been hounding you and Miranda Priestly. Looking for a scoop.” Her mother made a careful study of her nails, immensely interested in her own manicure. “I got rid of them for you.”
“Mom, I – I don't know what to say. Thank you,” she said honestly.
“Consider it a peace offering.” Margaret looked her up and down, from heels to scarf, and for the first time since childhood, Andy sensed a tiny amount of pride amongst the volumes of dismay. “You remind me so much of myself these days – I just don't want you making the same mistakes. You were right, standing up for yourself.”
Andy felt so many things more in that moment: more pretty, more relevant, more wanted. More loved. Then before her daughter could say anything else, Margaret asked, “You going for food?”
Andy nodded mutely.
“Want a ride?”
She nodded again, trailing behind as the other woman gathered her purse and got to her feet. “Sure. You rented a car?”
“Yep. Everyone told me not to, but I don't regret it.”
“So how did you get the press to leave? Normally they're like vultures, they circle until they're dead or you are.” Andy slid into the passenger seat, glancing at her mother, who was pursing her lips.
“I told them I was your mother, I had personal knowledge of what was going on and explained to them that the entire situation was a gigantic misunderstanding.”
Andy knew that look. It was the look her mother had worn when she'd explained to Andy that her labrador retriever had gone to live on a big farm, with lots of open fields to run in. Whenever she tried to convince Andy that, if only she told her the truth, she wouldn't get in trouble.
It meant bullshit.
“Mom,” she said.
She did not make eye contact, instead fitting the key into the ignition. She twisted it to start the engine. “Leave it, Andy.”
“Tell me what you did.”
“Damn it, mom, tell me you did not screw me over! Tell me you didn't ruin Miranda's reputation.”
“I can't believe you would think me capable! For god's sake, I told them Lily was seeing that wretch Miranda Priestly, not you. That they were using your apartment to meet, and you ended up caught in the middle. I explained the whole thing had been one giant mistake, and they followed Lily right down the road to the subway. The good girl didn't even bat an eyelash.”
Andy's mouth dropped open in horror. She let go of the seat belt she had been tugging over her shoulder and it snapped back into place.
She knew Lily. She knew how much Lily detested dealing with Margaret, and only tolerated her calls for Andy's and her own mother's sake. She knew Lily's horrified disposition to the slightest hint of an invasion of her privacy. She knew all about Lily's ultra-conservative family, some of whom already didn't speak to her for being friends with Doug.
And she knew her mother knew all these things, too.
“How could you?”
Margaret chewed her lip. She hadn't moved the car yet, which was good because Andy's hand was already wrapped around her door handle. “It was for the best.”
“For the best? You're ruining her life! She has a boyfriend, and – and you know how her parents are going to treat her! Do you honestly not give a shit about the one person who would take your calls? The woman who called me over and over, telling me my mother was worried sick about me? The same woman who took off work and met you here, then when you threw her under the bus in front of those paparazzi rats, just laid there and took it? You're telling me that was for the best?”
“If you hadn't ruined my life, not to mention your own, I wouldn't have had to do this,” she replied slowly and deliberately. “You think I wanted to? No. But you flaunted and now we're paying for it.”
And suddenly there was no doubt in her mind that it was her mother who had told the press she and Miranda were in a relationship.
“I ruin your life? That's about the richest thing I've ever heard coming out of your mouth, mom.”
“Grow up, Andy! This is real life. You step on people to protect yourself. You step on people to get ahead. Just like you did with Nate when he got in the way of your career. Just like you slept with Miranda or Cruella or who the fuck ever else you've been spreading your legs for; you did it to get ahead. You tell me that isn't true.” Margaret glared at her, waiting.
She opened her mouth to say, 'it isn't,' but the words wouldn't come.
She would swear up and down she hadn't started her relationship with Cruella to get ahead – it had only ever been the other woman's sexy quirkiness and intimidating, yet sweet personality that had drawn Andy in. There had never been a relationship – until today! – with Miranda while she had been employed at Runway, and even when Miranda had offered her her job back, she'd refused it.
Her sweet Nate, who had only ever asked for her time and affection.
Nate might have been the one who left her, and she may have resisted it, but she couldn't deny that deep inside her, she had been waiting for him to go and she hadn't understood why he hadn't yet. She'd been relieved when she'd arrived home from Paris, and his shelves and drawers were empty. Without his pleas for her attention, she could breathe freer – there was one less obstacle between her and serving Miranda in every way possible.
In the driver's seat, Margaret broke into a small, fond smile at Andy's silence. “See? I told you, sweetie, we're similar. Almost exactly the same, sometimes. Don't worry about Lily – don't blame yourself for anything. I'm not. We do what we have to. You'll grow to understand. You'll see.”
And then, Andy was exiting the vehicle.
And she kept walking.
“Get back here. Andy? Please, darling. Where are you going?”
The front doors to her building swung open and possibly the most terrifying duo to ever exit her apartment building swept out of it, Cruella stomping madly up front, Miranda gliding on heels just behind.
“Ahnnndy,” Cruella drew out, eyes shooting daggers at her editor companion, “darling, I have just been informed that Miranda gave you the incorrect information as to what I want to eat. I'd like you to ignore any future food orders darling Miranda makes in my name from now on.”
“I am helping you, you fool.” Miranda fanned herself with a newspaper, insulting Cruella yet using a tone that suggested she was ordering a fine wine at a restaurant. “Do you have the slightest inkling in your albeit deranged head of how many carbs are in just one bite of pasta? Then you add butter, and fat, and salt and eggs to it and you call it a meal.”
Andy cast a glance behind her. Her mother was struggling to get out of the rental car, trapped by traffic that was stuck at a red light, keeping her door from opening all the way.
“You can both come with me and decide when you get there, if you like.” Andy pulled both of them gently forward, eager to move.
A familiar vibration buzzed the side of Andy's thigh. Falling behind Cruella and Miranda's steps, Andy pulled out her phone and glanced at the screen. Her mom was calling.
For once, Andy decided not to let it go to voice mail.
“Andy, get back --”
She stepped off the sidewalk and chucked the phone into the sewer grate.
“Whoops,” she said.
On second thought, maybe she should have let it go to voice mail.
But now there was blissful, blissful silence.
Now the only sounds were of Miranda and Cruella bickering over which of them would buy her a new phone – yet, Andy found she did not mind.