If and When

 A Devil Wears Prada Story For the Bards Academy Halloween Challenge

By Kamouraskan

Chapter 6

See Disclaimers in Chapter 1


Andy's ears had popped, but she wasn't certain if that was because of the impact of the explosion or the corresponding drop the elevator had taken. It had stopped but there was no light at all to see where they were. She seized on one important thing first. “Miranda?”

There was a rustling sound, and a low voice grumbled, “Tell the girls, we are never, ever riding the Tower of Terror again, I don't care what puppy faces they make.”

Andy squeaked out, “Oh thank god,” and moved to hug her, instead she managed to bang her cheek against the other woman's elbow. You simply wanted to hug the woman and she hit you in the face instead. Definitely a relationship ordained by fate.

Miranda must have been thinking along the same lines because there was a rueful chuckle before she said, “I suppose we're fortunate to still feel anything. We're alive now, what next?”

“We find out what floor we're on and get out before the next blast in…”, she squinted at her watch, “in about four minutes give or take. Help me with the door.” There was another accidental impact, before they moved apart to pull on opposite sides, and as they did, a low flickering yellow light illuminated the space again. The building groaned once more and small objects could be heard striking the top of the elevator.

“Power back on?” Miranda guessed

“No, these elevators have independent power packs for emergency lighting.”

“And you know this…?”

“I don't really like elevators.”

“Before this experience? You are…”


“Far braver than I imagined, is what I was about to say.”

“Yes, well, it doesn't feel that way. Anyway, I find if I research things that I…fear, I can usually handle them a bit better.”

“You must have eventually done considerable research about me, then.”

Andréa allowed herself a chuckle but then the doors moved enough to see the floor printed on the exterior doors. 37.


“So what does this mean?”

“It means the next explosion is in less that four minutes and we're still in the blast zone. If we get out here, assuming we survive that one, we're above the next and we'd be crushed for certain.”

More debris landed on the top of the cage.

“And if we stay where we are?”

”As long as all that junk from above doesn't weigh us down, the individual floor brakes should stop us from falling all seventeen flights to the twentieth, which would…”

“Kill us.”

“Always so negative.”

The groaning grew and the cage shuddered along with the building and the noise of striking objects increased like incoming rain.

“I'm running out of ideas, Miranda, but if we do drop again, we'll need to get out fast. Can we wedge the inner doors open?”

Miranda reached into her bag and pulled out her alternate shoes. “I might have a wedge or two, I would think?”

Andréa giggled nervously as the Gucci heels were quickly and successively pried off with the elevator railing. Miranda smirked at her horrified expression. “Oh please, Andréa. These are by Miuccia, she'd be pleased to have helped.”

The groaning above them did not distract them and they were just getting the second heel wedged in the inner door frame when larger objects began striking the ceiling, and then breaking through to land about them. As the exposed space in the ceiling expanded, through the tunnel of the shaft they could see light above. Light that seemed to twist and shudder.

Andy shouted over the sounds, “I think the shaft is buckling! The supports for this elevator are giving way, it may be about to…” she was cut off as a cinder block came crashing through the remains of the roof, striking her on the head and she dropped to the floor as heavily as the block. Another came after it, hitting Miranda on the foot as she tried to gather Andréa in her arms to the sides of the elevator. The added weight caused the lift to drop, but only a short distance, but it also wobbled from side to side. Holding the unconscious girl in her arms, she was never more aware that she was in a steel box only suspended by cables as it swung about. Miranda felt each moment, each sound and tremble as if in slow motion. Panic was flooding her blood and had it not been for the girl in her arms, she would have bolted, scrabbled, wrenching her nails to claw open the outer doors, even knowing it meant heading directly into another explosion. But the young woman in her arms was so grounding, so important, even unconscious demanding her attention, that her frozen mind focused on that alone. Cuddling the limp body to her. In the flickering yellow light, the blood could still be seen to be staining everything she wore. Though she had some knowledge that head wounds bled profusely, nothing prepared her for the amount that was pouring from the dear girl's skull. It didn't matter, it had to be stopped. Her precious Hermes, worth more than she had once earned in a month, was hurriedly wrapped and pressed, but still the blood flowed. She didn't care that it was soaking through, dripping into her lap and ruining her one of a kind Oscar de la Renta. She tenderly pressed against the wound, willing it to stop bleeding. More chunks of stone, bits of plaster and mortar dropped about them unnoticed.

She had planned every step of her life, pushed and prodded those in her way and above her, fought to be in this very position, only to arrive at this moment where all the couturier, the unlimited credit in her purse, the art and the dazzling jewels she had accumulated were just so much weight, like Marley's chains. All of the knowledge, the information she could command through her own mind or through her assistants was useless, when all she wanted to remember were the prayers to the God of her youth. To beg for this girl's life, even in exchange for her own.

Her D&G watch that had matched her dress so perfectly so long ago had illumination, and she was just taking a moment to see how much time might be left, when it ran out again. Another blast rumbled again, the building trembled in pain and the elevator gave up and dropped them again.


The light flickered on, and Miranda focused on assessing their situation. Andréa was still breathing, and they were both still alive. There was still far too much blood everywhere, and she became aware of the injury on her leg for the first time. The rain of debris was continuing and as a reminder of their precariousness of life, the cage juddered and dropped a few feet. She stifled a scream as it shifted again. Andréa was still unconscious. Her beautiful face, marred by the blood-soaked scarf across her forehead.

