Taking off her glasses, Miranda pinched the bridge of her nose. This meeting was taking far too long. “Where are we on the cover for August?”
“Good,” Nigel reported, “The shoot went well and the proofs will be on your desk in the morning.”
Nodding at that, Miranda moved on, “How are the articles shaping up, Gretchen?” She looked to the content editor, who always sat on her left at these meetings. Miranda accepted the folder that the woman handed her.
“Good,” Gretchen ran her fingers through her short graying hair and indicated the contents of the folder. “There are actually too many submitted, so I will need your decision on which ones to push back another month.”
Nodding, Miranda closed the leather bound planner she'd been scribbling in and placed the folder on top. “Anything else?” When no one else spoke up, she nodded, “Very well...” Standing, Miranda picked up her things and left the room.
As the group broke up there were a few comments, “Well that was...” “Did she seem...” “I think she was actually distracted...” That thought shocked them, Miranda was never distracted, ever. She was the most focused person any of them had ever met. They all turned to Nigel. He paused as an animal in headlights would then sighed, “I'll talk to her.”
He mumbled to himself as he walked down the corridor, “It's always me that has to talk to her...”
“They say talking to yourself is a sign of insanity, Nigel...” Miranda pushed off the wall she'd been leaning against, waiting for him. Knowing her staff would send him to sort out her unusual, even for her, behavior. She resumed walking, certain that he would fall into step next to her, which he did.
“You did seem sort of... distracted in the meeting.” He ventured a question, “Anything I can do?”
“No,” Miranda shook her head ruefully, “unless you want to deal with Andrea's mother, and grandmother when they arrive tomorrow.”
ouch..” Nigel chuckled, “I've met Dorothy. She seemed
“Mmmm...” Miranda walked between her assistants' desks and turned her head slightly in Bethany's direction, “Coffee.” Leading the way into her office she gestured for Nigel to sit as she settled into her chair. “Dorothy seemed pleasant enough to you I'm sure, but then again you are not marrying her daughter in two months.”
Nigel chuckled again, “Ah... No... I hear Andy has a brother though...”
Unable to stop it, a burst of laughter escaped Miranda's lips. “Yes, Nigel, she does have a brother.” With a twinkle in her eye that could have been mistaken as affection, Miranda elaborated, “A very tall, very blonde, very young... very heterosexual brother.”
“Ah well.” He shrugged, “Thus is the story of my life.” He grinned at his boss, “So that's what's bothering you today? The imminent arrival of the mother-in-law?”
“Mostly.” Miranda opened the folder and absently sifted through the articles it contained. Glancing at the titles as she clicked her teeth together, Nigel waited and with a sigh she abandoned the task, gesturing to him. “Close the door, Nigel.”
Nodding, he complied and shot Emily a glance as he did so.
Emily met his eyes and heard Miranda's voice behind him, “We have about ten minutes before Bethany returns with my coffee...so listen carefully...”
So Miranda confides in him... Emily thought, then shook her head, derailing that train of thought. Her mantra took its place as she began the low chant under her breath, “I love my job, I love my job...”
“This is the place,” Cassidy pointed out the window at one of the large houses with the immaculately landscaped lawn standing separate from the others on the street. “That's Allison's house.”
Andy looked out and her jaw dropped slightly. The place was huge and would rival anything millionaire row on Fifth Avenue had to offer. “Wow.”
“I know, right?” Cassidy scoffed at the place. “She doesn't even have any brothers or sisters... it's just her and her mom and dad.”
“She can't help what house her parents have.” Caroline tried to defend her friend, although she knew that Allison often made comments regarding other people's places, including theirs, as 'quaint' or 'cozy' which in Allison-speak meant 'small'.
“Do you want me to come in or just pick you up later?” Andy thought she would like to meet the parents of the girls' friends, but she wasn't sure she had the right, yet.
Caroline asked, “Don't you have something better do to?”
“Yeah,” Andy nodded, “I guess I do...”
