Friday, May 15, 2015

Chapter Twenty-Nine...Is She On To Me?

Chapter Twenty-Nine

 “Shush, Diamond; they’ll hear you,” Mom chides, ignoring the persistent knock at the front door. “Just sit tight.  Give them a minute, they’ll go away,” she directs, lounging with feet propped on the low rectangular coffee table.
This is ridiculous, I think, taking in the drawn drapes, lights turned off, and dead embers in the fireplace—hiding out in a living-room turned graveyard.
But more the source of my irritation in this semi-darkness: Mom’s hand raising her glass to lips prepped for another swig.  What’s her problem?  That’s her second drink to my one since I’ve come in just ten minutes ago.  Who knows how many she had before.  Lately, you’d think her lips and fingers played Pied Piper with the liquor constant and mysteriously streaming in.  What happened to, “We’ll have some fun; make up for lost times?”
If she actually stayed sober this could be perfect, being back together.  Yes, we’re back together again, but not as family or friends.  Instead, we mimic mini-mice scared, although in the dark.  We perch on opposite wing chairs with me cold and silent, commissioned to wait for munchkins, these tiny little people to disappear. 
My attention back to outside, I figure, we shouldn’t have too much longer to wait, though. The sun is setting fast; maybe they’re winding down.
I saw them earlier when I came in from secret shopping—secrecy keeping Mom’s jealousy at bay.  Supermen, Spider men, Little Princesses and ballerinas squealing and giggling, while costumed and non-costumed parents, trailed behind talking with other parents, or solo, holding the hands of their little ones.  Everywhere the streets were sprayed with cobwebs across evergreens, jack-o-lanterns on lawns, black cats on porches, and witches on brooms.
I listen to dejected voices drifting away from our door; then revived, high-pitched giggles, as they race to better prospects across the lawn.
Again I look towards Mom.  Halloween isn’t the reason for this graveyard; it’s been one since last week.  What happened to her?
She stays mute; just blows off all normal activities like bathing, eating, and house-cleaning.  Well . . . maybe not house-cleaning, that never bringing her pleasure. But right now bathing and eating don’t make her “to do list” either.
And regarding me?  Oh, forget it.  Her actions say, “Fend for yourself, girlfriend,” which I don’t mind doing.  Actually I’ve learned to love it.  But still . . . seeing her in this state has curbed my otherwise healthy appetite.
Is this my compensation for keeping her job and trying to restore her house?  To watch this this increasing joy in the bottle?, reminding me of earlier years.
Maybe she never stopped, just slowed down, remembering how the bottle camouflaged her unhappiness, but deepened mine.  The memory makes me question why I’m even staying under these conditions.
Not unless.  Could she just be delayed in mourning for Steve?
Yes, that could be it . . . a broken heart.  I can understand a broken heart . . . if that’s it.
Tapping my fingers on the arm of the wing chair, while staring at her complacent form I count: One, two, three, four, five weeks.  Does it take five weeks for people to click?  Because it’s been five weeks.  Have we clicked?
Not.  Ticked—as in off, probably fits us more, those first few days of camaraderie delusional.
But I can’t leave now; it’s too soon to fly the flag.   Madame would say—if I chose to tell her about it, “I told you. You don’t listen.”  I get up to peep out of the window—shoot!  Stub my toe on a sofa leg, wanting to shout, “This is stupid!” as I hear her little giggle as I fight not to scream for the pain of my little toe.  Honestly . . . sneaking around in your own home because of some little kids. 
Glaring out of the window, as I ignore Mom's delight at my discomfort, I try to focus on the older kids rushing across the lawn triggering my own last trick-or-treat experience.  I watch, finally grinning; glad for some distraction remembering the episode, though I didn’t think it funny at the time.
After a minute I turn around, directing my attention to Mom’s silhouette.  “Mom.  Guess what happened the last time I went trick-or-treating.”
“Come on, Diamond--,” she starts not looking up.
“It’s okay.  No one’s out there now,” I say, craving to break through, looking for a mutual past; hoping to initiate a bonding.  “Guess what happened.”
“I don’t know, Diamond. . . What?”
Her exasperated “not interested” tone doesn’t prevent my continuing.  “Well my friend dressed up like a cute little clown and I a bum,” I begin, after squatting, next kneeling before her on the floor.  I lean against the coffee table, close enough to see her clearly despite the dimness and unfortunately close enough to catch fire if someone lit a match.
“But of course being kids,” I continue, “we kept lagging behind the group.  So when we came down off the steps of this one house, we were rummaging around in our bags”—my hands demonstrating animatedly.  As my hands stop, my face and tone proceed with the performance.  “Suddenly, these dark figures, shadows, came from around a bush and snatched our bags.  First we thought they were ghosts, but their laughter convinced us they were just a couple of mean teens.”
“Just like that,” I snapped my fingers, “all our candy, gone.”
“Really,” Mom says, again turning up her glass.
I wanted to tell her what happened after that, but do I dare after her “I don’t care” sip.  Would she go ballistic, if I continue?
