Title: On an Altar
Pairing: Miranda and Andy
Summary: A gift from an aunt inspires changes; among other things.
Words: 29500 +
Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, which pretty well guarantees that “ownership,” of the characters belongs to others (Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox) and that this work is entirely based on affection. This is not-for-profit, but for praise or at least enjoyment.
Beta Readers: Thank yous go to - Melanacious, LadyDragonstorm and Bonnie - my extraordinary friends.
A/N - This is a one shot, “get ‘em together,” short story.
A/N - This fiction likely draws from several TDWP sources for inspiration - it mostly follows movie canon as a starting point, however.
A/N - I hereby label this story AU. Just in case. Because this may involve magic. And while I personally believe that magic exists, there are those among us who need this disclaimer. So for purposes of respect to the cooperative multi-verse in which we live: *stamp* AU *endstamp*
A/N - I have decided, just for my sanity, that family names and really good friend names shall remain generally consistent. Thus, Andy’s father’s is Richard and her mother is CeCe, etc. This will go for Miranda’s family if they ever reveal themselves. Also, just for purposes of declaration, I’ve been working on two other longer-term Devil Wears Prada fan-fics for months and months. They are unfinished, and I haven’t decided to post them. They are not “On A...” They actually came first. However, the family rule, shall remain consistent. Which means I may have to go back and do some editing...
A/N - This story has may have angst, but it ends well.
A/N - Series talk: I did not intend to write a series. But, two stories does not make a series, whereas three stories may complete one. So, for the sake of completion, a new story.
A/N - Other stories in the series: On a Train, On a Tractor
LJ Tags: all: fiction, user: bearblue, rating: nc-17, pairing: andy/miranda, status: completed, genre: romance
Andy stared at the “care” package her aunt sent her. It was, at the moment, a simple, but large brown box, which had been delivered by men of size and power, up five floors. She was aware that the sleek lines might be deceptive. One just never knew with her Aunt Dorene. Last year one of her cousins had received a painted yurt, which had oddly come in handy after the tornado. Her cousin was still living in that yurt, apparently happy with their new “green” lifestyle. And now married, which was completely unexpected by everyone; except, apparently, her aunt.
Andy did not really want a yurt. She liked living in New York and suspected there weren’t too many places to put one. She also wasn’t feeling the green thing much. She liked her comfort, even if, at the moment, her apartment was a shade on the bare side.
Not that a yurt was guaranteed. The year before the cousin’s yurt, another cousin had received a book, which was unusual, as they were well known for their loathing of said items. Now they were in college and apparently doing well. Also married.
Then there was her sister, Rachel, a few years ago. She had graduated college, had scads of boyfriends, loads. Then one day her aunt gifts her with a tiny statue, just something for the coffee table of her new apartment. A year later, Rachel was married.
Andy knew one thing from her year and a half long stint at a newspaper, twice is coincidence. Three times is a common thread, and could be the beginning of a pattern.
Thus, she gazed upon the box, which was taking up a good portion of the apartment’s space, with suspicion. She also decided she wasn’t opening it; there were too many variables and truthfully, she had no interest in change. She liked her life. It was enough.
She had made it so.
And, even if she believed, which she didn’t, she had no interest in getting married.
She would call her aunt and say thanks, but no thanks, and send the package back, as soon as reasonably possible.
She ended up talking to her mother first, because she called. And because she called, Andy shared; which may have been a mistake.
“Nonsense,” Cecilia “CeCe” Sachs stated without any hesitation at all. Cece was light to her husband’s dark, short to his tall, and they both shared each other’s heart with great intensity. Andy only wished she’d someday find something that awesome; apparently it wasn’t with Nate. “Your aunt and I were simply discussing the fact that since our last visit, it seemed as if you were too busy to go out looking for furniture.”
Andy could not exactly argue that. But then, it was not as if she needed a lot. She lived alone. “But mom, I don’t think you’re hearing what I’m....”
“No buts, Andrea Sachs.” Oops, that tone was not one that a person argued with. “You will not embarrass your aunt by rejecting her thoughtful generosity. The only thing I want to hear coming out of your aunt’s mouth when we talk is that you thanked her for it. You can sell it if you dislike it. But wait six months and at least look at it, so when you describe it to Dorene you’re not lying. It’s only decent.”
And that, was that.
Andrea wondered briefly if her other cousin had a similar conversation with their mom when they got the yurt. Maybe she was just imagining things.
The writer sat on the edge of her lumpy couch and pondered the box and wondered if Pandora was really all that curious; after all, she knew the danger. Maybe her mom made her open it.