Rolling her eyes, Cassidy smacked her sister on the upper arm and looked at Andy, “She didn't mean it like that.” Glaring at Caroline, Cassidy explained, “Allison's parents are...weird, a little stand-offish, um... narrow-minded... not that we've been around them too often. They may not even be there, it could just be the Nanny...”
“Ah...” Andy understood, she thought, “What does Allison's mom do?”
Caroline snorted, “Nothing.”
“She does... something, some kind of charity work or something, I think...” Wrinkles appeared in Cassidy's forehead, “You know, I'm not really sure what she does.”
“Besides the poolboy?”
“Caroline!” Andy was shocked, “You should not accuse someone of... that.” She'd had enough accusations flung at her to know that false ones weren't fun to deal with.
Caroline shrugged, “That's what Allison says.”
Narrowing her eyes at that, Andy decided that 'Allison said' a lot of things that Allison probably shouldn't be saying, “Okay, well you are only going to be a couple of hours right? So, I think I'll just go in with you...” She was relieved as the girls both nodded as if that was fine with them. She opened the car door and stepped out.
Exchanging a quick glance, Caroline and Cassidy followed. They both knew that this could get interesting, if Allison's mom was home.
Bethany scrambled to produce the requested accessory and only managed to get it to Miranda before the editor had left the office completely. The only reason she managed to do that was because Miranda had stopped at Emily's desk for a moment. “Schedule me gone for the rest of the afternoon.”
“But...” Emily shook her protest away, “Yes, Miranda.”
Pressing her lips together, the editor exhaled through flared nostrils, “I will also be gone tomorrow.” She ground her teeth together, “But,” and she emphasized this point, “Andrea does not need to know that... should she call, I am merely out of the office. She will be able to contact me via my cell phone.”
“Uh...” Emily swallowed hard, “Yes, Miranda.”
Both assistants watched as their boss stalked away.
“Wow,” Bethany blinked, “Uh.. where do you think she's going?”
“Nowhere that concerns us.” Emily refocused on her computer. Miranda's schedule was fairly clear this afternoon so it took very little effort to change it. Tomorrow however there were a couple of meetings that would need to be rescheduled for Monday, and one she would talk to Nigel about leading. She also had to finish this spreadsheet quickly, before the RSVP's began to roll in. A little organization now would help her tremendously in the next few weeks. Knowing how much work she had to do in the next two months, for the wedding and the girls' birthday party, was a little overwhelming and Emily was almost glad that Bethany had been given the task of delivering the Book, almost.
“But don't you...”
“No! I don't...” Emily sighed, “You will not speculate on Miranda's personal life, do you understand? Your job is here, you anticipate her needs if you can, bring her coffee when she asks for it and answer the phone... in the evening you take the Book to her and that is all.”
“Right.” Bethany sighed and couldn't help her eyes from sliding to the door Miranda had exited.
With an exasperated sound, Emily clicked the save button on the spreadsheet she'd just created and minimized the window to focus on Miranda's schedule for tomorrow. Picking up the phone she dialed Miranda's ten-thirty meeting and actually smiled as the ringing in her ear was answered, “Hello, yes, I'm calling to reschedule the meeting with Miranda tomorrow.” She blinked and nodded, “Yes I know it's short notice, but Miranda has become unavailable. The new time will be Monday at nine.” Emily paused as the person on the other end of the conversation said something. “Mmmm... no, Miranda no longer conducts breakfast meetings.” Nodding, Emily rolled her eyes, “Right, nine am. Ta.” She hung up the phone and scoffed, “God, these people.”
“Miranda doesn't do breakfast meetings?” Bethany didn't know that.
“No,” Emily confirmed absently as she made the changes to the schedule, “She prefers to spend that time with her family.”
Bethany was once again struck by the amount of love that her reputed Ice Queen, Dragon Lady, boss exhibited toward her family. “Wow.”
“Mmmm.” Emily rolled her eyes and then plastered another smile on her face as she dialed the number to reschedule Miranda's one o'clock meeting tomorrow.
Upon entering the huge house, they were told by a formally dressed butler that “Miss Allison's” parents were not home, but that she was waiting for her guests upstairs.
