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Excerpt

Excerpt

The Devil Wears Prada

ONE

The light hadn't even officially turned green at the intersection
of 17th and Broadway before an army of overconfident yellow cabs
roared past the tiny deathtrap I was attempting to navigate around
the city streets. Clutch, gas, shift (neutral to first? Or first to
second?), release clutch, I repeated over and over in my head, the
mantra offering little comfort and even less direction amid the
screeching midday traffic. The little car bucked wildly twice
before it lurched forward through the intersection. My heart
flip-flopped in my chest. Without warning, the lurching evened out
and I began to pick up speed. Lots of speed. I glanced down to
confirm visually that I was only in second gear, but the rear end
of a cab loomed so large in the windshield that I could do nothing
but jam my foot on the brake pedal so hard that my heel off. Shit!
Another pair of seven-hundred-dollar shoes sacrificed to my
complete and utter lack of grace under pressure: this clocked in as
my third such breakage this month. It was almost a relief when the
car stalled (I'd obviously forgotten to press the clutch when
attempting to brake for my life). I had a few seconds--peaceful
seconds if one could overlook the angry honking and varied forms of
the word "fuck" being hurled at me from all directions--to pull off
my Manolos and toss them into the passenger seat. There was nowhere
to wipe my sweaty hands except for the suede Gucci pants that
hugged my thighs and hips so tightly they'd both begun to tingle
within minutes of my securing the final button. My fingers left wet
streaks across the supple suede that swathed the tops of my now
numb thighs. Attempting to drive this $84,000 stick-shift
convertible through the obstacle-fraught streets of midtown at
lunchtime pretty much demanded that I smoke a cigarette.

"Fuckin' move, lady!" hollered a swarthy driver whose chest hair
threatened to overtake the wife-beater he wore. "What do you think
this is? Fuckin' drivin' school? Get outta the way!"

I raised a shaking hand to give him the finger and then turned my
attention to the business at hand: getting nicotine coursing
through my veins as quickly as possible. My hands were moist again
with sweat, evidenced by the matches that kept slipping to the
floor. The light turned green just as I managed to touch the fire
to the end of the cigarette, and I was forced to leave it hanging
between my lips as I negotiated the intricacies of clutch, gas,
shift (neutral to first? Or first to second?), release clutch, the
smoke wafting in and out of my mouth with each and every breath. It
was another three blocks before the car moved smoothly enough for
me to remove the cigarette, but it was already too late: the
precariously long line of spent ash had found its way directly to
the sweat stain on the pants. Awesome. But before I could consider
that, counting the Manolos, I'd wrecked $3,100 worth of merchandise
in under three minutes, my cell phone bleated loudly. And as if the
very essence of life itself didn't suck enough at that particular
moment, the caller ID confirmed my worst fear: it was Her. Miranda
Priestly. My boss.

"Ahn-dre-ah! Ahn-dre-ah! Can you hear me, Ahn-dre-ah?" she trilled
the moment I snapped my Motorola open--no small feat considering
both of my (bare) feet and hands were already contending with
various obligations. I propped the phone between my ear and
shoulder and tossed the cigarette out the window, where it narrowly
missed hitting a bike messenger. He screamed out a few highly
unoriginal "fuck yous" before weaving forward.

"Yes, Miranda. Hi, I can hear you perfectly."

"Ahn-dre-ah, where's my car? Did you drop it off at the garage
yet?"

The light ahead of me blessedly turned red and looked as though it
might be a long one. The car jerked to a stop without hitting
anyone or anything, and I breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm in the
car right now, Miranda, and I should be at the garage in just a few
minutes." I figured she was probably concerned that everything was
going well, so I reassured her that there were no problems
whatsoever and we should both arrive shortly in perfect
condition.

"Whatever," she said brusquely, cutting me off midsentence. "I need
you to pick up Madelaine and drop her off at the apartment before
you come back to the office." Click. The phone went dead. I stared
at it for a few seconds before I realized that she'd deliberately
hung up because she had provided all of the details I could hope to
receive. Madelaine. Who the hell was Madelaine? Where was she at
the moment? Did she know I was to pick her up? Why was she going
back to Miranda's apartment? And why on earth--considering Miranda
had a full-time driver, housekeeper, and nanny--was I the one who
had to do it?