“Andréa, please wake up. Andréa. I need your help.”

Nothing. Not a flicker or a movement or a groan. The cage was filling up with pieces of plaster now, and Miranda had no confidence that it wasn't about to fall any second. And seconds were ticking away. The door had somehow remained propped open with the heels of her extra shoes and she could read in the flickering yellow light, the stencil indicating the 30th floor. So they had fallen over six floors, but was that enough? It had felt like many more.

Andréa grunted as Miranda laid her carefully on the floor. The outer doors were still a few feet below, but they might be able to get through them before the next blast. They must get through them before the next blast. The extra weight of debris was clearly making the brakes give way, and once more they dropped a foot before stalling. She stuck her fingers into the centre of the door and began trying to pry them open. There was a small bit of give, and then she could see a space. Wedging her uninjured foot in it, she called down to Andréa in her firmest Runway tones, “Andréa, if you do not get up this instant, you will never work in the continental United States again.”

The brown eyes opened, and blinked twice. “Yes, Miranda, I…” In the dim light, the glazed eyes blinked and cleared. “Wait, I don't work for you!”

“You won't be working anywhere if we can't get out before this falls.”

Obligingly, the lift dropped another few inches, moving the outside floor closer to the floor level.

“Right. Bombs, trapped in elevator.”

“How concise,” Miranda approved. Andréa tried to think over the pounding of her brain. “There should be a wheel, a manual control, to the side near the bottom of the door.”

Miranda saw it, covered in grease, but that was hardly what was concerning her.

Andy tried to move, but froze as a spike of pain pressed into her skull. Any clarity she had momentarily gained was blasted away by the pain. She was aware of the light, it was hurting her eyes so she slumped down and closed them.

“What happened?”

Miranda could hear the dullness in the girl's voice, and as she reached over with great disdain to touch the oily wheel, she spoke quietly, as though to a child, “There was a bomb. It went off.”

With her eyes still closed, Andy asked, “Was anyone hurt?”

Miranda thanked the gods that the grease was not there just to disgust her, for the ancient wheel began to turn. “No one, thanks to you. Except you hit your head.” The door began to open, but what was beyond was hidden in darkness. The air was slightly less stale than inside the elevator, but it tasted of plaster and concrete. The elevator dropped another few inches as a reminder that whatever was outside the doors, it was safer than where they were. “We need to get out of here, right now, Andréa. Can you stand?”

There was a nod, and the reporter raised herself slightly. Miranda's heart skipped at the whimper that leaked out as she stood. Andy opened her eyes, but shut them immediately. “Why is it so bright?”

Miranda glanced at the dim flickering light and back again at Andy. The girl repeated, dazedly, “What happened?”

The lift juddered, and dropped again, so that it was almost level with the floor. The doors were open enough that she tried to push Andy towards them, but the pain in her ankle, caught her. “There was a bomb, and there is another one about to go off. You have to step outside.”

“Was anyone hurt?”

“Just us, and you hit your head. You have a concussion, I believe. That's why it seems so bright. You need to lie down, so please do not exert yourself until we can get you to a hospital.”

“Hospital? Was anyone hurt?”

“You have a concussion,” trying to think how long the girl had been unconscious and what that meant for her condition. “I'll hold the door open and you move slowly, no increase in blood pressure, I insist.”

Andréa was pressing buttons on the control panel, asking plaintively, “Don't we want to go down?”

Miranda grasped her hands and prodded towards the gap in the door.

“Yes, but preferably at speeds the human body can withstand.”

“Wait,” she mumbled. Miranda was about to simply shove her through the doorway when she realised the girl was trying to pick up the garment bags with their change of clothes. There was another crash from above, and the elevator dropped, placing it directly at floor level and Miranda pushed Andréa and the bags through the gap. As she attempted to follow, another shift occurred, dropping only a few inches, but enough that Miranda tripped on the outer floor, falling out of the elevator and to Andréa's side.

“I think I'm in shock,” she heard the reporter mumble.

The last shift must have shaken the wedges out, and Miranda felt the inner elevator doors closing on the toes of her injured foot. Despite the pain, she attempted to shake it loose, but it was caught firmly in the doors, which dropped another few inches, pulling her with them.

Above the elevator, Miranda could hear the sound of what she knew were the main supports dropping into the shaft. She closed her eyes, knowing their weight would be the final straw and she would follow the compartment down the shaft. But with a resounding crash, the supports were caught in the width of the shaft above them, their weight digging, gravity dragging deeper into the walls above them, clawing their way through the steel and plaster, flecks of each sprinkling all around them. As her leg was pulled downwards again, it seemed as though the flecks were sand in an hourglass, defining her time left.

“Shake your foot!” She turned in the darkness, surprised at the clarity of the voice coming from beside her. “I know it hurts but if you still want to have a foot…”

“Or a body attached to it?” she sniped, masking her relief that Andréa was again with her, if only for her last moments.

“Please, Miranda?”

“It won't move, I've tried.” She forced herself to calm. “Just as everyone expected. Death by Prada. And screaming my lungs out down an elevator shaft. If you manage to survive me, you will not tell anyone this is how I died, do you understand?”

There was a sound of movement, then a touch by her side. “You're not going to die. Anyways, I'm pretty sure they all assumed a house would fall on you.”

