Title: Darkest of Days
Author: Quiethearted
Feedback address: terrybear6@yahoo.com
Date in Calendar: 18 December 2012
Fandom: The Devil Wears Prada
Pairing: Miranda/Andy
Rating: PG-13
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DD12

Author's Disclaimer: I don't own them. I just borrow them for a while and then return them unharmed, mostly.

Author's Notes 1: The last in the trilogy formed by When Ms. Priestly Met Mrs. Sachs and Nightmares are Dreams Too. WARNING: Character Death.

Author's Notes 2: I wrote this as my attempt to deal with the death of my step-father who raised me. I was born with a father, but my mama had to marry me a daddy. This is dedicated to him with all the love of a grateful daughter.

AP Wire

NEW YORK- Novelist Andrea Sachs-Priestly (65) died this morning of injuries she received in after being struck by a car. She is survived by her wife, publishing magnate Miranda Priestly, their three daughters: Caroline Priestly-Edwards who succeeded her mother Miranda as Chairperson and CEO of Elias-Clark Publications, Cassidy Priestly actress and Alisha Sachs-Priestly editor of Runway magazine. Ms. Sachs-Priestly is also survived by one son, Michael Sachs-Priestly, noted fashion designer as well as the couple’s five grandchildren. Writer of fourteen novels and eight works of non-fiction, Ms. Sachs-Priestly is perhaps best known for her tell-all autobiography of her life with Miranda Priestly, Dragon’s Tongue and Freesias.

“Mom, it’s time,” the soft voice so like Andréa’s broke into Miranda’s reverie.

Miranda nodded once, her lips twisting in a semblance of a smile at her habitual gesture.

“Your mother always teased me that I said more with a single nod than an opposing party politician bent on a filibuster,” she commented dryly as she fixed her cloudy blue-grey eyes on her youngest child. Alisha was the image of Andréa, tall, dark with enormous brown eyes. At thirty-four she looked so much like Andréa at that age that Miranda would have thought it the same person were it not for the couture Alisha wore so effortlessly. Thankfully, their daughter had inherited Miranda’s natural elegance. Miranda snorted softly. I suppose that answers the nature versus nurture question. The child has not one of my genes, yet her movements and mannerisms are all my own. Though Andréa always swore I had brass balls big enough to have impregnated her each time. Lord knows, I tried hard enough.

“Ma loved teasing you better than anything, even writing,” Alisha smiled her Andréa clone smile.

“She kept me human,” Miranda commented so softly it was almost to herself. “Who will do so now?”

“Michael will,” Alisha responded without hesitation.

Miranda nodded her agreement. “Yes, he is his mother’s son. “ If Alisha was Andréa’s physical doppelganger then Michael was her personality duplicate. His birth had been difficult for Andréa, almost costing her life and Miranda had been prepared to resent anyone who dared to threaten her adored wife in such a manner, even their child. However, the moment she held him and he looked up at her with his deep blue eyes she had been smitten. While Miranda had waited for Andréa’s return to her hospital room after the birth, the nurse had brought their son to her. He had wrinkled his brow, appearing for all the world as if he were considering whether Miranda was worthy. He first seemed to purse his lips before finally giving a nod followed by a small smile. Well, theories of an infant’s physical responses notwithstanding, she still thought he’d judged her acceptable and had shown his approval accordingly. She had returned the gesture in kind. From that instant, Miranda and her “Darling Prince” had been inseparable.

The emergency surgery that had brought her son into the world had drained Andréa to the point that a nurse was needed to care for the little boy when they first came home. On the second day, Andréa had called Miranda in tears.

“Come get your son, Miranda,” Andy had wept into the phone. “He keeps pursing his lips at the nurse and then screaming. You’re insisting I rest and I can’t between having to calm them both down.”

Within the hour, Andréa had been tucked into bed sound asleep, and Michael had been resting in a bassinet beside Miranda’s desk. For the next two weeks, Michael was a fixture at Runway, at least until after lunch when Miranda would return him to the townhouse and to his mother’s waiting arms. It became common place to see Miranda striding the halls with a spit up pad over her shoulder and her son balanced in one arm. A carrier sat on the conference table beside her at staff meetings and Michael quietly watching the conversations. He napped during run throughs, his mother’s quiet voice never once disturbing his sleep no matter how viciously she verbally eviscerated an employee. Wispy dark hair combed perfectly in place, he sat on his mother’s lap during previews in various designer’s studios. Both James Holt and Donatella idolized the tiny boy and designed infant wear specifically for him, as did several other designers. Andréa had laughed until tears had streaked her face when a tiny Armani tuxedo had shown up just prior to the christening, but she’d had a dreamy smile at how handsome Michael had looked in it that day.

Miranda had her suspicions that it was as much the fact it was Andréa’s son as the baby’s own personality that drew her friends to him. Donatella had always had a soft spot for Andréa, damn her. The woman had even designed Andréa’s maternity wear for heaven’s sake. One would have thought it was her baby Andréa was carrying. Donatella hadn’t spoken to Miranda for over a month when it first came to light that Andréa had not been properly caring for herself during the pregnancy and Miranda hadn’t been paying close enough attention to notice. Had Donatella lived to see this day, she might never have spoken to Miranda again.

