Fandom: The Devil Wears Prada
Rating/Genre: g/femslash (with a touch of het), sort of AU (or future!fic + past!fic)
Characters/Pairing: Miranda/Andy, Francesca/Ricardo (original characters), Anne, Eleanor, and a few other minor original characters. References to the twins, Nigel, Emily.
Summary: It is the morning before Miranda’s birthday, a baby is sleeping in her arms and she is telling a story from her past before Runway.
Word count: 4 788
Notes: This is actually a re-writing of a little piece of original fiction (the story within the story is much shortened, believe it or not, among other things). I seem to remember someone (Kuschi?) saying that there can never be a plot that can’t become a Mirandy fic, or something along those lines… Going through my old pre-DWP writings, I realize that it’s true; Miranda-like women seem to come naturally to my stories, and now I found one. There were even references of a pair of twins in the original story, so I decided to try to translate and change it, even if it’s maybe, um, a bit… different. Many oc’s…
Notes2: For prompt # 008. Future, at 100_women.
Walking out on the veranda, I stopped, as always, right after the doorstep, to take in the view that was before me with a deep sigh of amazement and joy. The lawn, newly cut and smooth, looked like it was covered with a layer of gold. The contours of the trees were sharp and clear; I thought that I could see every little leaf. And the flowers. I sent a loving thought to our gardeners, who always, without asking, knew what we wanted and gave it to us, and made the place more beautiful for every year that passed. I saw yellow and blue. Some of the blue were grape hyacinths, I knew that much, and later in the summer, they were going to be replaced by tall and elegant larkspurs. The rosebushes were soon to be filled with buds… but not yet. This was still a quiet spring morning, and I could never get tired of watching the place in the early sunshine; the lawn and the bushes and the trees with their still shy greenery, the little paths and the glimpse of the lake behind it all, glittering in the morning light. The birds were up, too, and they gave me their happy morning greeting.
And Miranda was there. I saw her when I turned around a little. She was sitting in the hammock with Eleanor in her arms and looked at me with a soft smile. It seemed to amuse her that after all these years, I could still look at my surroundings with such wonder. But I simply loved the place; we had bought it some time after the girls had left for college, and it became our permanent home after Miranda’s retirement. The estate was the heart and lungs of our big family and we were happy there; how could I not love it!
I put the tray with the coffee cups on the small table in front of her, and seated myself in the cane chair. It squeaked a little.
“Happy birthday, my darling, I said. “You’re up early, I wanted to give you breakfast in bed.”
“Yes”, Miranda nodded, “I’m sorry… but I’ve had breakfast in bed before, you know. I heard Eleanor whine a bit, and I decided to pick her up before she started crying.”
Little Ellie was breathing softly, quietly, half-asleep in her arms.
A wave of affection hit me and made me completely overwhelmed, as it always did when I saw the great love in Miranda’s eyes. Sure; I knew that she loved all the others as well, but there seemed to be something special with Ellie, as most us called her – Miranda, of course, insisted upon using the full name.
“Andrea, can you even begin to understand”, Miranda said, “how such an unearthly peace can radiate from a baby’s sleeping face?”
“No, I guess I can’t, but… that seems to be their special skill…”
We were quiet for a moment, and I poured the coffee into our cups – far from Starbucks coffee, but still very hot, and better. Oddly enough, after all this time, handing Miranda her cup of coffee was one of my favorite things to do for her.
Then I asked her if she had heard that the veranda floor was creaking.
“I mean”, I said, “I’m so glad I can still hear it. All the little sounds… I couldn’t stand losing them. They’re a part of life.”
“I’m more than happy to be rid of some of them. I don’t need to hear the buzzing of insects when I’m sleeping… My eyesight, on the other hand – I couldn’t live if I lost it.”
Of course not. What would a woman who had always lived for beauty do if she couldn’t see anymore? But she had always had reading glasses, and not even she could deny that they were thicker now.
“You don’t need new glasses, do you?”
She shook her head determinedly.
“Not at all. What about you – does your leg hurt? Or your back?”
“A little”, I admitted, “but it’s not that bad.”
And there was that stern dragon lady expression on her face again; and so early in the morning!
“I’m afraid all of this has been too much work for you”, she said, as if she was giving me an order, but that was just her way; she used to sound like that back in the days when she wanted me to work more, but that was ages ago, and these days, all she meant was that she was worried.
“I keep forgetting”, she added with a smile, “that you are so young and fragile, darling.”
I laughed out loud.
“Who else but you could ever say anything like that? And we have a lot of people here to help me, so it’s okay.”