Cassidy tugged on Andy's arm as they climbed the main staircase, “C'mon, Allison's rooms are on the third floor.”
Rooms? Andy allowed herself to basically be dragged upstairs. Along the way she looked around at the furnishings and wall hangings curiously. One painting caught her attention and she reached out to stop the girls' motion then indicated the picture. “Isn't that the same painting Miranda has in her study?”
Caroline glanced over and nodded, “Yeah.” She continued up the stairs. Cassidy also nodded, but she was more elaborate with her answer.
“Yes, but the one at our house is not a reproduction.” She continued up the stairs, “Mom's always liked John Constable's work... ever since she lived in France.”
“Not a repro...” Andy looked at the painting again then wondered what other of the paintings hanging at their house was 'not a reproduction'. Swallowing hard she recalled some of the names scrawled on the hanging canvas' and sketches at home. O'Keefe, Picasso.. all those names you hear when you go to a museum... there's even that brightly colored Peter Max one... It was actually one of Andy's favorites and made her smile to look at. Andy almost gasped as a snippet of the earlier conversation came back to her. Cassidy had said Miranda was on Forbes' Top 400 list... moved up three ranks is what she'd said... She controlled her breathing and continued shakily up the stairs, vowing that when they got home she was going to look up that list, then she and Miranda were probably going to have a fairly serious talk. She couldn't think about it any longer though because they'd reached the third floor.
It took every ounce of willpower Andy had not to laugh as they entered the room the rest of the group were already in and saw Ms. Bax. Caroline and Cassidy were not as disciplined. Cassidy felt badly for the woman as she saw the teacher's cheeks redden, “I'm sorry, it's just...” Cassidy indicated the woman's hair. “It's not usually so...”
“Poofy.” The teacher sighed and pressed a hand against the hideous curls covering her head. “Yeah, I know. It's a perm gone completely awry. My niece is in beauty school...” Rolling her eyes she pointed a thumb at the other kids and one parent present, “We've all already had a good laugh” Nora chuckled at herself now, “It is quite funny to look at... not so much to wear.”
The other adult stepped forward, “Hello, I'm Priscilla Batson, Hunter's mother.”
“Nice to meet you,” Andy shook the woman's hand. “Andy Sachs.”
“Um.. yeah,” Priscilla laughed, “I know.”
Sighing, Andy nodded and blushed but laughed as she spoke, “Of course you do.”
“I tried to think of how to solve...” Priscilla indicated the teacher's hair, “But I just really have no idea...”
“Hmmm...” Andy grinned, “I don't either, but, I know who might.” Pulling her phone out of her purse, she dialed quickly. “Serena! Listen, we have what can be classified as a 'hair emergency' do you think you could spare Terry this afternoon? No, it's not me, or Miranda,” as if... Miranda's hair is always perfect, “not the girls either... it's one of their teacher's from school, she got a perm from Hell. Is Terry available? No? How about this evening?” Andy waited as Serena consulted with the woman in question then nodded into the phone, “Great, bring her by the house okay?” Andy gave Nora an encouraging thumbs up. “Excellent! We'll see you then.” She put her phone away and automatically squished a dollop of antibacterial gel on her hands, rubbing it in as she informed the teacher. “You are having dinner with us this evening while the best hairstylist at Runway fixes your... problem.”
Visibly relieved, Nora smiled. “Thank you!” She was in a much better mood and smiled despite her outrageous curls. Turning to face the group she clapped her hands together, calling their attention to her, “Okay, so who wants to start the discussion of the assigned book?”
Andy and Priscilla laughed at the children's groans before they found seats slightly away from the discussion group. Priscilla spoke quietly, “I'm so glad Hunter decided to be a part of this group.” She focused on her son as she whispered, “He's not usually very sociable. Being friends with Cassidy has helped him so much this past year.”
Andy watched as the boy in question smiled shyly as Cassidy praised the point he'd just made. Uh huh... interesting. “Cassidy seems to make friends easily.” Andy glanced at the woman. “Hunter seems like a good kid.”