Still kneeling I recalled arriving home.  Madame heard my story but offered no condolences.  Instead she asked, “Again not paying attention to your surroundings?”
Me, a nine-year-old, paying attention while trick-o-treating?
Of course I had to shake my head staring up at her massive height, a towering redwood with this thunderous voice raining down counsel. 
“So, I guess you learned a valuable lesson today.  Did I not tell you to keep your head up and your eyes open,” she reminded me, “otherwise people would catch you off guard?”
“And since you were not focused,” again emphasizing my deficiency, “it cost you.  Now in the future, if you can concentrate on things with value and stick with it, maybe no one will steal from you.  You determine what you want to give up,” she concluded, never once stopping whatever she was doing to explain. 
Yes, I remembered exactly what she said; but what did it mean to me a kid?  Was she really discussing candy?
And, what did it mean to me now?  Is that what Madame is doing, going for what she wants?  Is that why she was too busy to return my calls? questions that I felt Mom could give me insight into.  Did Madame ever say things like that to her?
Though, even if Madame did, obviously Mom didn’t pay much attention, not unless her value lies inside a bottle.
“I never went trick-or-treating,” she suddenly speaks, her voice low, horribly slurred.
Oh.  Actually, I’m sorry, I think, not saying anything, no longer comfortable with the conversation.  And if she’d listened she’d know that Madame didn’t take me either.  But, no since in explaining; she doesn’t want to know the truth, I think returning to my seat, feeling tricked instead of treated.  Crystal’s face spurns all laughter.
And not just her face.  At the job, the same.  Expressions I encounter daily reveal hostility, hiding intentions, forcing me to adopt a charade myself.  My practiced expression proclaims, “I don’t care,” when actually I do.  I prefer peace, to be a team player, not defensive.
But where's the team? ... Does it exist?  And, what's Mr. Riley's game plan?  Recruit more players?
My only consolation?  Today no Vie, which really surprises me.  Of all days, for her not to appear—Halloween?  When we were kids, wasn’t this was her favorite holiday?
Well, one of them.  Between Halloween and April’s Fool day, Vie horrified us all with her wicked little tricks. You learned not to speak too freely around her.  Though, fact was, you could never prepare for her, her mind way ahead of you, actively evil.  All during the year she watched us for any indication of our heart’s desires.  Then, wham!  Her random choice, she’d make you bleed.
Once in high school, a girlfriend of our group--a rather shy unremarkable teen, disclosed her secret crush on a basketball player with Vie absent.  To be truthful, her catching an elusive leprechaun seemed more likely, until March.  Then the improbable happened.  He started casting admiring glances Lil’ Shy’s way, which she enthusiastically returned with blushes, strolling by his locker.  The unlikely continued; he asked her out. 
The date? 
The eve of April 1st.  All day we avoided Vie, since she was not in the know and especially since we needed to concentrate on Lil’ Shy’s date.  Four of us dressed her, did her makeup and drilled into her topics to hold his attention—talk about Him.  Fail proof.  Don’t digress; unless he asks about her.  Hopefully that’s the way it would go.  Intense interest in her the reason for the date, right? 
Well, the moment arrived.  He looked “hot,” arriving to escort her in his Dad’s large Lincoln.  Our Cinderella beamed that day, her story ending resembling a movie. 
No, monstrous.  Lil’ Shy hysterically escaped date rape by her Prince Frog.  Fortunately, she kept the note he threw into her face.  Our girl group sought to discover the foreign handwriting starting this nightmare.  Admittedly, Vie was a prime suspect.  But the handwriting didn’t match.  Yet, people spotted her lurking around the players’ locker.
But she hadn’t really gone that far, had she?
She had.  Vie admitted she plied our sports hero with gifts “From a bashful admirer.”  Lil’ Shy stepped right into her role.  But to a note requesting a date and promising to display her appreciation, Vie vehemently swore ignorance.  So with no proof and her constant apologizing and insistent, “I didn’t mean for that to happen.  I was just trying to help,” I gave in.  I guess I just felt sorry for her, such a lonely girl.  My girlfriends, though, wrote her off; only sporadically permitting her presence because of me. 
Funny, in some ways she reminds me of Mom, having no one—partially the reason I’m here.  This brings me back to the subject of work.
I think: it's probably not a good time to broach the subject about Mom taking over the job.  But we have to talk about it sometime.  So here goes.
“Mom, guess what.  Mr. Peters has retired to Arizona.  We already gave him a small party Wednesday,” since he bucked fan-fare.  We kept it small at the agency by ordering take-out and a cake.
“Really?” she said, her eyes never opening.
That’s it, huh?  The man you wanted to work for leaves and all you have to say is “really”?
“Yes, everyone in the office was surprised about him leaving too.  His arthritis is pretty bad, but another agent has already arrived.”  I continue to chatter away as if she’s thoroughly interested.  “Mr. Peters vouched for the new guy, Mom.  I’ll think you’ll be alright.” 
She doesn’t open her eyes or respond for a moment, then she says, “A new agent, huh?  Well, that’s good to know.”