“Oh yes”, she sighed. “This place is looking more and more like a hotel for every day. People everywhere!”
“Yes”, I nodded, “and you love it. Just like it used to be at Runway - you only have to raise your eyebrow, and some old clacker is ready to fulfil all your wishes.”
“We have no such people here”, she objected with a sniff.
“Well, no, but almost… Angelina is close enough, isn’t she?”
Angelina was Emily’s daughter; the two of them were already settled in since a couple of days, as well as our girls, and Nigel’s old partner, Peter. Like me, Peter had been much younger than his lover, and he and Emily were the only ones of our old friends who were still with us. But the house was going to be filled with younger party guests anyway, later in the day, when we were going to celebrate Miranda’s 100th birthday. It was going to be a wonderful party!
“Good morning, grandmothers! Happy birthday, Miranda!”
It was Anne – named after me – the youngest of our grandchildren, who came out on the veranda; she had been sneaking up on us with the silent suppleness of a slim fourteen-year-old, without making the floor creak, and I hadn’t heard her.
I turned to her and took her hand; she was dressed in a long, worn t-shirt, and her blonde hair with some randomly applied pink color in it – to Miranda’s horror – was still messy; she came straight from bed.
She was so much like her mother Caroline at that age (not that Caroline had ever had pink hair), and suddenly, a shiver came over me in the warm morning sun. I remembered how I had heard Caroline cough and sigh heavily for the two nights she had already been there. She said she was fine, but looked so torn and worn out. I hoped that I was exaggerating; Cassidy was so alert and fit – surely both of them must be fine! I tried to push my thoughts away; I didn’t want to think even for a moment that anything could be wrong with any of our beautiful twins – but Cass was already the grandmother of little Ellie. Did that make me old?
“Are you awake this early”, I said to Anne, remembering how I used to take every opportunity of sleeping in when I was her age.
The girl laughed and stretched both her arms over her head.
“Of course, I’m wide awake! Who can sleep when everything outside is so pretty? I love to wake up early in the weekends.”
Well, the girl was, in fact, not biologically related to me.
“Especially”, she continued, “when I’m here with you, my dearest grandmothers. Hey, Andy, did you know that I used to pretend, when I was little, that this was the enchanted garden of a magic castle…”
“Oh, did you?” Miranda smiled. “But really, it is! In a way. So, who was the queen of the castle? I was, wasn’t I?”
Anne looked at me, as if to make sure that I didn’t take offense at not being thought of as queen-like.
“Yes”, she said, “except when I sometimes pretended that you were…”
“A sorceress!”, Miranda laughed. “But of course. You’re going to be a writer, aren’t you, sweetheart? You little storyteller.”
“Look who’s talking”, the girl retorted gently, and she sat down in the hammock at Miranda’s side, and kissed the wrinkled cheek. Miranda looked pleased. I remembered that there had been a time when I couldn’t imagine that she, the queen-like, with such a good-humoured naturalness could have her cheek kissed by a child, not even her own. I had, of course, learned a lot about her since then.
“How can life be so wonderful!” the fourteen-year-old exclaimed. “A morning like this… You just want to be happy, don’t you? You just want to be! But… what if you couldn’t? What if you for example were in a hurry to get somewhere, of if you had to run away from something… wouldn’t it be sad?”
“Yes”, Miranda replied, “it’s very sad when people can’t enjoy life because they have to run for their lives… But you know; running away can be very exciting, too. It doesn’t have to be that bad. It can be the beginning of a wonderful adventure.”
I smiled when I saw that the girl’s eyes began to shine. You could think that I, being a journalist and a writer, was the only storyteller in the family but really, when she was in the circle of family and friends, Miranda loved to capture an audience with her words.
“Did you have to run away sometime?”
“Oh, yes”, Miranda said with a matter-of-fact tone of voice, and she was quiet for a moment, pretending to be unaware of the girl’s curiosity.
“It was a long time ago”, she began again, “when I was on vacation in Argentina…”
I got up to take the sleeping baby from her, because sometimes, my wife liked to use her hands when she talked.
“I travelled alone but visited a friend of my father; I had been studying hard and working, and had decided to take a little break. This was a long, long time before even your mom was born. I was still very young, about Eleanor’s mom’s age, it was in the early 1980’s…”
“In the twentieth century!” Anne exclaimed. To her, it was like another world, and she loved to hear about what it was like to live ‘a long time ago, in the old days’, and she loved especially the stories I or Miranda told her.