So much had been going on at that time. Andréa had been in the middle of breaking the biggest story of her career, and Miranda was deep into her Oust Irv intrigue. Miranda hadn’t found out how adamant the doctor had been that Andréa slow down and rest until it had been too late. Miranda shivered as she thought of that moment, when Andréa had suddenly collapsed in the middle of labor, her blood pressure dropping drastically. What Miranda thought was supposed to be a normal delivery had turned into a fight to save the lives of both mother and child in a matter of seconds. Miranda had been relegated to pacing the delivery room and terrorizing the nursing staff to relieve her own fears. Cassidy had paced at her side while the rest of their extended family stayed well out of their way.

Miranda could well remember Cassidy muttering, “I’m so going to kick her ass for this.” Miranda hadn’t even taken issue with her daughter’s choice of language since she fully had agreed with the sentiment. How dare Andréa put their child at risk in such a way? How dare she endanger her own life when she knew full well Miranda’s heart could not survive without her? Then word had come that Andréa would be fine and that they had a son. Miranda had forgiven all once she had seen and touched both to reassure herself, but she had not forgotten.

Miranda managed a tremulous smile as she looked down the staircase of their home to the man who stood waiting for her. Michael, her Darling Prince, with his dark hair now streaked in grey and arresting blue eyes was one of the premiere fashion designers in the world. His designs were much sought after, yet his greatest joy was and had always been designing for Miranda herself. Even now, she wore one of his dresses, a dress Andréa had specifically requested her son create for their last anniversary. She had always loved Miranda in black, saying the midnight hue set off her hair and creamy skin to perfection. The dress molded her still impressive curves, the wide neckline showing off her collarbones and just a tease of cleavage. Andréa had loved the dress and, more importantly to its wearer, loved Miranda in it.

Miranda hesitated, almost stumbling, as she realized Andréa would never see her in it again. She smiled gratefully at Alisha’s steadying grip on her elbow and paused, biting her lip to fight back the tears. There had not been enough time, but then an eternity would not have been enough. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. She was supposed to go first, not Andréa. Never Andréa. It was the one thing Miranda had counted on throughout their life together, that she would never have to outlive her wife. Who was she to fault? The child who had run into traffic? Or Andréa herself? Her beautiful wife who had pushed the child to safety at the sacrifice of herself, was that who she should blame? Miranda knew had the situation been reversed her actions would have been the same. There was nothing more precious than a child’s life, even to the Queen of Fashion. With a slow breath, she settled her face into its calm blankness. Her grief was private; she could not even share it with her children. The only person she could share it with was not there, was rather the cause of it. She continued down the stairs.

“You look lovely. Ma would have been pleased,” Michael complimented with that innate sense he seemed to have of knowing exactly what to say to calm and focus his mother.

Miranda smiled, her hand gracing his cheek for a moment before she took his arm and with Alisha at her other side joined the rest of their family in the living room. They all turned to face her as she entered, their faces varying studies in grief. They had flown from all over the world when she had phoned with news of the accident. They had sat with her at Andréa’s side for the past thirty-eight days as the woman they all considered their mother and grandmother fought for her life, rotating in groups or pairs so she and Andréa were seldom alone- unless Miranda chose for it to be that way. Even then, they were just outside, only a softly spoken call away. The medical staff had been amazed at the single-minded devotion they had shown, no one missing a day. Even little Mai Ling, Michael’s adopted daughter, had accompanied one of her father’s each day for a short visit. On that last day, when Miranda had at last conceded there was no more time to live on hope, they had gathered en masse. The room so full that they could barely move, they had spoken in quiet voices, taking turns holding Miranda’s hand as they waited for the last breath to come.

Miranda had been frozen in her own world, aware of them and yet not. Her eyes glued to the shallow rise and fall of unassisted breathing, she had willed each breath to be followed by another until Andréa had simply stopped and Miranda had felt the world pause. There was nothing but unending silence and a deep cavernous emptiness that she knew would never go away. Her Andréa was gone. Tears bathing her face, Miranda had risen from her seat at the bedside and leaned over to kiss her wife of thirty-seven years good-bye. When Andréa’s still -warm lips did not respond, Miranda had felt the darkness take her.

She had awakened to the soft weeping of her children and her grandchildren and could never remember having felt so alone in her life. From that moment to this, she had not cried where anyone else could see. She could not share this loss. Instead, she could only cradle it deep within her chest where the ache grew to a wrenching pain she fought to hide from the world as she and Andréa had once hidden their budding love.

Miranda’s eyes moved over each beloved face. Caroline, who stood in her husband, Carter’s, encircling arm, flanked by her children, Julia who was halfway through medical school and keeping a very close eye on her grandmother today, and Carter Jr., a recent graduate of Harvard who would soon began working for his MBA at Harvard Business. Next were Cassidy and her wife, Susan Marks the director and their two twin girls, Jennifer and Jessica, both rising juniors at Brown. Jennifer seemed intent to follow in her parent’s footsteps, but Jessica had shown a strong interest in the law which pleased Miranda. The family could use a good attorney. Standing with them was Michael’s husband, Douglas. There had been quite the battle over that relationship what with Douglas having been one of the childhood friends who had first moved with Andréa to New York. Their daughter was with Douglas’ sister today as his parents would be attending services. Miranda gave a silent prayer of thanks that Andréa’s parents had not lived to see this day, though her brother would meet them at the cathedral for the service. He had not felt up to dealing with the paparazzi that currently surrounded the townhouse and would follow the Sachs-Priestly family to the church. Alternative transportation had been arranged for him until he returned with the family to the townhouse.