“How is that at all funny?”

“We're not going to…die.” Necessity seemingly driving her mind to focus, Andy reached behind and dumped the contents of her purse; this was not the time to scrabble through her bag. No knife, only nail clippers. Taking a breath and not entirely sure this was a sane action, she grasped them and slid alongside Miranda's body. There was an immediate objection, though not the one she expected.

“I am not taking you with me, damn it!”

There was another groan from the metal above them and the elevator cage shuddered, shaking Miranda's leg, and the executive bit back a gasp of pain. Andy continued to crawl slowly along Miranda with the nail scissors upraised.

“Andréa, get back and away. I cannot be responsible for you dying as well.”

“Would it help if I told you I have been dreaming about something almost like this for a while. Though not fully clothed.”

Miranda gave a choked chuckle. “You foolish, foolish girl.”

“Goin down.”

“No elevator jokes.”

“Too soon? It was a triple entendre though.”

“When I'm not about to be pulled screaming to my death I'll be far more entertained... By your mastery of the language…. ah!”

“See, this really is a job a million girls would die for. At least if this doesn't work," Andy shimmied closer to her target, "you don't have to worry about me telling how you died. Though I bet I can scream much more loudly falling down the shaft.”

“Good,” Miranda agreed with some degree of satisfaction. “You're not forgetting that there is supposed to be one more explosion, are you?”

“One problem at a time, please.”

As she'd expected, the heel and base of the shoe were compressed and even when Miranda's foot was in her grasp, the doors would not release it. She could hear Miranda muffling a groan as she was forced to shake the bruised ankle. “The strap won't tear off. You got your moneys worth with these. Remember to tell the manufacturer.”

“First thing, yes.”

The clippers made a small bite into the leather strap, but the next drop was several inches and pulled her further down, until her right arm was pressed against the doorway. Miranda's legs were almost entirely below the floor. “You foolish girl, get off before…”

“Sorry, can't hear you and… there!”

The strap tore away, and as if the entire compartment had been held only by Miranda's strength, the elevator compartment dropped, Andréa pulled and rolled them both out of the way as the cables and supports screamed past them in their death throes. They had only seconds of relief before the third explosion rippled through from below and the space around them thundered and crashed.

Chapter 7

See Disclaimers in Chapter 1

The floor they were lying on shook as though an express train was roaring underneath them. There were grating, sliding sounds above, as what she assumed were section of floors and ceilings sliding off the building and plummeting to the ground below. Miranda realised that she was probably clutching too tightly to the reporter, but Andréa was only real thing in this nightmare and she refused to let go. The sounds eventually diminished, leaving the occasional groaning echoes, which were almost as frightening.

There was no light and her mouth and skin seemed caked with dust. Miranda's traitorous mind flashed back to the lung problems that had been endured by the survivors of 9/11.

“Not sure the air is breathable,” she huffed out. To her inexpressible delight, there was a response.

“On it, but no back talk, okay.” She would have taken a breath of relief, but the dust was even thicker, possibly now that she was more aware of it. She could hear tearing sounds, which confused her until her broad knowledge of fabrics, of even the most inferior materials, came through. As grateful as she was that the girl was still there in mind and body, there were standards to uphold. “I am not having that abomination touching my skin.”

There was a dramatically exasperated gasp. “It's almost a perfect filter, and if you say it's filthy because it was already touching me , and refuse to accept it because you'd literally rather choke to death,” Andréa began to cough herself, “Then I will be seriously insulted.”

Really? “Unlike every other time I've insulted you?”

“The smart fat girl is tearing up her bee suit to use as a filtering mask. Use it and say thank you, smart fat girl.”

With enormous misgivings, a touch of guilt at the remembered insult, and an almost, almost, unheard ‘ thank you,' she accepted the cloth and began knotting it behind her head.

The adrenaline was still causing a small trembling in her arms, spiking each time the building shuddered, so she lay back, breathing slowly, ignoring the hideous thing that was covering her face. She felt Andréa do the same, and the building seemed to settle along with their heartbeats. In the near quiet, she was not surprised when Andrea broke it, but was somewhat shocked with the enthusiasm in her voice.

“That was exciting, wasn't it?”

Miranda only barely managed to hold back an astonished chuckle. “Our series of near death experiences. Until the next, likely final one? Really, Andréa?”

There was another theatrically resigned sigh from the girl. “You're no fun when I'm concussed. Next time you have the head injury, okay?”

This time Miranda could not stop the laugh that bubbled out.

This time the sigh was one of contentment from the girl and Miranda pondered how this strange person could possibly find satisfaction in a moment like this. Miranda did not see herself as either optimist or pessimist; always a realist. Except when your emotions get in the way, as with anything to do with this girl.

But they were trapped on the 30 th floor of a dying building, with little more than a few dozen square feet as their tomb. What could this girl find pleasing about any of it?

“So everybody's out? We saved everybody?”

Of course. And her resentment, of the purity resting beside her, snapped off of her tongue. “Yes. You did. Except for ourselves!”

“We're alive now.”

“You remind of the man who fell 40 stories and was thinking, so far, so good around the 10 floor.”

Miranda could almost feel the glare emanating from the girl beside her. “Andréa, the first lesson in glares, is that there must be enough light for the glare to be visible to others.”

There was a self-satisfied chortle. “Must be pretty effective if you know I'm glaring at you in this dark.”

