AN UNEXPECTED REQUEST + 2 SHORT STORIES (BONUS)
The Devil Wears Prada and its characters are owned by Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. An Unexpected Request is a non-profit work made for entertainment purposes only.
Unexpected Request (2010), The Bet (2015) and The Wedding (2015), as well as eventual original characters, are under © by D.H. Furlan (Danieli Hautequest).
*This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real-life names, people, dates, places, facts or situations will have been mere coincidence.*
This is an improved version of the translation ‘Unexpected Request’, fanfiction posted years ago, still under my pseudonym DANIELI HAUTEQUEST.
AN UNEXPECTED REQUEST
By D.H. Furlan [Danieli Hautequest]
“Oh, wait! I'm on my way! Please just a minute!” Andrea Sachs yelled over the loud music.
Sunday, cleaning day. Madonna resonated through the small apartment, while Andy tried to make the place look like a habitable environment again.
The young woman stopped the music, and ran to the door. Still panting, she peeked through the peephole.
Andy could not believe what she saw.
“But what...? Shit!!!”
Terrified, Andy stared at the entrance for interminable seconds, until another series of impatient knocks spurred her into action.
She opened the door.
It was none other than Miranda Priestly.
They looked at each other. Andy with her mouth opened like a fish, and Miranda, with her patented raised eyebrow that was visible even under her sunglasses. Andy was sure that behind them, the woman rolled her eyes.
“Can I come in?” Miranda asked in her low, icy tone—which always sent a shiver down Andy's spine—already invading the young woman's personal space, forcing her to take two steps back, then step aside, giving way.
Andy closed the door and leaned against it for a moment. Her body was shaking.
Miranda took off her expensive Christian Dior and took a quick look around, her disappointment clearly evident.
Andy felt extremely embarrassed. Instinctively, she hugged herself, trying to create a shield against the dominant and still quite intimidating aura of the elegant and increasingly impatient woman.
“I-I was cleaning up…that's why the mess, I-”
Miranda stopped her with a wave of her hand. She then gave a resigned sigh and looked at the younger woman.
Although the editor's makeup was impeccable, Andy could see how tired she was. The young woman frowned, intrigued. As far as she knew, Miranda should be in Europe with her daughters...
In the eight months that Andy had left Runway, they had only exchanged minimal words during a few uncomfortable encounters. However, Andy was seeing that Miranda Priestly still had the power to make everything else take a back seat.
The young woman quickly removed the pillows from the only couch in the apartment, tossing them in a corner.
“Please sit down,” she asked softly.
To her surprise, Miranda nodded without any resistance. In fact, the woman dropped her body onto the couch in relief.
“Would you like something to drink?” Andy offered carefully.
Embarrassed, Andy hurried over and brought out a chair, placing it in front of Miranda. She sat casually, her legs slightly spread and her arms resting on her thighs, which were exposed by tiny navy blue Lycra shorts.
That seemed to get Miranda's attention. She inspected Andy's posture and clothing, as she critically raised her eyebrows.
Obviously the shorts and white spaghetti-strap blouse, ragged and dirty, did not make a good impression. But Andy would not be unnerved anymore. For God's sake, she was at her home! She did not work for Miranda Priestly anymore. She did not have to worry about what the woman thought of her manners or clothes.
In a rush of courage, Andy raised her head in defiance.
“What do you want?” She tried to keep her voice steady. But when Andy heard another sigh and saw Miranda look away, an idea occurred to her. “Di-did something happen to the girls?”
Miranda just nodded weakly.
“B-but what…I-” She stammered, and was silenced by the older woman's hand gesture.
“Andrea, don't interrupt me. Let me tell you everything you need to know,” Miranda ordered in her usual commanding tone.
Andy widened her eyes and quickly nodded in practiced agreement. She knew there was no point in arguing when the woman used that voice.
Miranda sighed again.
“When my girls came to ask that they could contact you, I confess I was surprised. Looks like you really made a good impression on them,” the older woman smirked.