Transportation had proven a logistical nightmare. There were so many details, so many decisions to be made and for once, rather than not having sufficient time to do so, Miranda had felt unequal to the task. So she had done what she had always done when an event of dire importance needed to be planned and arranged: she called Emily. After almost a decade as first assistant turning down one promotion offer after another, Miranda had been at her wits end with the woman. How was she to reward the person who had done so much to ensure Miranda’s happiness? At the beginning of their relationship, when Andréa had run from Miranda, it was Emily who had found her and made the arrangements to get Miranda to Cincinnati. A year later when it had been reported that Andréa had been murdered, it was Emily who re-arranged the world to bring the family together while covering Runway duties. Just as it was Emily who had borne the responsibility of conveying to Miranda the horrors surrounding that death. Miranda gave a small huff of amusement as she recalled the threat Emily had issued after giving Andréa a heartfelt hug on finding her alive. “You should know that the next time you get involved with something like this, it had bloody well better be you because as soon as I find you it will be.” Emily, who was even now standing on the far side of the room with her wife, Serena, and their daughter, Isabella, had even handled the planning for Miranda and Andréa’s wedding. How to thank such a person?

Andréa had solved the issue for Miranda quite easily by suggesting she just ask Emily what she wanted. Miranda had rolled her eyes and huffed a bit, but in the end did exactly that. To her surprise, Miranda found Emily hadn’t moved on because she liked planning extravagant events, and Miranda’s professional life was the most extravagant event she’d ever encountered. It had taken a bit of arranging on Miranda’s part, no small feat without Emily’s assistance, but at last Miranda had ordered Emily into the car. After arriving in front of an elegant storefront in Manhattan, and with Andréa and Serena looking on, she had fired Emily and presented her with the keys. Emily Charlton became the owner of her own event-planning business and Miranda already had a long line of people wishing her services. Emily had been in her Paris office when the call came from Miranda. By morning, Emily and Serena were knocking on the townhouse door. In three days time, they had worked their miracles.

“Miranda, we should go,” Emily spoke up. Her British stiff upper lip firmly in place, Emily seemed the epitome of calm. Only the pallor of her skin and the slight redness to her eyes gave signs of her grief. She and Andréa had become the closest of friends over the years and Miranda knew that regardless of her feelings towards Miranda herself, the woman for whom she would do nearly anything, Emily was paying her respects to her dear friend in the finest way she knew, by caring for Andréa’s widow and family.

“Yes, Emily,” Miranda acquiesced quietly, almost smiling at the flush that graced the other woman’s cheeks. It was a moment Andréa would have relished and the entire motivation for Miranda doing so. She knew that even her family stared at her unbelievingly from time to time during the last few days, but that could not be helped. Andréa would not have been pleased to know Miranda was bogged down in grief. Her wife loved to laugh far too much and she had taught Miranda to love the sound of that laughter, to need it equally as much as she needed the arms that held her and the love that filled her heart. Even now she thought she heard the ringing tones of Andréa’s laugh filtering through the room.

“Right, then. Roy is waiting for us,” Emily clipped her words to cover the quiver that Miranda still heard quite clearly.

Roy. Another surprise, that wasn’t. He had retired several years earlier but had returned to drive Miranda today, of all days, as a sign of his respect. With Andréa’s encouragement he had purchased two town cars and, along with his brother Walter, had become the family’s drivers under direct contract to the Sachs-Priestlys. Andréa would trust no one else to drive their children. Between them, the two men had parlayed that into a fleet and secured the Elias-Clarke contract. When Roy had retired, his sons took over driving “Ms. Andy” and “Ms. Miranda.” It was a familial right and privilege for “Roy’s boys,” as Andréa called them. Andrew and Cedric would be driving the other family cars today as was their right.

With her trademark sunglasses firmly in place, Miranda took the lead as the family filed out to the waiting cars. Roy, Walter and the boys in dark Armani suits each held a door and doffed their caps. With a gentle hand, Roy assisted Miranda into the car, a hint of moisture in his eyes. She squeezed his fingers before slipping onto the seat with a murmured, “Thank you, Roy.”

He had played such an important role in her initial courtship of Andréa. Indeed, it was he who had blown the whistle on her wife when he had overheard a phone conversation between Andréa and her doctor during her pregnancy. He had delivered Andréa to her destination and gone directly to Runway refusing to leave until he spoke with Ms. Priestly. From that moment on, he was platinum plated in Miranda’s world, though Andréa never knew why. Only he and Miranda ever knew who had co-signed on the business loans that got him his start and expanded his business later. Only Miranda knew that it was Andréa’s lamenting on how she didn’t have the personal standing to do so that instigated Miranda’s involvement. He could have managed the cars on his own, but the bonding, insurance and overhead would have delayed his venture for a few years. It was also the general knowledge that Miranda would trust no other with the transport of her family, a fact she never made a secret, that brought him more business than he could handle. R & W Transportation became the company for celebrities to use in New York in a very short time.