“Thank you.” Priscilla beamed, “He is.” She hastily added, “The girls are great too!”
Andy nodded, “Yeah, they are.” But I can't take credit for that... Her eyes drifted closed and Andy willed them to open again.
“If I may say so...” Priscilla looked sympathetic, “You seem tired.”
Andy combed her fingers through her hair and agreed, “Yeah, long day.”
Priscilla wasn't sure what to say to that so she didn't say anything, merely sitting back in her chair and watching the kids interact with each other.
Andy was grateful for the lull in the conversation, but she did not want to fall asleep. The last thing Caroline or Cassidy needed was for her to wake up screaming from a nightmare in the middle of their meeting. She hated to be rude to Priscilla, but decided it would be worth it to hear Miranda's voice so she again pulled her phone from her purse.
“I would be remiss in my capacity as your lawyer if I didn't, again, advise you against this, Miranda.” He shook his head as he reviewed the document in his hands. “This is madness.”
“This is what has to happen, Keith.” Miranda gestured for him to pass the papers to her. She glanced at them, merely making sure that what was written there was as she had specified. Signing with a flourish in the presence of the man who duly notarized it, Miranda folded the paper in thirds and put it in her purse. “I will mail it back to you when Andrea has signed.” Not that she will. She looked at him and raised her eyebrows, “The other one too.”
With a sigh, he handed over another document, “This is beyond madness.” He did worry about the ramifications of this one, “You realize that if the details of this get out your sanity could be called into question? You aren't even married yet.”
Cool blue eyes met his, “The people who know the details of this document are all currently in this room. Therefore, if the details of this document 'get out', my new lawyer will certainly know whose name to put on the lawsuit, yes?”
Keith nodded, “Yes,” he ran his hands through his short graying hair and assured her, “I'm certainly not going to tell anyone at this point.”
“Good.” She glanced at this paper as well, but again she already knew what it said and signed it quickly. Andrea did not need to sign this one. “Cheer up, this one may not even be necessary for quite some time, if ever.”
“That is my fervent wish.”
Miranda's cool blue gaze landed on him and warmed perceptibly, “Your attention to this matter is appreciated, Keith.”
“Well I am your lawyer, Miranda.” Keith smiled at his client. “You pay me an obscene amount of money to pay attention to matters that concern you.”
“That is what I've always liked about you,” Miranda stood and tilted her head to emphasize her joke, “You are so honest, when you want to be.”
He chuckled and winked, “It's a talent that good lawyers cultivate.”
Nodding, Miranda turned to leave, speaking to the man over her shoulder. “You will be receiving an invitation to the wedding soon.” Pausing at the door, she looked back at the man standing behind his desk, “I do hope you can attend.”
He opened his mouth but no sound emerged, he did manage to convey that he would be there, at least he hoped he got that point across, and watched as one of his most valuable clients exited his office.
“Most valuable and craziest...” he sat down at his desk and shook his head, correcting the thought by mumbling to himself, “Not crazy... poor people are crazy, people with as much money as Miranda has are, eccentric.”
Miranda was back in the car when her phone rang, the ringtone made her smile and she answered the call quickly. “Yes, Andrea, how is the study group going?”
“It's going well.” Andy took a deep breath, “I... um... wanted to let you know I've invited Ms. Bax, Serena and Terry over for dinner tonight.”
“Oh?” Miranda was a little disappointed at that, family dinners had become a rather special time for her but she rolled with it. “Why?”
“Well,” Andy tried not to look at the teacher's poofy hair, “Ms. Bax is having a hair emergency and I asked Serena to bring Terry over tonight to diffuse the situation. I also thought I might chat with Terry some about how I want my hair for the wedding.” Andy grinned into the phone, “Do you think we could get Em over here too?”
“Oh, I think that can be arranged.” Miranda leaned back against the leather seat and sighed, “I'll be back in the office shortly but I only have a few things to finish there before I can leave for the day.”
“I didn't realize you had an off-site meeting this afternoon.” Andy was sure Miranda was scheduled to be in her office today.