I just look at her, no longer surprised, though she did say she wanted to work under St. Peters.  Well there goes that opportunity. 
“Mom?  Are you still interested in working at the agency?” I blurt out.
“Why do ask that?” she asks, surprisingly irritated.  
“It’s just you don’t seem yourself; and every time I mention the job you seem uninterested.”
“And how would you know what myself is?”
Really she has a point, though heartless, but—forget it; I was just trying to get the full picture.
I get up and play at lighting the fireplace, while thinking, you know it’s the drink, Diamond.  So I keep silent so as not to antagonize her further. 
Those doubts about my coming creep up; push through, persistent.  The usual question, why did I come?
Knowing my answer: I thought I could help.
Maybe Madame was right; maybe motherhood isn’t for Mom, because now I feel like I did as a child.  I felt she didn’t want me around then, that my presence was more than she could bear.  And it feels the same today.  This scares me.
“Diamond.  Do something about that stupid cough?” Mom says.  “What’s the matter with you anyway?”
Funny, I didn’t think it was that bad.  But lately the coughs have been constant.  Frequent.  I now also have a headache.  Getting up to go to the bathroom, I feel Mom’s eyes following me.  I saw earlier that she put a new bottle of cough syrup in the medicine cabinet, so I take a couple of large swallows, and some pain relievers, then carry the bottle back with me into the living room.  Just in case.
Seated back on the sofa, I try to figure out what I should do, Mom’s non-cooperation placing me in an awkward position.  Okay, so Mr. Peter’s gave you the job, but he’s gone.  Now Mr. Riley believes you’re a solid member of the team.  And I am for now . . . but for how long?
New York waits for me with full steam ahead.
I glance again at Mom, as she struggles to get up.
“Diamond, I’m tired.  I’m going to lie down.”
Lie down?  That’s what she’s been doing all day, I think, more annoyed.  All this time wasted time, expending absolutely no energy on anything of importance.
“Okay, Mom.”
My throat still aggravated, I swallow more cough syrup.  But I keep quiet, wondering, what about Cowen?
Mom quickly turns around, asking, “What was that?”
“I’m sorry.  I didn’t say anything.  I was thinking out loud.”
“About tomorrow.  About going to work tomorrow.”
As she walked away, I remember, we hadn’t eaten dinner.  But I disregard my growling stomach, instead thinking, I’m glad that I’m taking the outfits to Nanette myself.  Nanette needs to see my dedication and I need a break.  Maybe I won'the even come back.
As her door shuts I call the airport reconfirming my flight arrangements.  This small action lifts my spirits. . . I’m going home.
After a few minutes I peek into Mom’s room to check on her.  Her body lies still buried under the comforter.  Wondering why she’s depressed, I creep in bed on top of the covers behind her, holding her close like she once did me, hoping to comfort us both.  But she squirms angrily, tossing me off.  So I scurry back to the living room to lie on the sofa, hurt, cold, and sleepless, her slighting tying my stomach in knots. 
As I lay in the dark, debating whether to put another log on, I let the tears roll, as the cold draftiness of the house makes me shiver under the throw.  Needing to sleep I finish the rest of the cough medicine. . . .
What’s that?  The creaking door wakes me from a deep sleep.  What time is it?  I try to see my watch in vain, looking up instead to. . . Mom?
A bright moon lights the bathroom haloing her frame, as she stands in the hallway’s door, her face shadowed.  I hear her breathing; belabored, almost panting.  I wipe at my eyes, wondering, what’s the matter?  My body stiff with cold.  Is she sleepwalking?
I wait very still, forgetting what to do about sleepwalkers.  Her figure in a sheer white silk nightgown comes to stand over me and my heart seems to stops beating.  I hold my breath waiting for her to say something.
Finally she speaks, saying, “Just who do you think you are anyway?”
The voice descending upon me is deep, distorted, and spiteful.  I continue not to move, feeling that a sudden movement might initiate an attack.  Her hot breath, as she leans over me, floods my nostrils stale and awful.
“What?  Why aren’t you saying something now?”
I peer horrified, who is this woman supposed to be?
“What?” she laughs.  “Do I sicken you?” she asks.  “Well, you sicken me.”
“Why?”  I whimper, frightened, but wanting to find out anything to help me understand her.
“You just do.  Always have,” she sneers.
“That’s not a reason,” I say, the edge of the throw balled up between my fists.  “What have I done?” feeling like a wimp.
Her answer is immediate, “You should’ve died.”
With that statement she floats back into her room; slams the door behind her; leaves me wondering if I’ve hallucinated this.  But sensations: the cold of the room, the hurt of her words and the knot in my stomach say, “No, Diamond.  You’re wide awake.”
I should have died?  Instead of who? . . . Who died?  And whose voice was she imitating?  Though I thought I knew the answer to that one: Her tone sounded like Madame’s.
Did Madame say those words to Crystal?  Were those words really directed to Crystal?  Or were they for me?  Though I wouldn’t wish that on anyone—those words.
Shaken, I drag myself upstairs.  I hate to fail, but I’ll call Mr. Reilly from New York, hopeful he’ll understand.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Chapter Twenty-Eight...Is She On To Me?

