But he did.
And Madame will say I’ve failed, I thought, as another chime—a double peal from the business phone in the living room, interrupted my thought.
“Please. No work. Not today. Not yet,” I pleaded as it rang again.
I opted to stay on the treadmill, letting my answering machine cover for me.
“You have reached DDB’s, Diamond Duprey’s Boutique-type services. I’m sorry I’m unavailable for your call. But if you’re interested in personalized style and attention please leave your name and all necessary information. I’m Diamond. I’ll get back to you. Thank-you.”
“Beep. . . . Diamond, honey. Nanette Leon, here. Where are you? It’s been weeks. Are you dead? You’d better be.”
“Whew! That was close,” I whispered.
Nanette’s pseudo-cultured voice invaded the apartment. She pronounced her name so fast it sounded foreign.
I repeated it until it rolled off my tongue. “Nanette Leon; Nanette Leon; Nanette Leon,” energized into a run with the rhythm and in celebration of not answering. Her intensity—which surprisingly contrasted her cool blonde Gwyneth-like appearance—surpassed my then emotional strength.
My first impression of Nanette: Absolute elegance. Upon further acquaintance, though, that elegance translated: Unbridled arrogance. Nerves of steel developed through years of experience and success in her self-appointed talent and beauty search business.
A thought hit me. Maybe, Nanette sent the FedEx. It’s probably the check she promised.
“Diamond, dear,” she proceeded. “This is what I want. . . .The outfits. Did you create, purchase, or whatever you do,” I could see her waving her hand in dismissal, continuing; “You know what I mean. Anyway, you do have enough clothes for the scenes, don’t you? Actually, more than enough. I NEEDED them yesterday.
The costume department is furious that I’ve had the audacity to go outside ‘my realm’—their words—to clothe our young budding starlets. But I told them that if this series is to be a success, I must have full reins to handle the girls’ wardrobe. . . .”
I wondered if she had that kind of power.
“I know my business. They’ll see that I’m right. Always,” she continued. “So, Diamond, dear heart, do NOT fail me.”
Slowing my pace I whispered, “What does she mean? I’ve never failed her.”
“You have not failed me in the past, Di,” she answered as if she heard. “That’s why I do business with you. . . .You know that little model that wore your last intriguing creations? She was fabulous, and she got the contract. Your clothes, my strength of expertise and some rather impeccable photography capturing her essence clinched the deal. What a beautiful portfolio.
However, Diamond, that contract could’ve been all yours. Whenever you want representation, call me.”
That’s Nanette. Stubborn as a hungry monkey.
I worked as a “temp” in the Brooklyn courthouse building on Court St. when I first met Nanette. She dated a lawyer. Trailing me through the crowded cement corridors, she insisted on showing me her portfolio of famous people—actors, actresses and models—she sponsored. But I didn’t want to pursue those careers; yet, I couldn’t escape her. So, instead I unveiled my clothing designs to her, which redirected her interest in me. This fired up my fledgling business.
“But Di, dear . . .”she droned on.
Amazing how the answering machine allows some to talk for days, and others--.
“. . . need everything from you, the clothes and the accessories, this afternoon. The girls will be here to try everything on. So, to ensure that you receive this message, TODAY, Miss Duprey, is it really necessary for me to harass your cell phone with repeated voice mails; since I know you always carry it. . . .Well, maybe I will anyway. We will talk, Darling. Kiss. Kiss. Don’t make me find you.”
“Wow, I made the deadline, but forgot all about Nanette,” I announced to my plant like it cared, almost thankful that I remembered to turn back on the phone Though, my mind was not prepped for business that afternoon.
However, I accepted defeat. For, what choice did I have?
By three o’clock everything needs to be dropped off, I moaned. That didn’t leave me much time, I noted, squinting at the small clock inside the bookcase.
Already twelve twenty.
Okay. It’s okay.
Off the treadmill I step, all activity now mental at that point. Dreading the excursion, I propped my back against the bar, sensing an uprising. It’s crazy how in an instant my throat becomes aggravated, which initiates the coughing.
Taking hold of the treadmill’s arm, fear fluttered my stomach further, bubbled my meager breakfast bar, threatening to make it reappear. Through teary eyes I looked towards the armoire in the living room.
It was there. I bought another not long before. Before plunging towards it I tried to calm myself; thinking: Concentrate. . . .Yes, with a little effort, that day, I did stave off that one. And even now they’ve been subsiding with will-power. That day, though, I really needed to believe: Yes, Diamond. You can handle it.
But to be truthful, I anticipated working that afternoon with four arrogant girl, with each girl requiring distinct outfits, several selections a show, for four pilot episodes. I expected a whiney, “I don’t look good in green,” or “That makes me look fat,” and also the, “It’s beautiful, but—.” Plus, an exacting Nanette sustaining a short fuse. She, who expected more dedication and perfection from her employees than even she exhibited. I was promised an excruciatingly long session.
It was just fortunate for me, that initially, when I received the assignment two months previously hype sailed me through the legwork. I forayed thrift stores and flea markets for vintage clothing. I ripped apart garments made alterations and used unique pieces like furs, leather, and feathers, incorporating the bought items into my designer originals. But then, I had to raid my closet and withdraw with an arsenal of outfits for trend-setting young women.
My designs possibly setting trends, . . .yet still, I wasn’t enthused. The opportunity to outfit the stars of a new HBO series granted me tremendous exposure, and how did I respond?
I dodged Nanette instead of blessing her. She was an asset and if I alienated her I was a fool. But for some reason dread boldly squashed my morale. Initially diving into that assignment with ‘Mardi Gras’ fever, that day, I fought fashion burnout. “Chic fatigue” you could call it.
Diamond, you're in the business because you love it, I reminded myself. And think of Madame.
I could hear her. “Missy, be happy that you have a successful career,” which counsel snapped my mind sharply back to business.
Yes, Madame. I’ll try to get back to work, though really. . . .what for? I rationalized. Okay. But just in case . . . .
I went for my cure before receiving the FedEx. Before the letter.