The journey to the church was accomplished in silence. A fair number of mourners lined the streets leading to the mammoth cathedral that was chosen for its size more than any other factor. Andréa had become as beloved a figure over the years even as Miranda had once been a despised one. Indeed, the sidewalk to either side of the townhouse door had, on several occasions, needed to be cleared of bouquets and small gifts. The Sachs-Priestly Foundation was well known for its support of small business owners and its charitable contributions that directly affected the lives of New York’s citizens. Andréa had won her way into the hearts of New Yorkers and had dragged Miranda along willing or not. It wasn’t that Miranda had presented any less of an icy a façade to the public. No, it was more that people felt anyone Andréa Sachs-Priestly could love must be worth it. Miranda could only pray she had been.

As she walked up the steps to the imposing doors, flash bulbs flicked and reporters shouted questions. Then the impossible happened. The crowd that had been awaiting their arrival began to gently but firmly place themselves between the family and the reporters pushing them farther and farther back until there was too much distance to hear or feel their intrusive presence. When the reporters began to object, police officers who had volunteered for the duty, friends of Andréa and the retired Police Commissioner, Joanne Polniaczek, stepped in and sided with the crowd. They were honoring a hero and friend at the service, and they had no intention of allowing anyone to bother the Sachs-Priestly family today.

Miranda did not remove her glasses for the service and was forced to bite the inside of her lip to keep from smiling when she realized that each of her three daughters kept theirs on as well. Andréa would have been highly amused. Again Miranda heard the gentle tinkle of laughter and could picture Andréa’s smirk. She listened to the many glowing tributes to her wife, imagining the fierce blush Andréa would have worn were she present. It was only when Michael stepped to the podium that Miranda had to fight to keep her composure.

“My sisters asked that I speak for us all. Andréa Sachs-Priestly, the woman we called Ma, was all the wonderful things these fine people have said, but she was more than that. She was our mother. She gave birth to Alisha and myself, but I don’t think she loved us one iota more than our sisters Caroline and Cassidy. We were all her children. Yet, we all knew that as much as she loved us, as much as she cared for and about us, it was only a small fraction of how she felt about Mom, Miranda Priestly. Ma adored our Mom. I know that many of you have thought of Miranda Priestly as the Dragon Lady, and many still do. But let me assure you, Ma tamed the Dragon, not by any conscious act of will but by just being herself. The Miranda Priestly my sisters and I know is a warm, caring, loving woman who would do anything to ensure the happiness and wellbeing of her family and friends. Ma did that with her beauty and her gentle heart. We, her children, are devastated by our loss. I can’t begin to imagine what my mother is feeling. While you are here to b-“ He choked up and had to swallow back his tears before continuing. “While you are here to bury your friend and we, our mother. Mom is here to say good-bye to her heart, to the other half of who she is. She does so with the grace and dignity that is inherent to her, but also with the knowledge that they can never truly be parted.

We held a family meeting last night to decide what we wanted to express today and I think my sister Alisha phrased it best when she said that when she took the time to contemplate the existence of a higher power, she knew God existed because the depth and beauty of emotion that existed between our mothers could not be happenstance and that there had to be an afterlife because nothing righteous would keep two such bonded spirits apart. So, Ma, if you can divert your attention from Mom for just a moment, we want you to know we love you, we miss you and we’ll take good care of her until she’s back in your arms.” With a bow of his head, Michael came down the steps from the podium and into Miranda’s arms. “You’ll see her again. We know it,” he whispered.

“As do I, my Darling Prince, as do I,” she responded with a soft kiss to his cheek. Yes, he was so Andréa’s son.

The graveside service was short with Miranda looking everywhere but at the ebony casket before her. She couldn’t conceive that she would have to leave her Andréa here, so she fixed her eyes on the gentle swaying of the trees in the distance and tuned out the words spoken by the minister. She thought instead of sparkling brown eyes and soft full lips curled in a smile to ease the tightness in her chest. When the time came, she stood with her children and shook the hands that clasped her own, accepting the words of condolence with a nod and a sad, little smile. The exceptions were Emily, Serena, Blair Warner-Polniaczek and the Commissioner herself. Joanne swept her into a tight hug that had everyone outside the family gasping in shock. Miranda clung to her for a moment fighting for control; Joanne had always hugged so like Andréa that for a moment Miranda could pretend, and it was almost her undoing.

“You will come back to the house with us,” Miranda commanded.

“I thought you were just having family there,” Jo demurred.

“And your point would be?” asked Miranda in her usual haughty manner.

“We’ll be there, Miranda,” Blair stepped in.

Blair could read her wife with the same ease that Miranda had read her own. Though Joanne and Andréa had seemed so dissimilar on the surface, Miranda had always thought them very much alike. Beyond the question of the coloring they shared, they both had large giving hearts that made great allowances and held limitless compassion for the privileged women they had fallen in love with.