Chapter Twenty-Eight

So we leave the mall with nothing for my clients, but I am more educated regarding human nature.

In an effort to force the earlier episode out of my mind, I concentrate on my customers, thinking, maybe I can make one final stop before heading in, though my joy for the hunt vanished with Vie’s behavior.  And do I want to even take her with me? to my favorite Hit or Miss shop for anything inexpensive and unusual—outfits for the karaoke singer.

I have no choice.  And since she did bulldog her way into my schedule, I’m not turning around to take her home.  She’ll just be my hostage while I drive downtown.  Although, I know all suffering will only be mine.

Too involved with the traffic headed towards the Loop, I let Vie control the radio, heavy metal blasting out of our windows.

Yes, all suffering is mine.

Cramped for time and to save gas from constant circling for a spot, I pay for parking.  After leaving the car we head over to State Street, the store located right across the street from Madame’s real estate agency.  While crossing, I glance at the agency, when my body suddenly locks up on me. 

Vie’s shouts, “Diamond.  Watch out!” grabbing my arm, yanking me out of the way of a messenger’s speeding bicycle—bells ringing—whizzing by; pulling me to the sidewalk.  Yet, I turn quickly to see if there actually was movement inside the agency.  

But the blinds are now shut and Vie’s body instantly blocks out the view with her intense face in mine, yelling, “Girl!  What’s the matter with you?  Who taught you to cross the street?”