“Yes,” Miranda allowed. “I'm certain that if I could see it, I'd be filled with an almost uncontrollable urge to allow you to be fed under the table.”

In response, Andréa starting moving about, and from the sounds she was making, Miranda imagined she was pawing through the objects tossed from her purse. Miranda reached out blindly to stop her from moving.

“Stay still, and quiet, preferably. God knows what could happen if you exert yourself.”

“We can rest when we're dead.”

“Something to look forward too in a few minutes, then.”


“I truly think I preferred it when you were terrified of me.”

A faint light appeared and Miranda could see the reporter was examining her cell phone. “Check your phone. I'm not getting a signal. And my battery's low.”

“Why would I carry a phone,” she stated flatly. “Why do you think I have assistants?”

Andréa laughed. “We do not have the time to even begin that list. Damn, I'm getting no bars at all.”

“Then… please. Lay back and relax. We do not need you getting an aneurysm, and you lost quite a bit of blood.”

“If you're going to say please…” In the dim light, she caught a surprisingly affectionate look, before the girl slid down to lie beside her.

Before Andréa could shut the phone down, Miranda reached over, but without her usual imperiousness, asked, “May I have that for a moment?” Andréa appeared unsure, handing it over, saying, “We can't waste the battery.”

Miranda passed the light over Andréa's face, noting the bandage was holding and the blood was drying, though Andréa cringed and looked away as the light approached her eyes.

“Your pupils are dilated,” Miranda pronounced.

“Of course they are, you're flashing a great big light into them!”


“Go hummph someone else, we can't just lie here for long, we need to know what's going on and what our assets are.”

“If you lay down, I am perfectly capable of…” there was a muffled shriek, as a section of the building very near shifted again, and the groan of pain rumbled once more.

“As I was saying,” Miranda was pleased to note that her voice did not tremble as she continued, “You should enjoy having me run about for you, while you stay there and analyse for once.”

“Analyse, is that what you did when we were running around?”

“As I said, it was far preferable when you were terrified.”

Though the light from the phone was dim, Miranda raised herself and there was the occasional blurted bloody hell as she collided with something. "We're surrounded” she finally reported, her voice crisp, as though describing the weather. “All sides. Ceiling is angled, about 60 degrees, any gaps seem to be filled by more ceilings, or floors from above on top of them."

The beam skimmed along the cramped area. The ceiling was still shaking from the last avalanche, slightly collapsed from the height above them, then angling down a few dozen feet before colliding with the floor. "I think the only thing holding this building up are the supports around the elevator shafts, though I refuse to hazard a guess for how long."

“I bet the outer supports all collapsed once the load from the main ones was shifted. It probably looks like a Christmas tree from the outside,” Andréa mused.

“How seasonal of us. Perhaps we can arrange for a string of lights.”

“I have missed your humour, Miranda.”

“Irony in the face of death would be one of my standouts.”

To their right, the floor below had somehow pressed upwards, pushing a series of desks, presumably the reception area, caging them in between the elevator doors, and the angled ceiling. Andréa hooted when she saw the desks, crying out, “Food and water!”

Worried for her sanity, or at the very least her vision, Miranda began, “Andréa, I'm not sure…”

Andréa interrupted. “Miranda, just because you don't allow people to consume anything at their desks, doesn't mean every one else does. I will bet you anything there are bottles of water, chocolate, maybe even a sandwich or two in the upper drawers.”

Dragging her lame foot slightly, Miranda carefully crawled to the desks, avoiding the cracked tiles in the dim light. “Food is the least of our needs.”

“You want to rest and replenish. Then we plan.”

Miranda shook her head at the reporter's optimism. The first drawer revealed nothing but office supplies. The lower ones were blocked by a wedged chair. “You know they will not risk anyone entering this building. There will be no rescue.” The next desk was more interesting, though.

“I hardly see either of us as damsels in need of rescue, though I wouldn't turn away a knight in a white helicopter about now.”

“Would you settle for some warm carbonated sodas?” Miranda said, brandishing her discoveries.

“That was my next request.”

Andréa reached over, but Miranda ordered, “"You stay there."

"What about your foot?"

"Never mind about my foot, you…”

"Rest my pretty little head?"

“Stay there. Minutes ago you were in shock. We have no idea how much damage you've done to your skull and my leg hurts like hell. We are resting.”

“For now.”

There was also a sandwich, another cell phone, and some sticks of meat she shuddered to consider as food. She brought them over nevertheless, dropped them on the floor, before folding her leg carefully and collapsing beside Andréa.

She opened the cola and handed to Andréa, as they lifted their facemasks, while breathing through their still covered noses. "Your optimism is laudable, I suppose. But the facts are, we are not going anywhere. Except of course, with some speed and most certainly, considerable pain."

“We just survived three major explosions. I'd hail that as highly impressive. For our next trick, we just need to get down or out to where we can be seen and rescued.”

Miranda shook her head, withholding the continuing surge of admiration for the girl. The cola burned her throat, and she wondered if that was normal, or from the debris she had inhaled. Andréa picked up the newfound cell phone and checked the battery and connections. “No bars either?” Miranda guessed.

“When the building went down, there probably was a panic, and the phone service would have been overwhelmed and crashed.”

“Possibly, but most of the carrier masts were on this building, the antennas were moved here after 911, Irv wanted the revenue.” She paused. “He wasn't a complete idiot.”

