Saturday, May 9, 2015

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

Chapter Twenty-Four

For this week-end I would’ve danced on flaming pins, I think, trying to erase yesterday’s fiasco, while sitting watching dust particles dance in thin beams of sunlight filtered through the swaying branches of my weeping willow.  They stream into the paned windows of the porch, somewhat releasing the tension in my shoulders brought on by Vie’s presence.

Any bite in here wouldn’t be from the air—the insulated porch Madame installed; a perfect retreat when alone.

I look to Vie thumbing through the paper wondering what fazes her, as I pluck at the rip on the knee of one jeaned leg and the other rocks the swing.  She’s not affected by the sun squeezing through the few actual clean spots in the window exposing those flecks passing across its rays.  At least she seems not to notice.

Yes. . . .Oblivious.  Surreal escapes her.  And the porch portrays surreal.  A fairyland, like when it happens in Central Park.

Pushing off the swing I stand wincing, piney tingles shooting under the sole of my socked foot, asleep, resisting awake.  To get it circulating, I stump to the window jetting life back into it, turning to grin at Vie, sensing her annoyance.  I continue to march forcing a return to normalcy, while staring into the yard at the willow.

To think that over three weeks ago that tree scared me.  Now I feel silly, because that day in the rowboat, the weather probably made it look ominous.  But it’s no longer offensive; its attributes—breezes, shade, and shelter—suggest a second chance.  I appreciate those gifts, but I don’t have the time to enjoy sitting beneath it as I did when a child.  Though I thought I would’ve, this supposedly being a vacation and all.

One day soon I will; we’ll reunite; that’s a promise, I think, smiling.  It’s part of my past and I miss it. 

If Vie knew my thoughts, she would gladly have me committed.  “That’s ridiculous,” she would say, “a tree and a human reuniting? . . . It’s proven; you’re whacked.”

I turn around to see Vie watching me.

I knew it.  What? Am I the odd one? 

“What’s so funny?” she asks. 

“Nothing.  Except, remember when we were kids we didn’t have real worries.”  It was partly true, I always felt safe under the willow.

“No worries. . . You kidding, right?”

“In retrospect, no, comparatively speaking.”

“Humph.  Think not?—‘Comparatively speaking.’”

For some reason I want to sing; so I do.  I sing, “Oh what a beautiful October morrr—ning,” maybe to fend off Vie’s negativity.  

But it is.  It really is a beautiful morning, and I’ve irked Vie.  She just leans back into the corner of the swing, looking at me, willing me to . . . shut-up?  Please.

I go on singing, laughing inside as I return to my seat, wondering, why do I even want to get her started?

Her evil eyes continue staring, while one foot planted on the porch pumps the swing harder, threatening to pitch us both.

“Three weeks, Diamond.  Just how long are you staying?” Vie asks.

“I don’t know.  Probably not much longer with yesterday’s episode.”  Now I’ve got her animated attention.

“That was brilliant,” she says, applauding, suddenly halting the swing.

My expression to her now says, “Vie, keep quiet,” my head cocked towards the kitchen door.  I didn’t want Mom to know about it.  In a low voice I say, “But did you notice how he looked at me when we were introduced?  Like he’d been expecting to meet me . . . What was that all about?”

“Yeah.  You caught that?” she says leaning forward, staring at me steady.  “I thought you were too busy barfing to notice, which let me tell you was awesome,” her face filled with admiration.  “You sure got his attention and everyone else’s.  Jackie was furious.  All this concern over ‘little Ms. Goody Two Shoes,’” Vie says.  “It was great.  You should have seen him.

After that first, what would you call it? . . . ‘Distrust?’ . . . Anyway; he couldn’t stop trying to think up ways to get you out.  If he didn’t have to leave for an important appointment, he would’ve stayed all morning.  Girl, you’re good.  I would never have thought of that.   Though, it’s a good thing you didn’t get anything on his shoes.”

She’s got to be kidding.

“Vie, I didn’t pull anything. . . Why would I?  To do all that to get his attention?  I don’t think so.  Anyway, he’s married.  That’s probably more up you and Jackie’s alley.  I’ll leave him for you and Jackie to fight his wife over. . . But I do wonder what that look was all about.”  

And he does remind me of Seneca.  But I won’t tell Vie that.  I’d be sabotaging my own peace for sure.  Somehow she’d find a way to use that information against me.  I don’t want to give her any more ammo.

But thinking back, I remember the closer Mr. Riley came, the sicker I got.  Coincidence?  Was it that I didn’t have breakfast when I took my cough medicine?  Or was it his resemblance to Seneca?