“I’m sorry.  I thought I saw Madame at the agency;” though why shouldn’t she be there?

I want to see.  So headed back towards the office, it dawns on me, Wow.  The anger in Vie’s voice sounded real.  It actually feels good, but confusing.  One minute scaring me down a set of stairs, the next saving me? . . . What gives? 

Still holding onto my arm, Vie swings me around, dragging me towards the clothing store.  “So what?  She can stop in her shop if she wants to.  Call her later.  And anyway, aren’t things going well for you in New York?  Do you really still need her?  Get a grip!”

Oh, that’s right.  That’s the real reason.  Vie wants me in New York for her benefit.  With that understanding my thoughts return to Madame.

Regardless of what Vie says I can’t still the shakes.  I haven’t heard from Madame; yet she’s this close.  The only thing stopping me from marching right over to that glass door is the thought: She doesn’t know that I’m in town.  And . . . I’ve been here over a month.  That looks bad on my part.  If she’d known, wouldn’t she have given me a call? . . . Though I am at Mom’s. . . Maybe she wouldn’t.

Determined, I stand, debating, when the front door of the real estate agency opens to a happy laughing Madame—someone I’ve never seen.  The source of her joy, a medium tall man with silver hair, and a jaw-line with two deep creases down the sides of his mouth.  He looked well preserved in a dark suit, crisp white shirt and gray overcoat—long and flowing.  With the way he took Madame’s arm walking her to the passenger side of a teal metallic Cadillac, I knew this wasn’t a casual acquaintance.

My heart drops with the onslaught of so many questions raised regarding my place in her life.  Was Vie actually right in her insinuations about my being bumped around like a foster child?  Did she actually know more about me that even I knew? 

The desire to see Madame dies as their car pulls quickly away leaving me wondering what to do next; amazed, she didn’t even notice me standing here so close.  My last futile attempt to shop totally fizzles. 

“Vie, I’m tired.  Let’s go home.”

“But you paid for parking, and didn’t you come for something?”

“I’ll get it later.”

After staring at me a few seconds, she says, “Fine,” her voice filled with disgust.

Driving back, Vie remained silent, though when I try to drop her off home, she says, “I’m going in with you.  Let’s see what Crystal’s doing.”

If I didn’t feel that Mom could use some company—even Vie’s—I would have insisted on driving her to her door.  But I admit, maybe her visit will do Mom good.

So after unlocking the front door, Vie tries to burst through before me shouting, “Hey Crystal!  We’re home.  What’s cooking? . . . Come out, come out, wherever you are,” obviously trying to wake the dead, which at this point is probably what she’s doing with Mom stone cold on the sofa—not even shifting despite Vie’s loudness.

I bet today its gin and tonic.

Trying to inch Vie back to the door, I say, “Vie, Mom’s asleep.  Why don’t you visit another time,” I suggest.

Why didn’t I expect this?  Since lately this isn’t unusual.

“What? . . . Sleep?” she asks staring over my shoulder at Mom.  “You think I don’t know drunk? . . . Leave her alone and let’s go see what’s there to eat,” she says, ducking by me, headed straight back towards the kitchen.

It’s amazing, Vie’s attitude about everything.  So blasé.  But I don’t want to stand here either; so I follow her.  There are plenty of leftovers in the refrigerator this time; I’ve done a bit of cooking.  So Vie plops down at the kitchen table, upsetting the salt-shaker; but talking incessantly about the office—as if she’s a part of it, while she sweeps the grains onto the floor.  She tells me of Jackie’s plan to become the future Ms. Riley, all the while I keep an ear out for the living room, wondering what’s bothering Mom. 

“Diamond.  You’re not listening to me. . . Look.  Why are you watching her?  She’s okay.  You think this is something new?”

“What do you mean? . . . Mom? . . . The drinking? . . . I don’t know.” 

Why should I discuss it with her? . . . And why did Vie think she knew so much about my family and my life?

“Diamond, remember.  I told you before I see your mother a lot.  This isn’t unusual.  I don’t understand you.  Look at her.  Why do you want to please her?  She’s doing what she wants.  Do what you want.”