“Yes”, I interposed, “and this was also a long, long time before I came in to Miranda’s life. I was just a little girl then, can you imagine!”
Anne could of course barely imagine it – imagine a time when her old grandma Andy had been a little girl? Had I not been living forever with grandma Miranda in the enchanted castle? Sometimes I, too, believed that I had.
But most of Miranda’s stories were about what she had done and where she had been before we lived together. Most of my stories involved Miranda, Runway or the twins, but Miranda had many more stories to tell, because she had lived longer. Our adventure together was of another kind; with me, Miranda had begun to appreciate the peace and quiet of an uneventful night at home, but the truth was that she was an ambitious, restless soul who loved the quick pace of the business world, and she didn’t truly begin to slow down until our grandchildren arrived to this world.
Still, she called our love ‘the greatest adventure of my life.’
“So you are saying”, Miranda said with faked surprise, “that I’ve never told you about Francesca?”
“No”, Anne replied, and her mouth was a pink, sweet ‘o’ of eager expectation.
“Okay”, Miranda said, “I’ll tell you. I lived at a university campus, because my father’s friend, José Vittorio Gonzales, was the conductor of its symphony orchestra. I had already a deep love for classical music, and I listened to them very often. José’s daughter, Francesca, played the violin, and the adventure began when I took an interest in her.”
“Did you fall in love with her?” Anne asked hopefully. “I mean, this was long before you met Andy, right?”
“Yes, it was… But no, I did not fall in love with her. Andrea is the only woman I have ever truly loved, but that’s a different story…”
We shared a smile. There were so many stories, we both knew it, and Anne knew it, too. She was in that age when she liked to hear about romantic adventures, but she also found it a bit awkward if Miranda talked about some love interest of hers that wasn’t me.
“No”, Miranda went on, “Francesca was a pretty girl who moved gracefully – she was tall and slim, with beautiful dark hair and a long, slender neck, she could have been a model… and she played very well. But there was a peculiar thing about her. You see, she was sitting there in the orchestra, in the middle of all the wonderful music, with an expression as if she was almost unconsciously longing for something, or someone. Her father had great plans for her. He felt that the university orchestra was too small a place for her; she was to become a great star, a supernova on the sky of classical music and give concerts in Buenos Aires, in Rio de Janeiro, in New Your and in London; everywhere. She was old enough for him to let her get out in the big world to study for the best of the best teachers.”
“So?” Anne asked, “Did she come with you to New York?”
Miranda shook her head.
“No. Francesca had always said yes and amen to everything her father told her; she was taught to believe that daddy was always right. But deep down, she didn’t want to become a great musician. She would have been content with playing for friends and family. I didn’t fully understand her lack of ambition, and she didn’t have any real ideas about what else she wanted to do with her life, but when I told her that she was about to waste her talent, she just looked at me as if I was the crazy one.”
“And God knows you’re not crazy”, I murmured, “to believe that everybody wants to be you; a supernova…”
“What did you say?” Miranda raised a perfect eyebrow. “Anyway, this story is not about what I wanted. Francesca’s life was turned upside down when she met Ricardo. Annie dear, Ricardo was a completely different kind of person. Even then, in the late twentieth century, few people lived the life of stock farmers in the old traditional way, but that was the life Ricardo loved. He had left school as soon as possible to become some kind of… cowboy; he came from a family of farmers, far away from the world of universities, art, designers and musicians… But his people were very happy with their cows and sheep, so close to nature – at least, that’s what he told Francesca. She met him by pure chance, because he was not a student – as I said, he hadn’t studied much. But he could play the flute, he could sing and laugh, and most of all, he was a talker. ‘Buenos dias, señorita!’, he called one day when Francesca crossed the town square on her way to a class. God knows what made her turn around, but she did, and from what she told me, it was his smile that captured her. I don’t know if it was love at first sight, but they talked for a long time until she was late for her class.”
“But where do you come in?”, Anne wanted to know.
“I’m getting there”, Miranda said, “don’t rush me, girl. As I said, I was only there for a vacation, and when this happened, I was already thinking about going back home. I wasn’t going to wait much longer before I jumped right into the career I knew was before me. My love for fashion had always been as great as José’s love for music, and he often said that he wished that his child could be more like me – if she had more passion, she could have played perfectly…”
“Because”, I interposed again, “Miranda is a great perfectionist, and you should know, Anne, that in general, it’s best to be careful around such people. To be too much of a control freak isn’t good – but on the other hand, I guess it’s necessary both for an editor of a great magazine and a conductor of a symphony orchestra to have a few similarities with a dictator.”