“Harry Potter…” Andy muttered under her breath.
“Not only that. They kept talking about how you could always tell the two apart, and that, in your provincial way, you were ‘nice’."
Andy's lips formed a half smile. Should she take that as a compliment or an insult? The girls sometimes had some characteristics of their mother which bothered her.
“If it was something you were willing to do, and it made my daughters happy…why not?” Miranda pointed out casually.
And you wouldn't have to make so many excuses for not being with them, Andy thought bitterly.
She was the one who heard the complaints. Andy admitted that Miranda had improved considerably since the divorce. The editor was more careful with her daughters, but her job was always time-consuming.
“There was an understanding between the three of you. Of course I kept an eye on this ‘friendship’. The girls gave me reports of everything. It was our agreement.”
Andy already suspected.
“I'm aware of my limitations…as a mother,” Miranda continued, in a heavy voice. “My daughters must have mentioned that I'm trying to be more present. At least we're having more time together...”
Andy stared at her, openmouthed.
Miranda was having a conversation…a serious conversation with her. Just like in Paris…
It was extremely disconcerting!
Miranda took a deep breath, looking even more tired.
“I would do anything for my daughters…” She said, full of conviction in her intimidating tone. “Plainly, I came here to ask for your help.
So Andy was sure. When cleaning the bathroom, she must have inhaled too much disinfectant, because she was hallucinating! Miranda Priestly did not ask, she ordered!
But before Andy could say anything, Miranda continued to speak.
“My daughters have been diagnosed with leukemia, Andrea.”
Had she not been sitting, Andy would certainly have fallen to the ground like a rotten fruit. She was pale, her head was spinning.
“W-what?” The young woman managed to ask in a weak voice.
She loved the girls.
Two months after Paris when she got the first call from the twins, Andy had been surprised. Without preamble, they invited her to go to the theater with them to watch the Lion King. Even though she did not understand the rapprochement attempt, Andy felt touched. But she was also worried about what Miranda might think. However, the girls ensured that their mother knew and allowed Roy, the driver, to take them to the theater.
Andy's common sense told her she should keep a safe distance from that family, but her heart responded with something different.
When she left Runway, Andy thought she was doing the right thing. But it hurt as much, if not more, than the conflicting feelings that made her make the decision at the first place.
Andy took the risk. She was going the other way around, and accepted the invitation.
When Andy met the girls, they were spoiled brats. The young woman had a difficult time fulfilling their whims. The science project was martyrdom, and Andy would be forever indebted to Christian Thompson for his help with the Harry Potter manuscript.
However, after she started spending more time with the twins, Andy found that most of that arrogance was a barrier against disappointment. The girls were afraid of being left behind again. In their little heads, the father easily gave up parental custody. Miranda never had enough time. The stepfather left them without looking back.
The twins felt alone. Maybe that is why they tried to bring her back into their lives. And Andy came back, but not before making some rules.
The young reporter made it clear that she would be with them because she wanted to; she no longer worked for Miranda. Therefore, the sisters needed to learn certain limits.
It was with great surprise that Andy noticed that Cassidy and Caroline Priestly could be sweet and thoughtful girls. They looked like normal kids, not celebrities. Even her mother's inherited snobbery seemed to have diminished since they started spending more time with Andy.
That worried her.
Miranda could accuse her of poisoning her daughters' minds.
But the woman was there in front of her. Not to condemn or stop Andy from seeing her girls. She wanted her help.
“A-are you sure?”
Miranda shot her a glare, which said: ‘Are you an idiot or what?’
Andy shivered and moistened her suddenly dry lips. Then she swallowed the lump of fear that had settled in her throat.
“I mean…when did you find out?”
With her left hand Miranda rubbed the back of her neck in a nervous gesture.
“As you know, I went to Europe to meet my daughters on their vacation,” her voice was exhausted.
Then she pressed her lips together.
“Although I took some work with me, I managed to set aside a good part of the days for us.
A little work, of course, Andy thought cynically.
But it already meant something.