Vie may or may not have a valid point; but the fact that it comes from her disturbs me.  Matter-of-fact, who is Vie to talk?  Her behavior earlier squashes her freedom of speech.  Who is she to notice what Mom’s doing?

It doesn’t take Vie long to wolf down cold chicken and chips, so she gets up to leave and I walk her past Mom to the front door.  But before she leaves she says, “Here.  I got these for you at the mall,” tossing me a little decorative paper sack she’d pulled from her bag.  “You’re gonna need those with the pants you bought today.”

Something in my expression causes her to laugh.

“Trust me.”

With that scary comment, she takes off down the block towards a single-level small brick house, while Mom continues to sleep.

How long has she been out? I wonder heading back to the kitchen to clean up.

After washing and putting away the dishes I leave Mom to the sofa, headed upstairs to draw up various outfits so that I’ll have a plan of attack tomorrow at the stores.  I’ll know what items I need to finish my designs.

I’ve got to get busy.  No more swatting at the wind.  Then I’ll deliver the items Friday to Nanette personally.  I can use the break.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Chapter Twenty-Seven...Is She On To Me?

Chapter Twenty-Seven

 “Here she is.  Diamond.  Telephone,” Mom shouts before I can put a penny loafed-foot through the front door.

In a rush, I mouth, “Who is it?” headed for the kitchen with her tight on my tail.  “Can you take a message?” I ask, knowing I’m in trouble.  Speculating, it’s probably a client.

I’ve been delinquent about returning calls.  But I’ll make it up to them.  Today.  That’s why Vie waits in the car.  We’re headed out to shop.

With her hand barely covering the receiver, Mom says, “Diamond stop and take this phone.  It’s some rude woman calls herself Nanette.” 

Uh oh.

As if it’s covered in baby pooh, Mom drops the phone in my hand; then her trim angry form disappears towards her bedroom, still wearing red silk pajamas with matching robe, from early this morning?  She didn’t go anywhere? I wonder, before answering, “Hello?” the receiver lodged between my ear and shoulder.

“Diamond, who was that?  And does she have to answer your phone; is she your secretary? . . . Fire her. . . And why haven’t you returned any of my calls?”

“Nanette,” I say, scanning the refrigerator for turkey slices.  “I didn’t know you called, but I did think of giving you a ring to find out how things are working out.  How have you been?”

“When were you going to call?  It’s been a month.  The girl’s outfits for the extra scenes?  I’ve needed them since the last century.  You need to get them to me by Friday?  Can you do that?”

What extra scenes?  This Friday? 

“Sure. You bet I can!”  Just believe, Diamond, I coach, slapping sandwiches together, the phone dropping.  Now I’ve done it, I think, hurriedly picking up the receiver. 

“Nanette I am so sorry, but I’ll start on that pronto.”


“I’m just headed out to do some scavenging and shopping. . . Say, what are the scenes and who are the outfits for.”

“Wha. . wha. . what do you mean?”

Nanette stutters?

“Diamond.  No.  You’re not asking me about the scenes.  I gave that information to that woman, that woman who answers your phone last week.”

Why didn’t Mom say anything?

“I can’t believe you haven’t started. . . .Diamond. . . .MY BUTT IS ON THE LINE HERE!  If mine is So Is Yours,” she ends in a dangerous whisper.

“Nanette.  I’m so sorry, but I’ve been running around like crazy; even now.  Mom probably told me you called—why am I taking the rap for her?  But could you just humor me this time?” I ask, grabbing some bottled water.  I know I should stop and listen, but time is ticking.   There are a lot of stops I need to make.

“Oh, I’ll humor you.  This time.  But if you fail me Diamond, there will not be a next time?  And make sure you’re back here in time for set rehearsals carrying everything needed for any alterations.  Do you understand?”

That’s right!  I’d somehow forgotten. . . . How could I?

“And if you want any future dealings with me or anyone else for that matter,” Nanette says, her voice slicing me through the line; “keep that woman, Mom or no Mom, off your line.  She’s not good for your business.”

What did Mom say?