“José Vittorio Gonzales was like that”, Miranda nodded, “Many people were afraid of him and his temperament. I was never that frightening, was I?”
“Oh no”, I lied. “Well, you were, when you asked people to do impossible things for you.”
“I never asked anyone to impossible things for me, because people got things done, did they not? And don’t, Andrea, don’t mention that incident when no one would fly because of the storm…”
Anne giggled. She had heard about that, of course, because that was one of my stories – of course, when it happened, I hadn’t been amused by it, quite the opposite, but love and time had polished the sharp edges considerably of my Runway memories… and time and love had done the same, to some extent, to Miranda. Our grandchildren had great respect for her, and when she was tired and said ‘that’s all’, they backed off immediately, but when I talked about how she could make grown men weep and tremble with fear, they laughed.
To be fair, that could have something to do with my way of telling the stories. I didn’t want any kids to be truly afraid of her!
“Anyway”, Miranda said, “Francesca and Ricardo fell in love, and she told me about it. This love was already much greater than her love for music. But was it also greater than her love for her family? She hesitated. Could she really go against her father’s wishes, even for Ricardo’s sake? Because naturally, had José known about this, it would have been very much against his wishes. Francesca kept her boyfriend a secret. Ricardo was nothing but a poor young man, and a father – his mother took care of his young son, because Ricardo was already a widower. Francesca didn’t know what to do.”
“Aw, that’s so sad. Grandma, did you help them?”
“Yes.” Miranda smiled. “Soon enough, I met this young man, and although I must confess I wasn’t particularly fond of him – I’ve never liked people who talk too much – it was obvious to me that these two were in love and belonged together. The secrecy was hard to take for Francesca, but she knew that she would never get her father’s blessing. So she had to make a choice… And I have to say that I had something to do with how she chose.”
“Why?” I asked. “What did you do?”
I had never heard this particular story before, and I thought it was interesting. I imagined this girl Francesca to have looked a bit like Serena, the Brazilian beauty who worked at Runway a long, long time ago.
“I talked to José”, Miranda said, and took a sip of her coffee. “No”, she added, looking back up on us, “what do you think? I didn’t tell him anything. But he told me… that he had made arrangements for Francesca to travel to Europe next year. It was time to really start the supernova training. I told her this, and she didn’t hesitate. Off to Pampas!”
“Oh”, Anne gasped, “so they eloped – and you went with them?”
“I have been young, you know… even if that’s hard to believe today… It was an adventure, and I liked it.”
The sun was beginning to reach us now, the soft, golden morning haze was gone and the air was crystal clear around us, and Miranda’s eyes were blue as the sky. I did not find it hard to imagine her being young. To me, she looked just as beautiful as she had when I first saw her, more than fifty years ago. Even then she hadn’t been young in years, but there was something always hungry, always searching for beauty, in her heart that gave her a youthful spirit.
“Yes”, she said, “I decided to extend my holiday, because I had, after all, seen nothing of the country yet, I had only seen the city where José Vittorio Gonzales lived with his family. But I told him that I was going back home, as planned. Instead, I stayed hidden for a night… I waited for the dawn at a small hotel, not the prettiest place I’ve seen…”
“Really?” I said, knowing her taste for comfort.
“Andrea, I wasn’t rich then, and you know I’m not a fragile creature.”
Oh, I knew, all right! She wouldn’t have lived to be one hundred years if she had been a porcelain doll. Today was her birthday and I looked forward to the party – it was going to be the biggest we had had for quite some time – but I also hated to think about what it meant that she was so old… I wasn’t that young myself; I felt fine most of the time, but I just like my wife, I was beginning to get my share of the infirmities of old age. I knew that it was a selfish wish, but I hoped that I was going to be the first one of us to go.
“Andy? Grandma Andy?” Anne’s voice brought me back to the moment. “What were you thinking about?”
“She was brooding”, Miranda explained dryly, “on something we don’t want to know more about. Relax, and enjoy the sunshine, Andrea. Now, can I finish the story?”
I nodded promptly. Oh, how I loved to hear her voice. I had loved to hear it ever since the first time she called me ‘Andrea’, or maybe even before, and maybe it was this love that had made her talk more during the last decades, and I who had always been the chattering one was listening.
“It was very early in the morning”, Miranda said, “before the sun was up. I met Ricardo outside my hotel, and we went together to get Francesca. This was the most crucial part. Was she going to get out of there without getting caught?”
Miranda paused and looked at us, and Anne and I were both eagerly taking in her every world, but of course we realized that this wasn’t Romeo and Juliet.