Remembering that it was illegal to talk on a cell phone while
driving in New York and figuring the last thing I needed at that
moment was a run-in with the NYPD, I pulled into the bus lane and
switched my flashers on. Breathe in, breathe out, I coached myself,
even remembering to apply the parking brake before taking my foot
off the regular one. It had been years since I'd driven a
stick-shift car--five years, actually, since a high school
boyfriend had volunteered his car up for a few lessons that I'd
decidedly flunked--but Miranda hadn't seemed to consider that when
she'd called me into her office an hour and a half earlier.

"Ahn-dre-ah, my car needs to be picked up from the place and
dropped off at the garage. Attend to it immediately, as we'll be
needing it tonight to drive to the Hamptons. That's all." I stood,
rooted to the carpet in front of her behemoth desk, but she'd
already blocked out my presence entirely. Or so I thought. "That's
all, Ahn-dre-ah. See to it right now," she added, still not
glancing up.

Ah, sure, Miranda, I thought to myself as I walked away, trying to
figure out the first step in the assignment that was sure to have a
million pitfalls along the way. First was definitely to find out at
which "place" the car was located. Most likely it was being
repaired at the dealership, but it could obviously be at any one of
a million auto shops in any one of the five boroughs. Or perhaps
she'd lent it to a friend and it was currently occupying an
expensive spot in a full-service garage somewhere on Park Avenue?
Of course, there was always the chance that she was referring to a
new car--brand unknown--that she'd just recently purchased that
hadn't yet been brought home from the (unknown) dealership. I had a
lot of work to do.

I started by calling Miranda's nanny, but her cell phone went
straight to voice mail. The housekeeper was next on the list and,
for once, a big help. She was able to tell me that the car wasn't
brand-new and it was in fact a "convertible sports car in British
racing green," and that it was usually parked in a garage on
Miranda's block, but she had no idea what the make was or where it
might currently be residing. Next on the list was Miranda's
husband's assistant, who informed me that, as far as she knew, the
couple owned a top-of-the-line black Lincoln Navigator and some
sort of small green Porsche. Yes! I had my first lead. One quick
phone call to the Porsche dealership on Eleventh Avenue revealed
that yes, they had just finished touching up the paint and
installing a new disc-changer in a green Carrera 4 Cabriolet for a
Ms. Miranda Priestly. Jackpot!

I ordered a Town Car to take me to the dealership, where I turned
over a note I'd forged with Miranda's signature that instructed
them to release the car to me. No one seemed to care whatsoever
that I was in no way related to this woman, that some stranger had
cruised into the place and requested someone else's Porsche. They
tossed me the keys and only laughed when I'd asked them to back it
out of the garage because I wasn't sure I could handle a stick
shift in reverse. It'd taken me a half hour to get ten blocks, and
I still hadn't figured out where or how to turn around so I'd
actually be heading uptown, toward the parking place on Miranda's
block that her housekeeper had described. The chances of my making
it to 76th and Fifth without seriously injuring myself, the car, a
biker, a pedestrian, or another vehicle were nonexistent, and this
new call did nothing to calm my nerves.

Once again, I made the round of calls, but this time Miranda's
nanny picked up on the second ring.

"Cara, hey, it's me."

"Hey, what's up? Are you on the street? It sounds so loud."

"Yeah, you could say that. I had to pick up Miranda's Porsche from
the dealership. Only, I can't really drive stick. But now she
called and wants me to pick up someone named Madelaine and drop her
off at the apartment. Who the hell is Madelaine and where might she
be?"

Cara laughed for what felt like ten minutes before she said,
"Madelaine's their French bulldog puppy and she's at the vet. Just
got spayed. I was supposed to pick her up, but Miranda just called
and told me to pick the twins up early from school so they can all
head out to the Hamptons."

"You're joking. I have to pick up a fucking dog with this Porsche?
Without crashing? It's never going to happen."

"She's at the East Side Animal Hospital, on Fifty-second between
First and Second. Sorry, Andy, I have to get the girls now, but
call if there's anything I can do, OK?"

