Authors: Lauren Weisberger
Emily dug her nails into her palms. It wasn't the first time Miriam had been condescending, even if she didn't necessarily mean to be. But accusing
of not taking Karolina's plight seriously? When she'd practically moved from Los Angeles to the
to help? It was just too much. “I'm hanging up. If there's anything else I need to consider from a legal perspective, please chime in.” Surprising herself, Emily ended the call.
She waited, seething, her hands slightly shaking. She would fix this. It's what she did; it's who she was.
It took two minutes, but then a text popped up on her screen:
Sorry. Rough night. We'll fix this. I got you. Love you.
And then, immediately following:
Please say you'll still take Maisie tomorrow????
Emily smiled. She wrote back:
I would never punish the daughter for the mother's crimes. See you tom am, even if the mother is a complete bitch. xo
Â Â â¢Â Â â¢Â Â â¢Â Â
ou'll remember to buckle her seat belt if you take any cabs, right? Because she really should still be in a booster, but I know you won't want to drag one around all day.”
“Absolutely correct,” Emily said, wrapping both hands around her venti skinny latte despite the early-summer heat. She'd woken up dreading the day but then remembered how much Maisie adored her and how excited the girl was. “Negative on the booster. And I'm not such an asshole that I can't remember to use a seat belt for a five-year-old.”
At this, Maisie's head swung around and she stared at Emily.
“What?” Emily asked her.
“Even the five-year-old knows that's a curse word,” Miriam said, giving Emily one of her Miriam looks.
There was a whistling noise in the distance.
“You girls have fun! Mommy will be home all day calling the Bethesda Police Department,” Miriam called with a wave.
“Come on, honey,” Emily said, grabbing Maisie's hand. “Tell your mommy you love her and that we'll both do our very best to survive the next six hours without her constant and incessant meddling.”
“I love you, Mommy! We'll both try our best toâ”
Emily clamped her hand over Maisie's mouth. “I'll bring her back
in one piece, I promise. And with no more than one American Girl doll, okay?”
“American Girl?” Maisie asked, sounding almost frenzied. “We're going to the American Girl store? And I'm going to get a doll? My very own American Girl doll? Oh, Aunt Emily, I can't wait!”
Emily was almost scared to face Miriam after that, but a quick glance confirmed that her friend had essentially given up: Miriam stood there, shaking her head, looking defeated. Then she blew them both a kiss and headed back to the car.
Maisie chatted all the way into the city, telling Emily about the girls in her camp group: who had the most friendship bracelets, which one was a bully, who could do the silliest impression of their counselors. She discussed why she loved
and which teacher she was hoping to get for first grade and what she planned to ask the Tooth Fairy for when she lost her next tooth (and by the way, four were wigglyâfour!). Who knew the child could talk like this? When she was home, Emily barely heard her do anything except fight with her brothers and ask for snacks. Did Miriam know what a gem she had on her hands? What an adorable little girl? When Maisie reached up and took Emily's hand on the escalator in Grand Central, Emily felt a little rush of emotion. She squeezed the girl's hand and kissed the top of her head.
“Where are we going first, Aunt Emily?” Maisie asked excitedly.
“Where else? American Girl!”
“But Mommy said I'm not allowed until I'm seven. She said their clothes cost more than hers and I have to wait for a special occasion.”
“Well, we're having our very own girls' day in the cityâthat's special, isn't it? And of course the doll's clothes cost more than your mommy'sâhave you seen what she wears?” They speed-walked toward Fifth Avenue. “Life is short, honey. Let's have fun now.”
Ninety minutes later, the two of them had had more than their fair share of fun. Five hundred and twenty-two dollars' worth of it, to be precise. Not only had they bought a Gabriela doll, but Emily had coached Maisie through selecting a wardrobe: a smart wrap dress
for work, an all-black romper for cocktails, a frothy pink ball gown for awards ceremonies, two different tennis outfits for visits to the club, and a pair of skinny ankle-length jeans and a blousy top for weekend brunches. Maisie kept suggesting workout clothes of some sortâleggings, running shorts, sweatpantsâbut with patience and persistence, Emily talked her out of them. It wasn't Maisie's fault. When all you saw modeled at home were hideous garments with elastic waistbands, how could you possibly know the alternatives? They finished their visit by debating whether to choose a horse and stable for Gabriela to practice her equestrian moves or a pool with a swim-up bar where she could entertain her friends in the summer; unable to decide, they purchased both.