Back at her home long after everyone else had departed, Miranda sat in her favorite chair, legs crossed at the knee, sipping a glass of red wine and listening as the reminisces of her children flowed and ebbed around her. Andréa had always referred to it as Miranda’s “Queen Pose.”

“You, my dear sister, wouldn’t even be here if Ma couldn’t wrap our mother around her little finger,” Cassidy teased for perhaps the millionth time since Alisha’s birth.

Caroline laughed in agreement. “That’s right. Mom wasn’t about to let Ma go through another pregnancy after almost losing her when Michael was born. They had more than one argument over it.”

“Until the weekend we were sent to our father’s and Michael was packed off to Aunt Jo and Aunt Blair’s,” Cassidy picked up the story in typical twin solidarity. “Ma must have run up and down the stairs to and from their bedroom about a hundred times toting wine glasses, wine, and about a gazillion candles.”

“Not to mention the red nightgown Cass got a peak at,” Caroline added. “Mom always was a sucker for Ma wearing red.”

Miranda nodded her head regally. “Andréa‘s coloring was perfect for red.” How could I resist when she was so exquisitely delicious in that color and the gown… Miranda had a standing order with the designer to produce the exact same gown in that exact shade for years afterward.

“True,” Caroline agreed.

“I’ll say,” laughed Cassidy. “We came home on Sunday evening to a very relaxed Mom announcing that Ma was taking a sabbatical from work and we’d have a new brother or sister by year’s end.”

“It was almost nine months to the day that you were born, Alisha,” Caroline concluded while giving her mother a suspicious glance.

“Really, Caroline,” Miranda scoffed. “I have many talents but impregnating Andréa was not one of them.” As the children had gotten older sex had become less of a taboo subject in their home. Another fact that was due entirely to Andréa who had argued that it was better for the children to be able to talk about such things with them than to learn them elsewhere. Miranda had been uncomfortable with the idea of acknowledging she and her wife had a sex life, but not as uncomfortable as she was with thinking of her precious girls learning about sex from their peers, especially some libidinous teenage boys. As always when it came to such things, Andréa had been proven right.

“I wouldn’t bet against you, Mom,” Cassidy teased. “When was the last time you took a good look at those two?” She gestured at her younger brother and sister. “Alisha acts just like you, and I swear Michael looks more like you every day. They’re both a perfect blend of you and Ma.”

Miranda smiled lovingly at her children. “Yes, they are,” she acceded.

“What do you expect?” Alisha scoffed. “We practically grew up at Runway.

“You never left!” Cassidy accused, alluding to the fact that Alisha had begun working part time at the magazine as soon as she was legally old enough. “I thought Mom was going to explode when you went to work there fulltime after high school instead of going to college.”

“Hey! I went to college,” Alisha defended herself.

“At night. After putting in a full day at the magazine,” Michael threw in. “Which explains why you broke Mom’s record as the youngest editor ever.”

“I thought Mom was going to kill me when I appointed you,” Caroline shivered, remembering one of the few times her mother’s anger had been directed at her.

Miranda sniffed disdainfully. “Nonsense. I blamed Andréa for encouraging you both.”

“But she was right,” Cassidy pointed out. “She had an annoying habit of being so, yes,” Miranda remarked. “Especially where you children were concerned.”

“Neither of you ever told us how she convinced you,” Alisha said. “More red nightgowns?”

“If only. She pointed out that I had been training you to take over Runway almost from birth. Having done so, I had no right to stand in the way of your assuming the position you were born to.” Andréa had been right once again. Alisha had been a fussy baby, refusing to sleep through the night. Miranda had often gotten up with her to allow Andréa a few more hours of much needed sleep. Quite by accident Miranda had found out that Alisha would quiet if Miranda settled the baby in her lap and reviewed the Book with her. Andréa swore it was the sound of Miranda’s soft voice as she explained each decision she made. Whatever the reason, Miranda had gotten into the habit of holding off on going over the Book until the next morning when the house was quieter, getting up early to do so. Once she was old enough to walk, Alisha would invariably crawl into her lap within a few moments of Miranda beginning her work. By the time Alisha was eight, she could catch almost as many errors as Miranda and was using her dolls to do her own photo shoots. She would then make her own book on her computer from the layouts and present it to Miranda after dinner to see. At twelve, she could find all the errors under her mother’s proud and watchful eye. By fourteen, Miranda would often wake to find the Book completed. Her daughter was, indeed, to the Runway born.

“It was not unlike the argument she used when Michael decided to study fashion design. I never wanted any of you to follow me in the business. I never thought it conducive to a happy home life. It never was for me until Andréa and that had more to do with her than me,” Miranda confessed. It was the first time she’d ever shared these thoughts with her children, and they all looked vaguely shocked at the revelations. “Andréa was quick to point out that the outfits Alisha dressed her dolls in for her version of the Book were all designed and sewn by Michael. He had cut his teeth on designer previews and learned his sense of fashion from me. How could I then deny what I had raised him to be?”

“Well, at least I chose a different field,” Cassidy teased, knowing it would set her mother off like nothing else.