On another occasion, Miranda would say she was very busy. That she would make it up to her daughters next time.
“On my fourth day with the girls, we were in Brussels. Since I arrived, I've found Cassidy a little discouraged. But she had no fever, nothing apparent. The next day they wanted to go to the Grand Place. Halfway through the walk, Cassidy's nose began to bleed uncontrollably. I took her to the hospital. The doctor examined her. Said Cassidy looked a little anemic. That scared me. I can be accused of a lot of things, but neglecting my children's health isn't one of them,” Miranda said seriously.
Andy nodded. In fact, most of the time, it was employees who took the girls to medical appointments; but even so, their health was very well monitored.
“I told the doctor they had regular checkups. The last one, two months ago, had been normal,” Miranda added. “Still, the doctor wanted them to have a blood test, and that's when leukemia was discovered…It all happened so fast…”
“But…you said the two…”
Miranda nodded and took a long breath.
“They ran the tests on Caroline, too. Although the disease has not yet manifested itself, it is in her system...
“My God, Miranda…I'm so sorry…I…”
“I need your help, Andrea,” the other woman repeated, staring into her eyes.
“W-what I can do?”
“Have my child.”
Miranda rolled her eyes.
“I took the bone marrow test, mine is not compatible. There were complications when my girls were born; I can't have more children. You know that in such cases, siblings of the same parents have a good chance of compatibility. Jeremy is not suitable for the transplant either, but he has offered to donate his sperm. We will continue to look for a donor…but I want to have an alternative…”
This time, Andy could not resist. She pinched herself. It hurt. She was not dreaming. It was a real nightmare.
Despite the absurd situation, the path pointed out by Miranda was plausible, perhaps the most practical, given the circumstances...
Miranda looked at her as if Andrea were really stupid.
“Because you're the most clueless, naive, and annoying person I've ever met...”
Andy was about to protest.
“And also, the most honest, loyal and hardworking...there are few people who can surprise me, Andrea, and you never cease to amaze me...”
Andy's words died in her throat.
“You left me…when I needed you the most…”
“I didn't think you'd have the guts…It was…a shock…”
“It's probably hard for you to believe, but I also didn't like how things ended with Nigel. On the other hand, I don't miss opportunities, Andrea… But…did you need to be so drastic?”
Only Andy knew how much.
“Apart from that lapse, you've always been loyal. During the circus in Paris, you could have allied with the enemy. But you tried to warn me, you wanted to help…” Miranda paused for a moment, as if the whole conversation was too painful.
Andy imagined it was in many ways.
Would Miranda have been so honest and open with someone before?
Andy doubted it.
This realization filled her with a new sense of confidence, but also a certain unsettling feeling.
She was back in dragon fire!
“I thought of you because I know you won't use our family disgrace to promote yourself or extort money. If you accept, it's because you really want to help my girls. I know I'm asking a lot…” Miranda breathed heavily. “Think about it, Andrea…Please…If you accept, then we will do it under suitable conditions. I just ask you to keep it confidential. I want to avoid exposing my daughters to tabloid vultures as much as possible.”
Andy just nodded in understanding. She was numb with disbelief.
The Ice Queen ‘opening up’? ‘Asking’, using ‘please’…The twins' situation…It was too much to process.
“Are you going to think about my request?” Miranda asked with an expression Andy had not seen before: Fearful urgency.
Miranda nodded in acknowledgment and gave a tight smile. She rose gracefully from the couch and replaced her sunglasses. Her face, an unreadable mask again. The Miranda Priestly everyone knew and feared.
She turned and walked to the exit.
Andy did not follow her. She did not trust her legs. She just watched the woman leave.
At the door, Miranda stopped. Without turning to the younger woman, she said, “Just don't be long…we don't have much time…”
“Thank you, Andrea…” Miranda whispered. Then she opened the door and left.
Andy did not know what to think or do with the jumble of emotions burning in her chest.
Her heart decided for her.
She hugged her legs, rested her chin on her knees, and cried.