Nanette repeats my instructions; then we hang up on the coolest terms.  No kiss, kiss means she’s mad.  Madame would say, “Only dogs go mad, Diamond.  She’s angry.”  But the word “angry” lacked the weight to convey the intense emotion emitted from her.

Madame.  Wow.  Where have thoughts of her been? . . . Okay Madame, Nanette’s furious.  The outfits must be hot before redemption; though today’s shopping wasn’t planned for her. 

Oh well. 

“I’ll be back, Mom.  Going to the mall with Vie,” I yell on my way out the front door.  It’s time to refocus.  Pinch-hitting for Mom is costing me.  But reparation begins today.

“Hey, what took you so long?” Vie asks, as I climb into the car.  “Killed the cow?”

“No, strangled the turkey.  For you.  Happy?” I ask, handing her lunch, wondering, how did I end up with Vie anyway?  Usually, when she visits the agency, I leave her behind or she leaves me; so how did we end up together today? 

Passing many fast food restaurants, Vie asks, “Why didn’t you just buy something?”


“I’m sorry.  You gave me money?”  She amazes me.  And I know she’s not broke; look at her clothes, I think glancing her over.  Always the latest.

Today, with her knees drawn up under her chin, boots again infuriatingly on the seat, Vie wears a dark blue denim mini with a matching jacket and boots.  With a little more length I’d call it cute. 

“And do you mind putting your feet down?  This isn’t your car and we’re going to get sideswiped by gawkers.  Are you ready to die?”

Vie glances over at me innocently.  “What?  What am I doing?” 

“About to kill us,” I say turning into Ford City’s parking lot, this time, to the toot of a Navigator’s horn.

“We made it, but Vie . . . do you think that we could shop without any drama?  If you find it necessary, warn me.  I can shop by myself.”

She laughs.  “You’re the boss.”

The lot is packed, but amazingly we find a vacancy next to a handicapped spot.  How could I forget?  It wasn’t that long ago that I “hung out” here.  Mid-afternoon, all the school kids did.

My spirits sinking fast, I already anticipate a great deal of stress, especially with Vie’s comments; “So whatcha gonna buy?  Something hot and sexy?”

I shake my head looking at her, praying this day won’t really flop.

“Vie.  When have you seen me in anything hot and sexy?”

“My point exactly. . . My god, Diamond, loosen up.  I know you work in an office and all, but really . . . why do you stay wrapped up like a . . . a burrito?”

“Burrito?” I echo, laughing.  “That’s the best you can do?  Anyway, it’s almost winter.  I’m surprised you haven’t caught pneumonia,” I say, looking at her bare thighs.

“Yeah, well” she says, laughing too, leaning against me like a co-conspirator, draping her arm around my shoulders.  “When you dress like me you don’t stay cold long.  But back to you; don’t you wanna rattle Jackie?  Just a little?  She thinks she’s so hot and she hates your guts.”


“So show her you’re hot too.”

“Why?  To prove what?  And why should she care anyway.”

“She does, so do it anyway; get a reaction.  It’ll be fun.”


To irritate a workmate?  Vie’s crazy.

“Yes fun. . . . She won’t expect it; so do it.”

Again why? I wonder.  Dressing sexy at the office incites more trouble than it’s worth.  It definitely won’t bond Jackie and me.  And the guys? . . . They couldn’t handle it?  But more importantly, what about Mr. Riley?  Vie knows how he feels about sexy attire on the job.  She said so herself. 

“Isn’t Friday casual day?” she asks, reading my mind.  “Isn’t that what Mr. Riley said?  And he won’t be there.  I heard him tell Mr. Peters.  And even if he comes in, tell him it’s your after Halloween get-up.  So do it then.  Show your power.”

“Power?”  Actually, someone needs to tell me how to empower myself to be left alone.

“Gawd, Diamond.  You sound like a stupid parrot.”

I glare at her.

“Okay, Diamond.  Do it for me then.  I need some fun.”

At my expense? . . . I don’t think so.  My fun’s already been provided.  Mr. Riley gave me a decorating job that I’ll love.

“Let me pick out your out--.”


She laughs again impressing me.

Flowing laughter. . . What’s with her lately?