It was a piece of furniture, like her mother hinted. It was not a coffee table, nor a table table. It was more like an end table, except it was a little large and a little tall and broad. It was surprisingly sturdy; as if it might have been a set of drawers or a cabinet in some other lifetime. Or maybe that was just the way the artist designed it. The object came with a signed affidavit regarding the numbers made. At first Andy thought that her Aunt Dorene had sent her a very fancy stand up desk. She’d read about those and heard that they were a popular option for some offices. Then she found the books, tucked into a smaller box at the bottom of the now broken down larger box.
Andy set the books on the flat surface and opened the top one, which revealed a note from her aunt. The note started, “I saw this and thought of you.”
That raised the hairs on Andy’s neck, but she read on. Apparently it was an art piece that the artist described as an altar. Andy still thought it looked like a desk, given the width and the burnished walnut. But her aunt, much taken with it, thought perhaps her niece would enjoy it and as she had space, that it might find a place in her home. She sent the books about altars, since she thought that went with the topic and she hoped that Andy enjoyed it all.
“Well,” said the brunette, “That was innocuous enough.” She stood back from it, noted the filigree and the studs. It was a nice piece of furniture and obviously was going to last a long time. She wasn’t sure she saw the art in it, but then, who knew. It could be worth something. And really, sometimes she did want to type standing up. Or it might be nice just to put stuff on.
Her mom was right. She was reading too much into things.
“But why did an altar make you think of me?” Andy asked, once she’d dutifully managed the thank you. The conversation was actually going pretty well. Aunt Dorene was just glad the box had arrived safely.
“Oh, it just did. I remembered you worked in that art magazine.”
Andy blinked. “You mean Runway? That’s ...”
“Yes. That one. Anyhow, I went to a gallery and there was this piece, very stylish. It just spoke.” Andy looked at the altar again and really failed to hear anything. Her aunt continued, “And then I had a chance to talk to the artist, a lovely woman. Tall and creative like yourself. Why, I knew then it had to be for you.”
“Aunt Dorene, how much did you pay for this?”
“Oh, now, let’s not talk money.” Her aunt sounded obviously pleased, almost flattered, which made Andy’s gut sink a little. That meant a lot. A lot lot. Not that Aunt Dorene couldn’t afford it, but it did mean Andy wasn’t selling anything for a long time. “So,” said Aunt Dorene, “Tell me what you’ve been doing?”
A late, boring night later, Andy cracked open one of the books. She was at work, where it was air-conditioned and quiet. She’d filed her pages, but was waiting on some editing work from one of her co-workers. She wasn’t hungry and she wasn’t ready to go home.
The book was oversized, a hardback, but it was light enough to carry in her bag. She let her fingers run over the pages, enjoying the feel of them. It was a colorful text, filled with images and examples; one of the reasons she’d chosen it. She brought the book up, to sniff it and smiled, both in pleasure and in the realization that her aunt knew her well enough to send a new book. Then, in careful motions, she prepped the pages so the spine wouldn’t split later. The book would, with care, last a long time, whether she kept it or not.
After her ritual acquainting, she began to read. “The history of the altar begins with the dawn of mankind...”
She forgot to go home.
A lot of reading and studying and pondering and some days later, Andy put her first item on the altar. The one thing she’d learned or felt she understood was that each altar was a reflection of the person who utilized, created with it. She realized she would feel inauthentic and silly if she attempted to follow certain traditions. When she’d read that some altars were simply composed of precious items, like family photos or things a person wanted to remember, she realized that was the niche she understood most. Thus, the first item was a photo of her family, which she had specially framed to match the wood. When she positioned it, first trying one corner, than the other, she realized that aesthetics were also involved. This was a small, but potent revelation.
When working for Runway, Andy had two cellphones. The one from work, which had landed in the fountain and the one that was her own, which she’d kept as a back up, because battery life was never long enough. She had drastically weeded her address list, but there were some numbers that she simply could not delete; ones where she’d found allies and connections in areas of expertise, ones which gave her access to great food or deals, ones which belonged once to friends, and one in particular that she should not have kept, but could not, for the life of her, bring herself to delete no matter how often she tried; which for awhile had been daily, then weekly, then monthly. Then one day she forgot to try.
The danger lay in its positioning, so she did not forget to always be careful about which number she summoned and pressed when making certain phone calls.
The awareness about aesthetics had led to a series of deep, deep contemplations, which had led her to certain explorations and travels through the city and near parts, some more arcane than others. Her experiences colored and tinted her freelance writing, though she was very careful to keep her writing for the Mirror quite clean and particular to their style. Ideas and connections formed as she explored galleries, museums, churches, houses of couture, and even, in what few spare hours she had, took some classes.