“Yes… she made it, and we hurried away. We took the first morning train that left the station exactly at daybreak. When Francesca’s family must have discovered that she was gone, well, by then we had been on the train for hours. And when we got off the train, can you guess what we did next, Anne?”
The girl shook her head excitedly.
“Ricardo’s friend Juan was waiting for us with horses.”
“No, you’re kidding?”
“I’m not; it was the countryside, you know.” Miranda laughed. “It was wonderfully exciting to be running away like that, on strong, lithe horses while the sun was hot above us, and we rested in the shadow and shared a simple lunch… But yes, naturally, this was mostly a little joke. The boys wanted to impress the foreign fashionista with something exotic and adventurous. Ricardo’s home was far away; his friend had borrowed the horses, and while he returned them, we embarked on a hot, bumpy bus ride, which was not my favorite part of this whole thing, but it had to be endured.”
“I can’t even imagine you on a bus”, was Anne’s comment.
“And what”, I asked, “did Ricardo’s family say when you finally got there?”
“They were shocked, to say the least. They knew that Ricardo had a girlfriend in the city, but they had not expected to see her in flesh and blood so soon. But once they got over it, they greeted both her and me with open arms.”
“And then they got married?”
“Yes, very soon. Can you imagine what a transformation I witnessed in Francisca. The quiet, shy nineteen-year-old was truly blossoming like never before – as if she had been in need of new soil. It was marvellous. She was dancing, laughing… so much happier than she ever could have been in an orchestra. And I… I returned home shortly after the wedding. My holiday had already gone on for too long. Francesca and I were good friends, but we belonged in different worlds. Not only different countries, but different worlds. She was a bit like you when you were young, Andrea, with the significant difference that she never was interested in my world, or anything in it.”
“Yeah, I learned to like a few things in your world…”
The sun was very warm by then; it was shining upon us almost with the heat of the South, and I got up to put Ellie, still sleeping, in the shadow. As I put her down, I wondered which marvellous adventures she was going to tell her grandchildren when she was old. Was she going to remember Miranda and me, her great grandmothers? Was she going to have a person like Miranda in her life?
I hoped that she was at the very least going to have love in her life just as great as my love for Miranda.
“So what happened to them”, Anne wanted to know, “Francesca and everybody?”
“I’m sure they had a very happy life together”, Miranda said. “I kept in touch with her for a while, but as years passed, we drifted apart – I never saw her again, and once the contact was broken, it was never renewed.”
“And her father?”
“Poor José… He was devastated. After some time, he talked to me and asked me, begged me, if I knew anything about Francisca. I didn’t tell him. Yes, it was cruel; he was truly grieving, but you know; you can’t be loyal to two people at once when they need different things. The only thing I told him was that Francisca was happily married to a man who loved her. That was all I could say.”
Anne and I nodded. What more could we say? This ending was as happy as a real life story can ever hope to get. I felt sorry for the man who hadn’t had his daughter’s trust, but I could understand Francisca, too. I didn’t have to run away to be with Miranda, but I had lost a dear friend, and my parents had never fully accepted my life. I still felt a bit of heartache when I remembered my childhood friend Lily and my parents, but I knew that I wouldn’t do anything differently even if I could.
People in the house were stirring; not even our family could sleep on a morning like this one. Both of the twins were in the house, with their husbands. Little Anne was there, and her cousin, Ellie’s mom. Emily and Angelina, and dear Peter… Our four other grandchildren – two of them with kids of their own – and all the other guests were coming later. There were still some final preparations to take care of.
“Good morning, Bobbsey”, Miranda said, as Caroline stepped out on the veranda, already dressed.
“God morning, mom – happy birthday!” Caroline turned to her child and ruffled her hair.
“Look at you”, she said, “still pink… why don’t you go and try to wash that off, or you’ll scare the guests.”
“Let the child have her hair the way she likes it”, Miranda said. “If I can tolerate it, so can my guests.”
“Grandma”, Anne said, suddenly all serious, “I want to be a model. Do you think that I can?”
“Of course, my darling”, Miranda answered benevolently, “when you’re a little older. You’ll be on the cover of Runway one day.”
Admittedly, during the last decades, Miranda hadn’t had complete control over her beloved magazine, but she had handled it with the same brilliancy of execution as ever as long as she could. Her days in were limelight were long gone, but she had left her mark and was a living legend in the fashion world.
And perhaps it wasn’t humanly possible to think that she was still going to be alive and able to pull some strings when Anne’s time came… But this was Miranda Priestly, after all, so who could tell?