“It's all coming to my house? Pinky swear? All of it?” Maisie asked anxiously as she followed Emily outside, clutching only the doll.
“I promise, sweetheart. I paid extra for overnight shipping, and they said it would go out today. Here,” she said, handing Maisie a plastic bottle and a cup of ice from the corner bodega that they had popped into after leaving the store.
“My mommy doesn't let me drink soda,” Maisie said, staring at the bottle.
“Don't worry, sweetie. It's diet. This kind is actually good for you.”
They sipped their drinks in contented silence for a couple minutes as Emily watched Maisie watching everyone else. Emily was filled with such protective love for the little girl, it surprised her. It was embarrassing to admit, but she couldn't remember the last time she'd had this much fun on a girls' day in the city. She told Maisie as much and the little girl's face lit up. “Me too,” Maisie said, hugging her new doll and squeezing Emily's hand.
“Oh shit,” Emily said, looking at the time.
Maisie's mouth opened into a perfect circle.
“Don't worry. We're just going to be late. And you know who doesn't really do late? Miranda Priestly.”
“Who's Miranda Priestly?” Maisie asked.
“She is the woman to whom I'm going to sell my soul,” Emily explained.
“What does âsell my soul' mean?”
Emily scooped up Maisie and the doll. “Come, honey, we have to hurry.”
When they finally arrived at Elias Clarke, Emily breezed through the glass doors without bothering to talk to the shocked secretary in the lobby and headed straight for Miranda's suite, where she was met with a death look from Miranda's junior assistant.
“Can I help you?” asked a pretty gazelle in a pencil skirt, white silk shell, and sky-high open-toed sandals; she clearly meant to offer anything but help, even though Emily had a tired Maisie on her hip and an American Girl doll hanging from one hand.
“I have a meeting with Miranda,” she said in her most irritated voice, which she was pleased to see got a reaction from the girl. “Emily Charlton.”
“Oh, Emily! Of course!” the girl said, nearly toppling over in her effort to stand up. “I've heard so much about you. You're, like, a legend around here.”
“Are you saying I'm old?”
The girl looked panicked. “What? No, of course not. Not anything like that. I just meantâ”
Emily forced a smile. Oh, how she remembered those days. “Listen, where can I stash this one for a few minutes?”
“That oneÂ .Â .Â . what, um, is that?”
“This? It's a child. Surely you've seen one before?”
The assistant blushed. “Yes, of course. I didn't know you had a daughter. She's precious.”
Two phones began ringing at once. The junior assistant grabbed one instinctively and said, “Miranda Priestly's office. No, I'm afraid she's not available right now. Yes, I will take his number, and she will try him back if and when she's able to.” The girl nodded as though actually writing something down. “Mmm-hmmm. Thank you. Goodbye.”
She turned to Emily. “Never gonna happen,” she said as she grabbed the second call and repeated the same script.
“Juliana!” Emily felt the hair on her arms stand up. “Is Emily out there? I'm ready for her now.”
Emily was trying to arrange Maisie in Juliana's chair when Miranda swung open the doors. Her dusty rose dress was Alexander McQueen and the sling-back stilettos were, as always, Manolo. A featherweight cashmere cardigan, likely Prada, hung off her shoulders as a defense against the corporate air-conditioning, and her hair was flawless, as always.
“Did anyone hear me? Anyone?” She peered at Emily first, acknowledging her with a nearly imperceptible nod, and then turned on Juliana. “I said I'm ready for her
“Yes, Miranda,” the assistant said, an unnatural redness mottling her neck and face.
Miranda swiveled around expertly and strode into her office.