“It was a last minute task that I remembered,” Miranda closed her eyes but kept her tone bored, “Nothing major.”
“Okay then,” Andy exhaled slowly. She knew Miranda was keeping something from her. She could tell even over the phone, just from the older woman's tone, but she decided to drop the issue, for now. “See you at home then.” She smiled and whispered. “I love you.”
Miranda smiled. “I love you too.”
Terry looked at the woman and blinked, “Who jacked up your head?”
Nora sighed, “My niece, she's in beauty school... wanted to make me blonde.”
“Lord have mercy,” Terry sighed and shook her head sadly, “I weep for the future.”
Andy was worried about the woman's reaction, “Can you fix it?”
Looking at the head again, “This isn't like when I straightened and conditioned your hair, Andy.” Terry touched Nora's frizzy curls evaluating the texture and spoke to the teacher. “I don't want to put any more chemicals on your hair. It will cause too much damage.”
Nora sighed, “I understand.” She smiled at the woman, “Thanks for taking a look anyway.”
“Hey now,” Terry grinned, “I didn't say I couldn't help, just not with chemicals.” She hefted the fairly large case she was carrying and nodded, “We're just gonna have to go old school on you.”
Serena assured the teacher, “Terry is the best we have, she can help.”
“Cassidy, why don't you show Ms. Baxter and Terry to the bathroom upstairs.” Andy grinned as the girl led their guests upstairs. “Caroline, Serena... come with me.” She led them into the kitchen and apologized to Peggy. “I'm sorry to spring all these people on you. I'm thinking we can just call out for...”
“You'll do no such thing!” Peggy was already busy chopping. “And you didn't 'spring it' on me, you called before the study group was even over.”
“Yeah, but... eight people...”
“It's not a problem, stir-fry style vegetables with chicken strips and beef strips, a little brown rice...” Peggy grinned as Caroline snagged a bell pepper strip from the pile.
“Yum.” Caroline grinned. Stir-fry vegetables was one of her favorite meals.
“If you're sure...” It worried Andy because it really had been very last minute with barely any notice at all for Peggy. Andy still wasn't used to dealing with Runway people though, if she'd had an impromptu gathering at her old place, with her other, pre-Runway, friends, Lily, Doug...Nate and his buddies...or even Jo, they would have just called for pizza. That wasn't really an option right now, pizza, real pizza, was something she still reserved for Miranda-less nights out. She had to admit though, Miranda did agree to a Lombardi's white pizza every once in a while.
“G'wan... visit, chat...whatever, it'll be done twenty minutes after you say you want it.” Peggy tried to continue chopping, but Andy's question stopped her.
“You're staying late?”
“Yep, I'll be here for a bit tonight getting things ready for your guests tomorrow.” The woman waved them away from the prep area. “G'wan now... unless you want drinks...”
Andy shook her head and heard Serena decline as Caroline proceeded to fix her own glass of juice. The girl announced she was going upstairs to watch what Terry did to Ms. Bax's hair.
Serena and Andy went into the study where, Andy knew, Miranda would want to go over any information Emily had regarding the wedding. They settled into comfortable seats, Serena in one of the overstuffed chairs, Andy on the couch.
“Miranda is bringing Emily...” Andy grinned at the light that appeared in Serena's eyes at the thought.
“Thank you for trying to help me... with Emily...”
“Are you making any progress?” Andy wondered when Serena would make her move.
“No, not really.” The Brazilian shook her head, “I don't want to scare her away...”
“Yeah, I understand that.” Andy exhaled with a slight whistle, “Boy, do I ever.” She shrugged and offered the only advice she could. “Eventually you're going to have to take the chance.”
“I know.” Serena rotated her shoulders trying to relax.
Andy sympathized with the woman. “Would you like a drink?” She indicated the table with several decanters of amber liquid.
Serena declined the offer but asked a bit wistfully, “You wouldn't happen to have any wine?”
Andy's eyes twinkled at the thought, “Do we have wine?” She laughed and thought about the huge collection of vintages in the wine cellar downstairs as she stood, “Come with me.”
To be continued