“Oh, yes, acting,” Miranda exclaimed. “What a viable substitution that was.”

The four dissolved in laughter. Miranda could again hear a fifth voice joining in and idly rubbed at a faint weakness in her arm. She really had not been sleeping well since this all started and doubted tonight would be any different.

“That was still nothing compared to the day Michael announced he was dating Doug,” Cassidy giggled. “I thought the roof was gonna come off the place.”

“Your mother put an end to my objections to that one rather quickly,” Miranda mused. “She walked into my study, laid our birth certificates side by side with Douglas’ and Michael’s above them. Asked me if I noticed anything interesting and left just as calmly.”

Michael burst out laughing. “She didn’t!” he gasped.

“Indeed, she did. It was an argument that was impossible to refute. I knew Douglas to have a sweet and loving disposition, much like your mother’s. I could only hope my son would be as happy as I was in a similar situation.”

“He is,” Michael assured her with a glowing smile.

“Yeah, the Princling done good,” Cassidy agreed, using the nickname the girls had graced him with.

“Andréa had her own misgivings about the relationship,” Miranda advised, something else they had never known. “But she had known Douglas all her life and trusted him to care for you.”

“She threatened to beat me to within an inch of my life and set fire to my carcass if I ever hurt you,” Doug informed them. They hadn’t noticed him leaning against the door jamb leading into the hallway.

“Ma? Our peace loving, pacifist mother?” Caroline asked, incredulous.

“I suggest you each ask your respective spouses what she told them,” Doug laughed and shook his head. “I have, and it was much the same speech. Andy was peace loving right up to the point it involved any of you, then she had six inch claws and blood thirsty fangs. I’ve known her most of my life, and it was the first time I can ever recall being afraid of her. I knew she meant it.”

“Yes, she did,” Miranda agreed.

“Is that what happened with Peter?” Caroline asked, bringing up the name of an old boyfriend that had shown the bad judgment of slapping the young woman Andréa considered her child in a fit of jealousy. The sixteen year old Caroline had come home in tears that night and told Andréa what had happened. It was only afterward that Miranda became aware of what had happened. “I never saw him again, and he never tried to contact me after that, not that I wanted him to. I was just glad he was gone.”

“I was in Paris for fashion week when that occurred. Andréa didn’t tell me about it until I returned. After she calmed you and got you in bed, she paid a visit to the young man and his parents. I understand she took your Aunt Joanne with her in full uniform,” Miranda enlightened her.

“Aunt Jo?” Caroline couldn’t believe her mother had gone to such lengths. They were all aware of just how intimidating their aunt was in full cop mode.

“I believe his parents conveyed him to an appropriate military school the next morning. One not dissimilar to a Marine boot camp,” Miranda’s smile was more than slightly wicked. “I don’t think I could have done better myself. Andréa was still quite livid over the incident when I arrived home three days later. Shortly thereafter his father was transferred to the west coast, if I’m not mistaken. “

“All she ever said was that it was taken care of, and I never had to worry about seeing him again,” Caroline said. “Wait a minute. After you got home, his dad was transferred?” She gave her mother a suspicious look.

Miranda held up her hands as if to show her innocence. “I had nothing to do with it. There was some connection between the owner of the company and your Aunt Blair. Andréa worked out the details. I was presented with a fait accompli as were you.”

“Sounds like Andy,” Doug snorted. “It took a lot to get her angry, but once you did, she was very thorough.” He pushed off from the door frame. “I’m heading up to bed. I’ll see you all in the morning.”

A chorus of “Good nights” followed his exit. Michael looked after him thoughtfully for a moment.

“I think I’ll head up too,” he said. “Doug’s taking this a lot harder than he’s letting on. Some nonsense about Ma expecting him to be strong for you, Mom.” He rose and kissed his mother on the cheek before following his husband up to their room.

“Good night, my Darling Prince,” Miranda called softly.

“You know, I’ve never asked but always wondered why you call him that,” Cassidy asked. “I know he’s the only boy, but you’ve never been one for nicknames.”

“I’m still not,” Miranda stated emphatically. “Nor did I give him the nickname. Andréa did.”

“But I don’t remember ever hearing her call him that,” Caroline commented.

“She didn’t. It was the day after Michael was born. Andréa was still somewhat groggy from the pain medication. She had been slipping in and out of consciousness all day. Later that evening, she was at last coherent enough for me to address the matter of a name for our son. We had discussed it many times but never came to any agreement. We had been arguing a great deal during that time, both short tempered and over worked. I hesitated to name him without her input so I waited.” Miranda smiled as the memory came back to her clearly. “She was holding your brother as I sat beside her, holding them both. I asked about a name. She looked at me with the loveliest smile and told me that she had married a queen, and all good queens needed a prince to carry on after them. While she couldn’t give him my name, Miranda Elizabeth, she could give him my initials, so she was naming him Michael Evan. She could be quite nauseatingly sentimental at times.” Miranda waved the idea off, but it was apparent to the three sisters she was still pleased by the idea.

“It sounds like Ma,” Caroline smiled.

“I should probably get to bed too,” Cassidy suppressed a yawn. “The twins have a list of things they want to do tomorrow, and somehow I’m involved in all of it.”