“You can afford to be magnanimous now.”

“Oh, I didn't say he wasn't an arrogant little toad.” Andréa chuckled, but it was cut off by another groan and crash from somewhere above them. They could see the plaster raining down on their shelter, before Andréa reluctantly turned off the phone. “We might need the batteries later.”

There was a series of creaks that unnerved the CEO. The comfort of seeing the girl, even in the faint light, was too consoling to lose. “Put it on for a moment. If there is no later, I would prefer to have a little light now.”

“Or we might find another phone.”

There was silence between for a moment, only the shifting of the building around them could be heard.

“I bet all the nearby buildings are evacuated in case of god knows what else. Hey, we don't even know if we were the only target?”

“Stop thinking. Resting, remember?” Miranda admonished. “Lie back,” Her voice was soft as always, and had it been anyone else, it might have almost been tender. Andréa leaned her head alongside Miranda's. There was another shift of ceiling somewhere. Miranda strained her ears; she could not hear it land. How many layers were insulating them from the outside world? She shifted her feet and struck the garment bags she'd retrieved from Nigel so very long ago. “Why, in your shock stupor, did you save those dresses?”

Andréa chuckled. “Those, my dear, are for when we walk out of here.”

Miranda snorted. “ When? At the very best, if.”


“Why are you so positive? How perfect was your life?”

“You really want to know?” She caught the far more experienced glare. “Ah, you wouldn't have asked otherwise. Well, not great, lately. I mean, I know I've been lucky. Stable household, only minor financial worries, but then… that can make loss more painful.”

Miranda turned to Andréa, her eyes posing the obvious questions she still felt ill at ease asking.

“My parents have decided to divorce.”


“Yes, with the last child gone, they decided they had done their duty, and, and… these are my father's words, to pack up the firm. A lovely lawyer's summation of my childhood home, right?”

“I'm sorry.”

“And I sort of lost my Mum. She felt that she had enough on her plate without me making ridiculous attempts at gaining attention by questioning my sexuality.”


“It's helped my writing though. Makes me more willing to question what is real, when you wonder about what really happened behind the closed doors. But I also still believe we only lose when we give up. I don't want to do that.” Their faces were very close as the girl finished with, “And I don't want you to do that.”

“Andréa, I am a realist, I can't ignore the blindingly obvious, that there is very unlikely to be a when where we walk out of here.”

“Compromise. When and if.”

Shaking her head and with a weak smile, Miranda allowed, “If and when.”

“Deal. Can we shake on it?”

“As opposed to simply the building?” They still hadn't moved away, somehow even the ludicrous bee face masks were somehow less offensive, and they were almost whispering now, in the eerie silence.

Mimicking Miranda's actions of moments before, Andréa listened to the silence. “Can't hear sirens or anything. Must be really sealed in here. Though, I bet most of Manhattan is shut down.”

“Good. If I can't work, why should anyone else?”

Andréa chuckled. “There's the maniacal despot I love.”

Miranda coughed. “Love?”

“That's sort of the point…”

Miranda could sense that the girl was in a confessional mood, and looking at what she was now seeing as her tomb, she tried to forestall it. “Andréa. This is not the time.”

There was silence again, but not for more than minute. “As you've said, we're not going anywhere right now. You really aren't at all interested as to why I kissed you and or why I stopped?”

Miranda turned away. “You are truly mad. This is definitely not the time. Not when… what is the point?”

“I just, I just wanted it all out. It was like a cloud hanging over every time I saw you. I wanted to be honest. If nothing else, these circumstances should ensure that we'd be honest with each other.”

All that got her was a ladylike snort. “When have I not been honest?”

“You know what you did, Miranda.”

To her dismay, the chilly whisper made a startling return. “What I did? Really Andréa, that covers such a finite range of activities.”

“Miranda,” Andréa pushed on. “You sent me away. In Paris .”

Against her will, her defenses rose and Miranda could feel her lips tightening. “Strange, I could have sworn you walked. Quite saucily I thought.”

“In Paris . In the car. You deliberately pushed every button I had, and you knew, you knew me , you knew I would walk.”

Miranda still refused to look at Andréa. “And how long did it take you to reach this… conclusion?”

“I guessed, almost right after, but…I was afraid…”


“I was afraid, I was, as someone once said, living on hope. How can anyone ever be sure about …you?””

The fine brows peaked. “I thought you used words for a living?”

“Give me a break, Miranda, I may have had a year's worth of rehearsal, but this is not quite the stage I was hoping for.”

Not the stage I hoped for either, Miranda thought. But she stilled and waited. Andréa took a breath. “I knew, pretty much, when I found my ticket online, for my return to New York .”

“One might assume that I must have forgotten to cancel it.” The cool, clipped question did not indicate any interest in the subject.

Andréa replied with a similar offhand manner, “That was an unlikely possibility from the Marquess of micromanagement.” There was a small reduction in tension as Miranda acknowledged the alliteration. Encouraged, Andréa continued, “But it was only a possibility. I thought, hoped, it might be a message… of things. So I sent one of my own.”

“A message?”

“I took a risk.”

“You took a risk.”

“I did.”

“Ah. You gave my name as a reference for that paper.”

“I did.”

“Not Nigel, not HR's. My name.”

“And to my relief, and perhaps even my shock and surprise...”