She realized that journalism had been very interesting to her because it was a form of examination; though it was expressed through formulas which held certain limitations. She realized, at last, that there was a difference between writing and reporting, and that while reporting held a definite skill, writing held a definite creative power. She reported for the newspaper. She wrote for herself. Both were forms of meditation.
A journal found its way to her altar; one which held not just her written notes, but also some drawings or interesting images that caught her eye or notations on colors or connections. She wrote about what she saw, what she thought, what she dreamed. She wrote about what she learned and could understand and what she could not grasp. She wrote about relationships, found and lost or never happened. The journal was replaced with a new one almost every month.
The sixth month, after Aunt Dorene sent Andy her altar, she sent another cousin a gift. Three months later they were in a new relationship. Andy was not.
She wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or disappointed. She settled for neither and focused on her reflections, learned how to meditate with an Om, took up sketching and drawing with more fervor, and haunted the Metropolitan.
When at the museum, she drew what she saw. When on her own, she drew what she felt. Sometimes she felt skirts, sometimes hats, sometimes slacks and blouses and jewelry and sometimes she felt other things. She was aware of the irony and knew it meant she had to be working something out; but she could not seem to help herself. Sometimes she drew nature and parks and people walking by and architectural structures. She learned how to draw with colored pencils and a few markers. She bought several books which demonstrated how and those classes she had been taking started gelling for her. She let her mind go where it will. The journal and the box of color, when not on her altar, went everywhere with her. She just drew and wrote and thought; a lot.
Sometimes she would cry, for no particular good reason; or a couple of very particular reasons. She put a box of kleenex on her altar for those days.
She dreamed of Miranda.
This had been her problem, her bane, since the days of Runway. It never stopped, not like she thought it would when she finally quit. The dreams, she had slowly come to realize, were not mere stress reactions.
They were, however, mostly in black, white and greys.
Thanks to meditation and therapy, she had finally come to, if not embrace them, accept them.
One day, nearly a year after her aunt’s gifting, she dreamed a dream of Miranda in color.
She dreamt of a red dress, with a bow in the front, of a conversation held with her mentor afterwards. She dreamt about the bow untying and wrapping itself around a naked editor-in-chief, as if she were an exotic gift. She dreamt of unwrapping that gift in slow, delicious motion.
She woke up panting and hot, and at the same time ecstatic. Not because of the arousal, which was a familiar companion when it came to a certain person, but because she finally understood something that had been bothering her for a couple of years.
She had to call Nigel and she had to do it now, even though she was still sleepy and it was still dark. He would understand and if he didn’t, he’d hang up. It wouldn’t be the first time they’d talked in the wee hours. Sometimes he woke her with these kind of things.
Eyes mostly closed, she opened her most called list and realized that it had actually be a little while since she and he had talked. So she pulled up the address book, and let her fingers walk through the rote motions as her mind, which was caught up in the epiphany, tried to sort out what she would say, so she wouldn’t waste his time, but could express what she knew now. She glanced at the address book briefly and then at the alarm clock by her bed. He’d be up soon anyhow. She pressed a button.
The phone rang, once, twice. It picked up.
She started talking immediately. “Nigel. Hey. Sorry to wake you, but I had to call. I had to let you know that I get it. I get it finally. You were right. It’s art. It’s all art. And she’s a genius. I get that now. I mean, beyond business acumen, which I knew that part. I mean, she may actually be an artist. You know. I mean... well, I don’t know what I’m trying to say. Except, the belts were different. Which makes no sense. Let me try this. I dreamed about … well... You remember the James Holt thing, the one with the red dress. I understood finally, why she did what she did. I mean, she had to right, because it was on the front. What the fuck was he thinking? Well, like I would have known at the time, but now, I realize, the bow was too large and it belonged in the back, it had nothing to do with the series he was talking about - east met west and he’d already used red. Which, I know this doesn’t make sense, necessarily, because well, it was years ago, but I just wanted to say, I got it. It’s been bugging me for years, but I got it at last. Anyhow, thanks for listening, Nige. I can tell you’re still half asleep because you haven’t said anything. Or maybe I’m just talking too fast. I know. I’m excited. I gotta go draw and fix that, not that it’s my dress or anything, I’m think I’m going to try a plum and see how that looks, but I’ll do it in red too just so I can remember what I said about it. Oh and the dream, my god. Yes, I’m still hot and bothered by her, what can I say? I didn’t even know ribbons could go there. And hey, I hope you have a great day okay! See ya!”
She closed the phone with a snap and sighed in relief. Then, still groggy, she went to her altar to fetch her journal.
Hours later, when at work, Andy got a lead to a story that she’d been working on. She tried to be interested in it. She even followed up, but as she sat their listening to the new contact natter on, her mind kept drifting all the way back to the James Holt incident.