My silence must give her go for she seizes my hand, shouts, “Come on;” dragging me around the mall, decked out in goblins and ghouls, to stores I ordinarily shun; unless it’s a client’s request. 

“Here, try these,” Vie says, holding out a mini similar to the one she’s wearing.

I snicker, “I think not,” when leather shorts, followed by spandex skirts and tops appear, which she begs me to try on, “just for play,” she insists.  But I refuse, suddenly self-conscious. 

She finally produces a pair of black jersey pants with just a touch of lycra that’s not vulgar, but rather stylish.  We also find a white cotton fitted blouse.  Desperate to get her off my back I figure, these won’t be too bad, so I purchase them.

Vie again tries to persuade me to try them on, but I don’t ordinarily, therefore, I don’t today.  Usually when I buy clothes my size they fit.  So I smile “no” while walking to the cashier.

Haven’t I humored her enough?

With my packages and a headache, we leave the store, but I take a second to step into a hosiery shop, while Vie waits outside.  Before long, through the mannequin legs in the display window I watch Vie from the register, hips swinging like a high-stepping pony, up to an attractive couple deep in conversation, the woman laughing up into the man’s face as they stroll through the mall.

Who are they? I wonder.

Unexpectedly, Vie links her arm though the man’s, leaning into his body as she puckers to kiss his cheek.  He stands frozen before recoiling, suddenly throwing her hands from him, while the woman stands, her mouth gapped open with eyes shifting back and forth between Vie and her friend—or husband.  Whomever.

Hurrying through the doorway, I hear Vie ask, “What?  Don’t act like you don’t know me,” she says attempting to reclaim his arm.

“Is it because of her?  Who is she?” she continues, her voice dripping with disgust.  “Well say something.  You gonna make some introductions?” 

The man again throws her hand off his jacket; cursing, while putting his arm around the woman.  They stalk off, his lips forming unrepeatable words.  But Vie just laughs.

Strutting up to me, arms swinging, she says, “Did you see that?  I bet he won’t get any peace tonight.  How’s he gonna convince her he doesn’t know me?”

“You don’t know him?” . . . Is that what she said? . . . “You didn’t know him?” I ask again, dazed, “Then why. . .?”

“You took too long; I was bored.”

“You were bored.  You’re kidding, right?”

“No, you’re kidding, right, Diamond? . . . Oh, that’s right.  You didn’t get the chance to see the girl all smug and giggling.  I showed her she’s not ‘all that’ because she’s wearing a ring.” 

I saw her and she didn’t look smug. . . . And so she’s wearing a ring.  “She’s wearing a ring?  That’s a problem. . . her wearing a ring?”

Vie just stares at me.

“What? . . . I want to know,” I persist, grabbing at her arm as she marches off.

She stops suddenly and I almost ram into her.

“Diamond.  She flaunted him in my face.  That conceited, ‘I’m married; you’re not’ look,” she says in a snobby tone, imitating who?  “But I showed her.  With the way I look now.  Please.  She’s definitely not as good as us.  If I wanted him I could have him; because whatever I want I get.”

I can’t believe what I’m hearing.  And just what does Vie want?

“So wait a minute,” I say, both of us standing center traffic, irritated people edging around us.  “You’re telling me that because she wears a ring she thinks she’s somebody and she deserves what you did to her?”

Wow.  Some human nature.  Does a person really have to fight for what is rightfully theirs?

“Duh.  Aren’t you smart?  She laughed up at him like everything he said was sooo funny.  Ain’t nobody that funny.  She showed him off to show us up; and it cost her.”

To us?

“And she just couldn’t have been happy to be with him, right? . . . She was definitely throwing him in your face?  Because if you recall I was in the store—though, with Vie’s facial jewelry, was he even Vie’s type? . . . Vie. . . Be for real.  You don’t really believe what you’re saying, do you? . . . And let’s say she was doing what you thought, why do you care?  My goodness.  You don’t even know her; probably won’t see her again.  Why should she affect you?”

Was there bird poop on my head? the way Vie stares at me.  Then, arm about my shoulder, she smiles; walks me; saying, “Diamond, dear.  Boy, you’ve got a lot to learn.”

I think, Boy, I’m learning quickly.