“Thanks, Juliana. Just give Maisie your phone if she starts to get upset,” Emily whispered.
“My name is Elle,” the girl whispered back. “Juliana is the senior assistant.”
It was bizarrely reassuring to see that nothing ever changed.
“Emily! Bring the child in with you. Juliana has plenty to keep her busy right now. We don't need to add babysitting to her responsibilities.”
“Certainly,” Emily said, reaching for Maisie's hand. But the little girl bolted into Miranda's office, where she immediately grabbed a crystal paperweight off Miranda's desk.
Emily felt a prickle of sweat. What the hell was she thinking, bringing a five-year-old into Miranda Priestly's office?
Miranda gazed at them impassively. “The girl has excellent taste,” she murmured. “What's your name?”
Maisie peered up at her, one of the few people on the planet seemingly unafraid to meet Miranda's eye. “Maisie Kagan.”
“Well, Maisie Kagan, would you like to play on my computer while Emily and I have a chat?”
Maisie's eyes widened and she nodded.
As Emily tried to hide her shock, Miranda got up from her metal desk chair and helped Maisie climb onto it. She quickly typed a few keystrokes and waved her hand at the screen. “Have a ball.” Miranda turned to Emily and motioned for them both to take a seat on the couch by the windows.
Emily tried to arrange herself on Miranda's couch, but she couldn't deny that nothing was sitting right. Now that she was back at
, she felt like a cow. Her Helmut Lang dress had hiked up too far on her legs, which looked a little meaty, and thanks to lunch, her belt was feeling like a straitjacket. Emily sat as straight as possible and pledged that she would commence a juice cleanse immediately upon arriving back in that fat-inducing suburb.
Miranda looked Emily in the eye and said, “I'm firing these idiot girls left and right, and I don't have time for it anymore. It's time for you to return to
, Emily. The Met Ball last month was a horror show.”
“Everyone raved about it! The Strong Female theme in honor of #metoo was a home run. Even the haters all admitted it was brilliant. E! called it the âthe starriest night in May,' if I remember.”
Miranda appeared to consider this. “Brilliant, yes. But it was stressful. Disorganized. And you know how much I love that. It should have been
in charge. It's June already. By this time we always have the theme chosen for next year's ball, and we are well on our way to planning
's big parties during New York and Paris Fashion Week. And what do I have now? Zilch.”
“I'm flattered, Miranda, but Iâ”
“Enough,” Miranda said with barely contained exasperation. “I want to hire you, pay you handsomely, and obviously work you to the bone.”
“And I'm tempted.” Emily nodded. “But I've made a commitment right now to another client.”
Emily nodded. She realized she was speaking to one of the few people who thought of Karolina as her own person, not Mrs. Graham Hartwell.
“And how is that working out for you?” Miranda's smile was almost imperceptible as her hand went to the HermÃ¨s scarf around her neck.
Emily cleared her throat. Here it was: her one chance. “You know Karolinaâtoo sweet for her own good. And the tabloids haven't helped. But I do think we've turned a cornerâ”
Miranda took off her Prada reading glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Emily. Save the shit. We've known each other too long.”
Emily nearly fell off her chair in surpriseâMiranda never cursed. Never. She thought it crass and unladylike, something reserved for stupid people.
“Okay, you're right,” Emily said slowly. “He's made her a victim, and humiliated her in front of the whole world, and taken away her life as she's known it. I want to give it back to her. I want to destroy him. He's a monster.”
“I will help you. And then you will help me,” Miranda cut her short.
Bingo. Emily's eyes narrowed. “She needs custody of her son, and for America to forget about the DUI.”
“What do you have?” Miranda asked.
Emily sat up straighter. “A couple of things. But Karolina isn't willing to go public.”
Miranda made a tsk-tsk sound. “So unimaginative.” She closed the newspaper and turned her full attention to Emily. “Send me an email. Bullet points, please.”
“I will handle this.”
“I appreciate that, but it's really not so simple. You see, Iâ”
Miranda's hand went up. “That's all.”
“Miranda, you asked me here to discuss how I could help youâ”