Vie’s attention returns to something in the newspaper.  What’s got her reading? I wonder.  Usually she carries a tabloid or some magazine about music or men—not necessarily in that order; but Mom sporadically provides the newspaper.  At those times she’ll join us on the porch with her coffee for a discussion of the column, “Ask Agnes.”  Mom or one of us would read the column, because the questions people ask Agnes spark some animated discussions between us, stimulating and fun.  Sometimes, the problems folded us over in laughter, and at others we were silent in sympathy; contemplative.

I hope Mom feels the same as me, knowing that Vie views them stupid. 

Why?  We all have problems.  Lately, small ones absorb my brain space.  For example, one comes in the body of Jacqueline Slaughter, my co-worker.  If eyes are the mirror of the soul, then I look into infernos whenever she looks my way.  We’re always at odds and I can’t understand the reason.  But I try to remember that everyone can’t and won’t like you; yet it doesn’t help.  I keep trying, though it feels useless.

Oh well, for current needling problems. 

The other?  The filing system, which I believe is closely connected to my first problem.  No matter how much I organize them they stay a mess.  Needed files mysteriously continue to disappear and reappear in the strangest places, like in the bathroom magazine rack; under the napkins by the coffee maker; even in my trash can. 

Maybe a video recorder will reveal the culprit—snap!  You’re caught, Jackie.  At least I think it’s her.  Fortunately, I believe Mr. Peters knows it’s sabotage. 

So really, my troubles aren’t food for the columns.  They’re petty, but somewhat stressful when compounded with other petty maneuvers.  But when we read, “Ask Agnes,” they pale in insignificance—the reason we enjoy reading them; being someone else’s drama, obliterating ours.  Or at least minimizing them, temporarily.

I feel Vie staring. 

“Okay, Vie. What’s the question?”

Vie cracks open the newspaper and reads:

“Dear Agnes,

Everyone wants to know what to do about love; and I’m no exception.  I love a married man ten years my senior, but the issue is not age.  Recently, I’ve discovered that my mother and I love the same man.  What should I do?

Signed Shell-shocked.”

What in the world! . . . Why is this topic of interest to Vie?  Something’s up.  With Vie never put down your guard.  Yes, some things never change.

Stretching her leg to reactivate the swing she asks, “So, Diamond.  What’d you think?”

“It’s not an issue; he’s married.  Case closed.”

“Not so fast.  So he’s married.  And?”

“And it matters to me.”

“Come off it Diamond; what’s the problem?  If he wants to stay married he will.  So let’s discuss it.  My thinking about it is the mother had her life; now it’s the daughter’s turn.”

“If it were your real mom’s . . . ?”

“Even if I knew my real mother there’d be no discussion.  Obviously, it’s every man, woman and child for themselves.  So I’d say to ‘Shell-shocked,’ show him what you’ve got, honey, and let the best woman win.”

“But what about this mother, the one that raised and cared for you all this time?  You couldn’t do that to her, could you?  I mean if the man was single.  I know your mother has principles, even if you don’t.”

“In a heartbeat.”

“Vie, you’re crazy.  Why would you want to?” I ask, amazed that she didn’t take time to consider her answer.  “Vie, she’s been good to you. . . And anyway,” I continue, realizing I’m probably not reaching her, “I don’t think your mother would even look at a boyfriend of yours, Vie.  He’d be a baby to her.”

Vie’s adoptive mother is probably fifty-six or so.

But Vie’s eyes shoot sparks.  “What?  I couldn’t pull one old enough for her to want?  Is that what you’re saying?”

Actually, that wasn’t what I meant.  If anything, I thought that if Vie’s mother had a male friend Vie would probably go after him no matter what age just for spite.  She would probably   want to ruin it.  But I can’t tell her that.

After everything that Vie’s mother done for her, you couldn’t make me believe that she didn’t want Vie’s happiness.  Poor woman.  She’ll probably die trying.  And what’s even sadder, Vie expects that everyone else should die trying too.

“No Vie.  I’m not saying anything of the sort.  I just know that any man your mom would want would be ancient to you,” I explain containing my smile.  “Everyone knows that you can make a blind man beg,” for peace and mercy, and to PLEASE leave me alone, I want to finish.

Granted, Vie has bloomed, but the pain from her thorns has you licking your wounds.  Too hurt to even notice any scent of the flower.  But still, no man—young or old, married or single, crippled or otherwise is safe from her vanity. 

Not appeased, Vie glares at me; so I stare at her belly-button ring, since she’s always exposing it.  The piercing had to be painful.  

“Vie, how long before that stopped hurting?”

“What’s it to you?  You’ll never get one.”