“Twins can be quite tiring,” Miranda agreed with an impish smile while that trill of laughter sounded in her mind again.

“Thanks, Mom,” Cassidy rolled her eyes with a chuckle. She, too, kissed her mother before wishing her sisters a good night.

“She seems happy,” Miranda observed. “Andréa always kept me up to date on these things. I suppose I’ll have to notice for myself now.” Her expression took on a glimmer of sadness; or rather the emotion spread from her eyes, where it had existed all day, to reflect on her features.

“She is,” Caroline assured her. “It still amazes me they’ve been together as long as they have. Cassidy hated Susan on sight when they first met.”

“Seriously?” Alisha asked.

“You were what? Six when it all happened? I’m not surprised you don’t remember,” Caroline teased. “Cassidy almost quit the film over it. She called in tears.”

“I remember us flying out there,” Alisha mused. “It was my first trip to Disney. I was thrilled.”

“You would remember that part,” Caroline laughed.

“Cassidy was cast in her first leading role, and Susan was the director,” Miranda explained. “Your sister struggled every day not to let her temper get the better of her. It was proving an insurmountable challenge. The stress was beginning to wear on Cassidy, so she called asking what to do. I offered her the best advice I could not having met the woman. By the time I ended the call, Andréa had arranged for a private jet to be ready the following morning to fly all of us to her, including your nanny. The morning after we arrived, Caroline, Andréa and I appeared on the set. Andréa waved us out of sight, then walked right up and gave Cassidy one of her hugs.”

“Don’t forget how totally gorgeous Ma really was,” Caroline chimed in.

“It was extremely hot in California that day, so Andréa was showing a good deal more skin than she normally did here in New York,” Miranda continued to paint the picture for her youngest.

“Like in a very short skirt, heels, and the tiniest little top. I’m still surprised Mom let her out of the hotel dressed that way,” Caroline giggled.

“Yes, well, it was the tiniest little red top and your mother had her ways of convincing me to go along with her plans. As I was saying, she wrapped Cassidy up in one of her breath-stealing hugs. Cassidy was thrilled; Susan was not. Andréa observed the interaction for a moment and then steered Cassidy toward her trailer.”

“After Cass calmed down, Ma gave her some advice that worked like a charm,” Cassidy snickered.

“What did she say?” Alisha asked, eyes agog.

“Andréa told Cassidy to kiss Susan,” Miranda replied.

“You’re kidding? “ Alisha gasped.

“Nope, that’s exactly what she said,” Caroline grinned. “Ma said that Susan was attracted to Cassidy and the whole arguing thing was nothing but unresolved sexual tension. She knew Cassidy wouldn’t have been so upset by everything if she didn’t feel the same way, so she needed to just kiss the woman and get it over with. “

“This from the woman that made me wait five months and chase her halfway across the country before sleeping with me,” Miranda murmured, still amused by Andréa’s advice to Cassidy.

Caroline rolled her eyes. “Ma wasn’t nearly as aggressive as Cassidy.”

“Caroline, my darling child, Andréa was entirely the aggressor in our private relationship,” Miranda informed her with a smirk.

“Ewwww. Too much information,” Alisha plugged her ears while Caroline almost fell off the couch laughing.

“I knew it!” Caroline chortled. “I always thought Ma was totally the butch. Cassidy so owes me.”

“There was nothing butch about Andréa,” Miranda sniffed. “She was simply the dominant partner.”

“No wonder you were always smiling in the mornings as you gingerly sat down to eat,” Caroline teased.

“Caroline!” Miranda gasped feeling her face heat up.

“Mom, you loved being with her. Cass and I were thrilled you were so happy finally. She’s the best thing that ever happened to you, and however that worked out between you is good by us,” Caroline assured her.

“There is so much that was right about us and I will miss all of it, but perhaps those moments most of all,” Miranda conceded.

“Your lover’s arms around you, warm skin against your own,” Caroline looked up toward where her husband slept. “I can understand missing that. It’s the one part of the relationship that’s just for the two of you at your most intimate.”

“So what happened with Cassidy?” Alisha broke into both their thoughts.

“Oh, well, she kissed her, of course,” Miranda waved a hand negligently feeling fatigue wash over her again. Would she ever not be tired again?

“Boy, did she ever,” Caroline laughed. “She marched out of the trail and right up to Susan, threw her arms around her neck, and pulled her into the deepest, wettest kiss I’ve ever seen on or off screen. Then Cass let her go and sweetly introduced her mothers and her twin sister. I’ve never seen anyone look as relieved or smile as big as Susan did when she found out Andy was our mother. That’s when you got to go to Disneyland courtesy of Susan,” Caroline finished the story.

“Your mother had a way about her,” Miranda mused before shifting uncomfortably. “I really think it’s time I went to bed. “

“Are you going to be all right?” Caroline asked.

Thinking of the large empty bed that awaited her, Miranda had her doubts, but she didn’t share them with her daughter.

“Yes. I suppose. Eventually,” Mirada said, rising from her chair.