“That's a redundancy. So what you are saying is, you came to this conclusion over a year ago, through this sending of messages. What did you decipher from them? And why are we only now discussing them, a year afterwards?”

“That I was young, very gullible, and that time would take care of those things.”

Miranda grimaced as she took a sip of the warm cola. “So you felt enough time had elapsed.”

“I think, the time, spending moments with you and the girls, I think we might be getting there. But… sometimes I still get a bit angry.”

“What right, do you have to be angry, with I assume, me?”

Andréa kept her voice level. “See, I think I got too close back then. As an employee, and you made a decision. I think you decided after you sent me away the night before.” Both women‘s memories flashed back to a tearful Miranda, and the divorce papers, as Andréa continued, “You decided that I had to leave without being fired. But it was a decision made for me, without asking me.”

“I gave you a choice. AND you took it.” Both their voices were rising.

“A choice you manipulated me into taking. You had no right, you should have asked me.”

“And why and what should I have asked?” Now there was anger and remembered pain in Miranda's tones that Andréa recalled from that night. “What were you risking?”

“You know what I risked.” Andréa paused, and swallowed any further words.

Miranda's voice did not soften at this, if anything the tenor became colder. “For all your talk of becoming older, you are very, very young, Andréa. I thought a crush on your part would heal.”

Chapter 8

“For all your talk of becoming older, you are very, very young, Andréa. I thought a crush on your part would heal.”

Andy burst out laughing. Even as she did so, she knew the effect it would have on Miranda, but she couldn't help herself. And from the stiffening and withdrawal she could sense from the figure beside her, Miranda's walls were not only higher, but the drawbridges were being pulled up as well.

A tone she hadn't heard since the cerulean blue lecture arrived on the scene. “You think this is amusing?”

If her head hadn't ached so much, she would have face palmed. “I think you're incredible, in all of the best and worst definitions of the word.”

“I am trying to get you to see reality.” The words were fired back at her.

“Reality?” she choked out. “Miranda? You think we're about to die and you're still protecting a line. We crossed that line months ago.”

“What are you referring to?”

“You had no problem with Nigel going out for drinks with me, a reporter! You let me stay in contact with your children. Your babies! You let me attend their school events. We kissed, Miranda. We have shown more care and feeling for each other in the past, what is it, six hours, than some couples do in a lifetime. And, yes. I was making a lot of assumptions back then, but now they're facts.”

“You seem to forget who, and what I am”

Andy tried to raise herself, only to find a surprisingly firm hand holding her in place. She considered resisting, but her headache convinced her otherwise. “Do you really think I have,” and possibly, just to irritate Miranda more, she made air quotes, “a crush on you? Do you think I haven't thought about what this could mean to me, or that I don't know who you are? I do! I know better than Stephen, or any of the toys you've carried about on your arm all of this year. You are the most aggravating, agitating, and this is just the A's, abusive, affected, afflicted… alienating, and yet…”

“Oh please. Don't stop now. Perhaps I can have this recorded for my eulogy.”

“In fifty years, perhaps we'll need it. But you are also so much more. To me. You're also absorbing. Assured, accomplished, admirable, amazing… Amusing, arousing and every minute I have spent with you has an adventure. And yes,” she threw in triumphantly, “I do use words for a living.”

That gained a real laugh from the magnate. “Arousing?”

“That's what you took from my rant?”

“If I listened to only the criticism, I'd have grown deaf years ago. But you forgot… aging.”

“Oh please. You're going to be beautiful until you're 90. I wish I had your skin, though, you know,” and she let her voice slip into a lower register, “the next best thing will be…” She moved the lit phone screen towards the woman's face. “Oh My God. You are actually blushing. I made you blush and it's getting worse now!” She examined her words, and corrected and cackled, “Better. It's getting better.”

Shaking hands attempted to push the phone away, as Andy continued. “I can't believe it. You are adorable !”

Trying to ignore her still flaming cheeks, Miranda drawled, “Now that I am sufficiently humiliated, will you get to the point?”

“The point? The only reason I just had the nerve to push you past this incredible bluff you just tried,”


“Yes, bluff.” Andy was on firm ground now. “The only reason I had the nerve was because we both know… that a crush that was only on my part, even back then… would not have required me to be encouraged to quit.”

“Would you have preferred to have a sacking on your up-till-then pristine record?”

“At the time, I know I appreciated the hitherto unknown effort of consideration from you,” she mocked. Then continued softly, “but as I said. It wasn't your decision alone when it involved my life. Leaving me uninformed. But. What if my feelings were not one-sided, I thought?”

The still blushing CEO managed to say, “When you make up your mind, you must inform me.”

“I made up my mind a year ago.”

“So?” Miranda gestured about the darkened space. “Look around you, what difference did my living in hope make in the end? Can you really still see a future? Beyond an hour? Do you see us growing old or in my case older? Can you see us going out together, being a couple, having meals at home with my…” and Miranda's traitorous voice broke, “…my children ? What conceivable reason, what purpose was there to ever hope when it concluded here?”

Having little to lose, Andy muttered, “Maybe I can't give you reason, but I can damn well give you some fucking purpose.” Reaching over, she slid off the mask. She took both hands to the delicate alabaster cheeks, and she drew her former boss into a light but she hoped, meaningful kiss.

It should have been terrible.

Their lips, faces, bodies, were covered in particles and dust.

It should have been awkward.