Maneuvering the green beast to head uptown sapped my last reserves
of concentration, and by the time I reached Second Avenue, the
stress sent my body into meltdown. It couldn't possibly get worse
than this, I thought as yet another cab came within a quarter-inch
of the back bumper. A nick anywhere on the car would guarantee I
lose my job--that much was obvious--but it just might cost me my
life as well. Since there was obviously not a parking spot, legal
or otherwise, in the middle of the day, I called the vet's office
from outside and asked them to bring Madelaine to me. A kindly
woman emerged a few minutes later (just enough time for me to field
another call from Miranda, this one asking why I wasn't back at the
office yet) with a whimpering, sniffling puppy. The woman showed me
Madelaine's stitched-up belly and told me to drive very, very
carefully because the dog was "experiencing some discomfort."
Right, lady. I'm driving very, very carefully solely to save my job
and possibly my life--if the dog benefits from this, it's just a
bonus.

With Madelaine curled up on the passenger seat, I lit another
cigarette and rubbed my freezing bare feet so my toes could resume
gripping the clutch and brake pedal. Clutch, gas, shift, release
clutch, I chanted, trying to ignore the dog's pitiful howls every
time I accelerated. She alternated between crying, whining, and
snorting. By the time we reached Miranda's building, the pup was
nearly hysterical. I tried to soothe her, but she could sense my
insincerity--and besides, I had no free hands with which to offer a
reassuring pat or nuzzle. So this was what four years of
diagramming and deconstructing books, plays, short stories, and
poems were for: a chance to comfort a small, white, batlike bulldog
while trying not to demolish someone else's really, really
expensive car. Sweet life. Just as I had always dreamed.

I managed to dump the car at the garage and the dog with Miranda's
doorman without further incident, but my hands were still shaking
when I climbed into the chauffeured Town Car that had been
following me all over town. The driver looked at me sympathetically
and made some supportive comment about the difficulty of stick
shifts, but I didn't feel much like chatting.

"Just heading back to the Elias-Clark building," I said with a long
sigh as the driver pulled around the block and headed south on Park
Avenue. Since I rode the route every day--sometimes twice--I knew I
had exactly eight minutes to breathe and collect myself and
possibly even figure out a way to disguise the ash and sweat stains
that had become permanent features on the Gucci suede. The
shoes--well, those were beyond hope, at least until they could be
fixed by the fleet of shoemakers Runway kept for such emergencies.
The ride was actually over in six and a half minutes, and I had no
choice but to hobble like an off-balance giraffe on my one flat,
one four-inch heel arrangement. A quick stop in the Closet turned
up a brand-new pair of knee-high maroon-colored Jimmy Choos that
looked great with the leather skirt I grabbed, tossing the suede
pants in the "Couture Cleaning" pile (where the basic prices for
dry cleaning started at seventy-five dollars per item). The only
stop left was a quick visit to the Beauty Closet, where one of the
editors there took one look at my sweat-streaked makeup and whipped
out a trunk full of fixers.

Not bad, I thought, looking in one of the omnipresent full-length
mirrors. You might not even know that mere minutes before I was
hovering precariously close to murdering myself and everyone around
me. I strolled confidently into the assistants' suite outside
Miranda's office and quietly took my seat, looking forward to a few
free minutes before she returned from lunch.

"And-re-ah," she called from her starkly furnished, deliberately
cold office. "Where are the car and the puppy?"

I leaped out of my seat and ran as fast as was possible on plush
carpeting while wearing five-inch heels and stood before her desk.
"I left the car with the garage attendant and Madelaine with your
doorman, Miranda," I said, proud to have completed both tasks
without killing the car, the dog, or myself.

"And why would you do something like that?" she snarled, looking up
from her copy of Women's Wear Daily for the first time since I'd
walked in. "I specifically requested that you bring both of them to
the office, since the girls will be here momentarily and we need to
leave."

"Oh, well, actually, I thought you said that you wanted them
to--"

"Enough. The details of your incompetence interest me very little.
Go get the car and the puppy and bring them here. I'm expecting
we'll be all ready to leave in fifteen minutes.
Understood?"

Excerpted from THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA © Copyright 2003 by
Lauren Weisberger. Reprinted with permission by Broadway Books, a
division of Random House. All rights reserved.

 

The Devil Wears Prada
by by Lauren Weisberger

  • Genres: Fiction
  • paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway
  • ISBN-10: 0767914767
  • ISBN-13: 9780767914765