Both girls stood and kissed their mother good night, much like their siblings had. Miranda made her way slowly up the stairs. She moved through her nightly ritual only to end up standing beside their bed, staring at the empty space where Andréa has slept for the last thirty-seven years.

“I miss you,” Miranda whispered running her fingertips over the pillow. Unable to face lying next to the empty space, she crawled into it and clasp Andréa’s pillow to her chest. She was finally free to let the tears she had fought all day fall with abandon. In the silence of her room, she cried herself to sleep.

Sometime later, she awoke to a dream of walking through mist. She looked down, unsurprised to see herself once again clad in the black dress from earlier that day. Shading her eyes from the brightness, she wondered irritated why she never managed to dream of herself wearing sunglasses in this type of situation. She could just make out a vague figure in distance and began moving in that direction. As she drew nearer, the figure began to take shape. I know that walk. I’d know it even if I hadn’t seen it for a hundred years. Miranda surprised herself in that as she broke into a run, she actually ran. There was no dream mire tugging at her feet to slow her pace, no aches or complaints of old bones. She ran with the speed and grace of a woman half her current age. The figure came towards her at an equally steady pace, arms open.

Andréa, she thought.

“Andréa!” she cried aloud, almost fearful of waking herself up before she reached her wife. Isn’t that how dreams of loss went? Just as you reached the person, they disappeared or you woke up. Miranda ran faster, wanting to reach Andréa before either could happen. Then she was there, and Andréa’s arms were around her. Miranda’s lips crushed against her lover’s. For the longest time, Miranda could do no more than kiss her wife and run her hands over the body she had so missed holding.

Andy broke the kiss, laughing. “We’ve got time, Miranda. An eternity of time.”

“No, no, I’ll wake up, and you’ll be gone again,” Miranda disagreed trying to pull the sweet lips back to her own. “I’ve missed you so.”

“Miranda, baby, listen to me,” Andy spoke against the mouth that plundered her own. “Please, listen.” She continued to try to talk between kisses. “Miranda! Listen! Look!” Grabbing Miranda by the shoulders Andy turned her back to look the way she had com, back across the low lying mist, back into their bedroom where Miranda saw herself lying still and quiet, unmoving.

“I’m…” Miranda started and then stopped unable to say the words.

“With me? Yeah, you are.” Andy wrapped her arms around her wife, hands pressed to a once again toned stomach. “Your heart couldn’t take the strain of the last month. The fatigue, the numbness, the tight pain in your chest were all signs of an on-coming heart attack. It was quick, over before it could even wake you.”

“The children,” Miranda murmured, ashamed that she didn’t feel a greater urgency to return to them.

“They’ll be fine. They’re all happily married with children and thriving careers,” Andy reminded her.

“Alisha isn’t.” Miranda turned in Andy’s arms and look into her eyes. “She’s editor of Runway. What if she takes after the one who trained her?”

“She won’t. In six months, Michael is going to introduce her to a promising new designer he knows. Alisha will marry him a year later. They’ll have three children, two girls and a boy. Alisha will name her first daughter Miranda Andréa. Little Miranda will change the face of fashion as we know it. Alisha will be fine, Miranda. They all will,” Andy promised. “And we’ll be here to watch over them until it’s their time to join us.”

Turning within the arms holding her and relaxing against the body she knew so well, Miranda laced her arms around her wife’s neck again and pulled her head gently down. “Not too soon, I hope,” she murmured. “You left me alone, Andréa. You’re going to have work very, very hard to make that up to me.”

“Harder than I had to work when you only thought I’d died,” Andy grinned.

“Much harder,” Miranda asserted.

“Then I guess I’d better get to work.” Andy met the soft lips with hers.


Alisha had barely settled into bed when there was a soft tap at her door, and it swung open to reveal Caroline.

“Hey, what’s up? I thought you were checking on Mom.” She frowned at the tears slipping down her sister’s cheeks. “What’s wrong, Caro? Mom ok?”

Caroline nodded. “She’s where she belongs.”

“Huh?” Alisha wasn’t following her sister’s cryptic comment.

“Back in her lover’s arms.” Caroline moved to take her younger sister in her own arms as the first tears appeared. “We need to tell the others.”

“We all kissed her good-bye,” Alisha observed.

“I suppose we did,” Caroline agreed.

“Who’s going to threaten to beat up and incinerate my prospective husband?” Alisha asked after a moment, not entirely sure why it was so important. Just that it was.

“I got your back, Sis, and Cass will strike the match,” Caroline assured her.

AP Wire

NEW YORK- Miranda Priestly (90) died late last night of a massive heart attack. Sources close to the family say she went quietly in her sleep. Ms. Priestly was best known as the second youngest editor of Runway magazine, a distinction now held by her youngest daughter, Alisha Sachs-Priestly. She is also survived by her other daughters, Caroline Priestly-Edwards and Cassidy Priestly, and one son, Michael Evan Sachs-Priestly as well as five grandchildren. As editor of Runway and later Chairperson and CEO of Elias-Clarke Publications, Miranda Priestly influenced the multi-billion dollar fashion industry for close to six decades. The widow of noted novelist Andrea Sachs-Priestly, Ms. Priestly survived her wife by only four days, dying the night of her wife’s funeral.