They were barely able to move; just aligning their faces should have been a chore.

It should have been frantic.

On the cliff edge of life and death, the adrenaline swinging them from fear to despair.

And yet…

It felt of everything Andréa had wished it would be. And it tasted,

It tasted of hope.

Andy pulled back, still terrified that there would be shock, horror or worse, disdain on the fashionista's face, but there was a small, very small smile. “Well?” the reporter asked breathlessly.

Miranda appeared to pause to consider. “It seems I can appreciate irrational purpose.”

That small confidence was rewarded by another light kiss. “And if there is hope? Would we be able to do this more often?”

“I could look forward, if…”

“When,” Andréa said firmly.

“If and when. But for now,” to Andy's immense disappointment, she shook her head and mood, took the cell light out of Andréa's hands and began to raise herself, “I am not raising your blood pressure any further. You need to stay still and I need to check more of those desks. If your optimism is anything to go by, there's likely to be a pair of parachutes and chainsaw in one of them.”

“Now you've got it!” The CEO grimaced at the enthusiasm, and let out a short groan as her injured foot announced itself.

“You shouldn't be walking on that foot,” Andréa reprimanded.

“You shouldn't be thinking with that head. Lay back,” Miranda shot back.

“I will, if you take it easy.”

“It's simply stiff from lying down. Not as if I can go very far.”

Andy tried to focus on the sounds of her rummaging about, but the throbbing from her injury was becoming overwhelming. “If you find any aspirin or paracetamol...”

“Not with a head injury, or concussion.”

“But I have a terrible headache.”

Miranda stilled and turned the phone's beam towards Andréa. “Don't say that. Those were FDR's last words before an aneurysm killed him.”

Andy gave a faint grin in the light. “Relax. If they were his, then they can't be mine.”

“Go to sleep,” Miranda ordered, but she was smiling again.

“To the gentle sounds of the building shifting?”

“It is the stage we find ourselves on.”

“I will close my eyes if you make me a promise. No. Plural. Promises.” The girl's voice had grown softer.

Miranda tried to sound aggrieved, but did not succeed. “Promises.”

“You'll ransack those desks for food, drink, anything else we might need.”

“Proper face mask filters.”

Ignoring the dig at her costume, she said, “I want you to promise, that when we get out…”




“Ice cream. With the girls. You. Me.”

Miranda let an offended sigh escape. “Ice cream. Of course. Won't that give you an even worse headache?”

“I can promise you, I'll eat it very slowly. I will eat it with respect and possibly admiration.”

The CEO chuckled. “Of course you would.”

The girl's voice was almost a whisper now. “And… can we have sprinkles?”

“Of course.”


“You're such a child,” Miranda said wistfully.

“Not a child. Not at all.” And the childlike tone was gone, and a firm adult stated, “And when, not if, when, there will be more kissing. More, more tasting. That's the real promise.”

And Miranda, despite her certainty in the hopelessness of their position, said, “If, when… I promise.”

Satisfied, Andréa closed her eyes.

Miranda continued to quietly ransack, though the groaning building was masking most of the sounds she made. At some point, she realised that Andréa had somehow fallen asleep. She could only marvel at how the reporter could nap despite the perils, through the slow collapse of the building around them. She shuffled as quietly as she could in the cramped space, and accumulated more treasures, as of course, the girl was right. She found more drinks, and an ancient boombox, which she slid across the floor while the girl slept. She carefully washed out the now gluey bee mask, but still replaced it with some disgust. She watched Andréa sleep for what might have been minutes or hours, and wondered. Wondered at her strength and courage. Knowing that when the media would report on their deaths, despite all this girl had accomplished this day and what she was, Andy Sachs' name would be in the small print. There is no justice, ever, and she gazed at the girl with a tenderness that would have shocked many. At some point, there was a great roar and massive slippage seemed to threaten to crush them both, and Miranda found herself making a shield over the girl, though she had no idea of what sort of protection she was affording from tons of reinforced concrete collapsing onto them. Andréa only made what could be described as sweet cooing sounds that almost brought tears to her eyes as the dust fell and the ceiling shook. What have I been thinking ? She is far too good for the likes of me. We're not even in a relationship of any kind, and I've already managed to trap her in what should only have been the tomb of Miranda Priestly. Eventually, she lay back beside Andréa, fighting the foreign urge to cuddle.

Perhaps at some point, Miranda's thought became too loud, and Andy groaned, opening her eyes to see a near tearful Miranda looking at her from inches away. “What's wrong?”

Miranda gave a somewhat broken chuckle at that. “Do you want a list?”

“Nope, how long have I been asleep?

She glanced at her watch. “An hour. But you haven't missed anything.”

Andy yawned and examined herself mentally. She felt stronger; it was time to think of getting out of the box. Andy could see the depression weighing on Miranda's shoulders and there were things that needed doing first. It was time for a change-up pitch.

“What do you want to do, what's the first thing you want, when and if we walk out of here?”

“If and when,” Miranda stopped to think. “We are moving to a building with no floors higher than the fire ladders can reach.”

Andréa laughed. “Wait. You're evading. You know, you do that a lot for someone who demands the truth from everyone else.” She waited, and Miranda glared back before rolling on her back.