When the person paused for breath, Andy lifted her hand for the waiter. She said, “You know, that’s all very interesting, but I may not be the reporter for you. Let me call a friend and pay for lunch. Thanks for coming.”
Feeling slightly less claustrophobic, she stepped out of the diner onto the street and started walking. She pulled out her phone and hit redial without even a second thought. It rang once, twice, then was picked up. “Hey. Yeah. Nigel.” She didn’t mean for the words to fall out of her mouth, but they did and she knew it was true and once again, she was speaking like quickfire. “I’m going to India. I was thinking, you know, the whole problem with the James Holt thing... OH, I know, years and years old, we did say, but the problem was, I don’t think he’d even ever been East. I mean, I did some research and that obi idea, that’s all he had? Really! So again, she had to say no, because for an east-met-west set, it was much, much more west. There has to be more. So, I’m going to be doing some traveling. I think, if you’re going to make something based on a culture, you have to at least have been there. Plus, you know, I’ll probably look at a few more altars. Nige, are you listening? Oh, wait, I’m probably interrupting something. One more thought, no two, and then I’ll go. You’ll be proud. I’ll visit f.... fff... dang it, my therapist and I talked about this, fine, I’m just gonna have to swear it, forgive me. Fucking France. Whew. There. I’m going back there, because if I go east, then it makes sense I have to go west. It’ll be a few months. I’ll send pictures and maybe some sake when I get to Japan. Oh, and Nige, don’t worry about calling back, I get that you’re busy. Thanks for listening. Love ya buddy.”
Miranda stared at the name and number that was displayed on her cell and then slowly, thoughtfully clicked it closed. She swiveled her chair back until she was facing the door and dropped the phone on her desk. She let an exhale flow out her nose, seeking a form of calm, if not the essence.
Two calls and her day had been spun around like a disk.
Miranda lifted the glass of water on her desk and took a sip from it. “Emily. Coffee.” she called out. This was a little more true than normal. She’d been awake for hours, unable to go to sleep since that first call. It wasn’t just about the phone call, there were other details that had her restless.
She had been surprised at how pleased she’d been to hear that voice, after so long. She’d enjoyed the warmth in it, though it had been directed toward someone else at the time. It had been, oddly refreshing. She hadn’t realized how much she’d missed the sound of Andrea’s voice, or that she’d found it unique at all.
She was aware the contact was not intentional; neither call had been. She was also aware that she had learned a very great deal in a very short amount of time. Andrea Sachs dreamed of her; often enough that she had regular conversation about it. That was an interesting tidbit, but it wasn’t the only one. Andrea, it seemed, had been more affected, in fact, one might guess, very deeply affected, by certain events than Miranda had believed or understood. She was also, apparently, experiencing a personal renaissance. She was drawing? That was very intriguing. Miranda wondered if she was any good, or if it was just some doodles. She knew how it could be. Even if one developed an aesthetic sense, it did not guarantee one could produce. But... but... Andrea, … admired... her, in several different kinds of ways it seemed.
That was wholly unexpected, on several levels.
The editor wasn’t quite sure what to do with the knowledge she now had, but apparently she had time to think about it. She wondered if the young woman was serious about going to India, and if she did, what she might find. On the other hand, flights of fancy took everyone. She knew Andrea had a steady job and how unlikely was the Mirror to just let her go on any sort of extended leave.
No. Andrea would probably do the same thing Mr. Holt had done, a little web browsing and call it good. Especially once she found out how much a flight to India cost these days.
That had been a very disappointing collection. Miranda remembered it quite clearly. And that’s when she’d decided Nigel couldn’t possibly go to work for James. He needed someone who had vision and was willing to do the work for it. The promotion she’d given him, however, had gone a long way toward soothing ruffled feathers.
She was glad she’d spared them all the fall out from a flop of collection and found it oddly warming that now she was not the only one who understood why she’d had to reject the whole thing. Even Nigel had missed some of those details. So interesting that Andrea had made the connection, even more so considering the time and events between then and now. She wondered what the young woman was wearing these days.
Not that Andrea could afford couture right now, not on that salary. No, it was probably jeans and jackets. At least she’d learned to choose items that flattered the figure.
Miranda took a moment to focus on the files on her desk. After all, she had work to do. She fought back a yawn.
“Where is my coffee! Did she go all the way to Columbia?”
Andrea boarded the plane with some trepidation. She’d tried to quit her job, but her editor had not let her. He’d simply insisted on copy from wherever she landed. “We’ll do some tourism spots. It’ll be great. Just make sure you send something every week.” She had double-leased her apartment to Doug, who had just broken up with his latest boyfriend. She was flying on a budget, one that meant she flew coach no matter how one cut it. But she was going and she was going to learn and have fun. Who knew what lay ahead?