“The truth is, I found a radio in working order.” She pulled over the ancient cassette player/radio alongside “It's battery operated and seems to be working. And I find that I am afraid to listen to the news. Not because I am afraid to discover how hopeless our situation is. But because I am afraid I will hear reports… reports that there are hundreds of people outside, looking for a curled up set of Prada clad legs sticking out from under this building.” Pause. “And that they will cheer.”

Andy very carefully took Miranda's hand in hers. “And if there is even one person like that, when we walk out of here, they will choke on their own pettiness, and the people that care, and admire you will be the one's cheering.”


“I wanna hear the news. Maybe we're not even in the top stories? This is New York . We could be old news.”

Miranda consulted her watch. “My God. It's after midnight.”

“See, we're still alive, seven hours later.”

“And, we missed the news on the hour.”

“Ah, we'll still make talk radio.”

Miranda rolled her eyes dramatically. “ Oh god. Did I survive all this just to be forced to listen to New York Talk Radio? ”

Andy chuckled and reached over to adjust the tuner. In a moment she struck a voice, she increased the volume of the tinny speakers.

-You're listening to WKNY because <We Know New York >

-Welcome back to the Barry Brox show,

“Oh dear Lord, not him, turn it off, Andréa,” Miranda exclaimed.

- and we continue with the news that the only good thing not to come out of the terrorist attack on the Elias Clark building was my dear friend, Miranda Priestly <Ding Dong the Witch is dead>

At this complete confirmation of everything she had assumed, Miranda went rigid. The inane song continued, until Andy asked, “Oh my God, what did you do to him ?” Even in the darkness, she could feel the outrage caused by her remark. “Wait a minute, Miranda, I am not blaming the victim, I'm just asking a question about this guy.”

Possibly mollified, the reply was not as cool as she might have feared. “He had a well-respected blog for one of the networks. He reported on a story about drug use at the girls' school and felt that naming some of the more famous attendees would make the story more newsworthy.”

“Oh, jeez, he used the girl's names in a story? So why isn't he working in Nome ?”

“Don't be ridiculous, Andréa. If he was in Nome , who would know what his punishment was?”

-Yes, it's true. Apparently her own house really did fall on her. Let's send out some prayers that our own Dorothy Gale, Andy Sachs, will have pulled off the red slippers and found her way home.


“Well, my legacy seems intact and at least I know you'll be remembered properly. Dorothy.”

“Miranda, this is a pathetic little man who's taking his pathetic little revenge. You have to know that's not what people think. Not what I think, or the girls or anyone who's ever known you.”

“And how many people can you count on that list, Andréa? How many?”


Ah, ladies and gentlemen, I have on the line the Wizard, of the Oz we call fashion. Give it up to the heir apparent, Nigel Kipling, Editor in Chief of Runway America .

Nigel's familiar tones sputtered through the small speaker.

“Good morning, Barry. First time caller, but last time caller… for you. There was another short pause. I bet you think that this tasteless attack is going to go viral, don't you? Restart your career, perhaps? But you made a big, huge miscalculation, Barry. New York is going to get very angry with you.”

Another familiar voice broke in. “You skeezy bastard. I spent all night trying to keep two crying girls from seeing any news coverage. But those de, girls are going to be trolling the net, desperately looking for news about the mother they love, that loved them,” there was a break in Emily's voice before she plowed on, “and they might hear your show. You are dead. You are so dead and…”

“Sorry Barry. Just one of the many, many people you've offended, but that's not why you're going off air soon, though forgetting that a woman, a woman you'd need to be wearing stilts just to lick her boots, who has two young children waiting for any news, should be reason enough to can you. But guess what? When you're working in Poughkeepsie at the local McDonalds, I want you to remember, Miranda Priestly didn't do this to you, you did it to yourself. Because while you've been defaming a great woman, the police are about to announce that Andréa Sachs, who is, was, one of the best people it has been my privilege to know, was not capable of clearing the Elias Clark building. She needed help. The police are going to be announcing that Miranda Priestly and Andréa Sachs, both of them, working together, stayed behind to ensure that Elias Clarke was evacuated, and saved the lives of over three thousand people. So not because she was powerful, with friends and admirers around the world, but because she went out as a hero, the woman you spent your last hours on air defaming, is going to take you down. Have a good life, Barry.

-You're listening to WKNY because <We Know New York >

-WKNY is now switching to our national broadcaster for the remainder of the evening.-

Several miles away in a townhouse, two coworkers stared at each other.

“Bastard,” Emily sniffled.

“Yes, you said that,” Nigel sighed, pulling her into a hug.

On the television screen in front of them, a tower of rubble still stood, with helicopters darting about it like bees around a battered hive. The floors that they had last seen their friend and employer, gone, scattered in sections on the ground where thousands stood penned back while emergency beacons flashed their candlelit vigil.

“Bloody hell. The last time she saw me I was panicking. And worse than that, useless.”

Nigel held the sobbing woman tighter. “And then you did exactly what she would have wanted. You went to look after her babies. Found alternate presses for the magazine and helped me get locations to set up office space so the magazines will still get out. Arranged for Andréa's family to fly here. You pushed through and she'd be proud of you.”

This only made the sobbing increase. There was a quiet period, until Nigel said, “I hope they were together.”

“What are you saying?” Emily sputtered.

“What you and I both know.”

Emily shrugged, then raised her glass to the ceiling with a shrug. “Well, maybe. That bloody fat COW!” There was another shuddering sob. “Bless her.”


To Be Continued..,