“You’re probably right.  But how long anyway?  Just for ‘GP’—General purpose.” 

“Diamond, did you hear me?”

“Yeah, yeah, I heard you.”

“Then what’s your answer?”  She continues, “Could there remain peace in Diamond’s house if she and her mother, Crystal, love the same man?  Stay tuned, folks, for the answer.” 

“Quiet, Vie!”

Vie loves doing impersonations and the announcer’s voice is pretty good, but too loud.  Our Jekyll and Hyde now playful, leans eagerly forward with both feet flat on the floor.

“Mom’s in the kitchen,” I say.

Actually, Mom and I haven’t done much interacting lately; but why should she have to get involved in this pointless discussion?

“She is? . . .Ms.  Knight, come on out!” she shouts, twisting towards the back door.  “Diamond, tell her to come out.  I want to hear what she says. . . Why isn’t she out here anyway?”

At that moment Mom opens the door loosing a wonderful whiff of bacon and sausage as she sticks out her head.  She must be feeling pretty generous again.

“Hey girls.  Breakfast is ready,” breakfast foods her one claim to ‘cooking.’

“Ms. Crystal,” Vie interrupts, the aspirant arsonist wielding tongue of flame.  “Today’s topic . . . you and Diamond love the same married man, so who gets him?” asks Vie.

Mom looks shocked.  Opens the door wide enough to allow us through. 

“Love the same married man?  My goodness, Vie,” she exclaims, elegant in pencil leg green wool pants and a black pullover, “it’ll never happen.  Come on in, let’s eat.”

I admire her smooth answer, but not Vie.  

“But what if it did?” she pushes, refusing to budge from the swing until Mom answers.

I stare at Vie; then I look at Mom, coming to her aid.  “Mom, you don’t have to answer her.”

She smiles at me, a bit wistfully?

“No it’s okay. I can answer,” she says, shutting the door, while for a second gazing out the porch window as if back into time?  The doorframe supports her slim frame, then she begins, now looking at Vie.  “First . . . that can’t happen.  If Madame—Diamond’s grandmother, taught us anything, it’s, ‘Married men are off-limits.’”

Vie sits up straight, ear ringed eyebrow cocked, elbows on knees, chin in hand, while Mom continued:

“If a man can’t be loyal to his wife, then he won’t be loyal to you,” she went on, while again gazing out of the window.  Though, if he were married and stayed faithful to his wife while loving you, there’s something sort of noble in that, don’t you think?” she asks, turning to us.

Surprised at her comment I think, actually, it still feels disloyal.  How could anyone faithful allow that to happen?  But I say, “I don’t know.  I never gave that any thought.”

Vie just sits with a smirk on her face.

“Anyway, I doubt that’ll happen,” Mom says back from ‘La-Dream Land.’  “I just thought.”

“Okay,” Vie says.  “Nix the marriage issue.  He’s single, okay?  Who gets him?”

Mom speaks right up, “If that could happen, Diamond, of course,” she says glancing towards me.  Her tone gets strong, accusatory, “Vie, although you know I’ve been married before, you don’t know me.  But I was young when I married Seneca, which again you know ended in divorce,” she says her eyes dropping.  “But marriage to Steve was heaven.  Sixteen beautiful years we had together.  So why shouldn’t it be Diamond’s turn for love?” she concluded, looking Vie straight in the eye.

“Really?  And you say I don’t know you.  Hum.  Okay.  So, Crystal, how’d it feel?  Let’s get to know you.  Divorce?  What’s it like?”

What?!  I can’t believe Vie.  Is she crazy? I wonder, turning to glare at her.  Why did she have to go there?  How can she be so insensitive?

“I don’t know what to tell you, Vie.  How do you think it would feel?  Then, I’ll tell you if that’s the way it is,” Mom responds, again looking intently at her.

Yeah!  Thata girl!  Mom proves she can handle herself.

But Vie again leans back and crosses her leg, while again rocking the swing, superior.  “I don’t know.  A lot of people get divorced; but I’d probably feel humiliated; angry, want to make him pay.  I’d find a way to get back at him.  Is that how you feel?”

Mom’s face crumbles, her eyes glistening with tears.  I want to slap Vie flat across her face.  Smack away that smugness, bringing tears to her eyes.  But before I can respond, Mom says, “No Vie.  I don’t feel that way.  We were kids then . . . and things happened.  Things that I don’t choose to talk about with you.  But Steve more than made up for that time.”

I remain quiet.  Really, I wanted to know for years how Mom felt about Seneca, but I didn’t dare ask.  I remembered him back then.  So wonderful.  And Mom felt the same, if not more so.  Her strong feelings for him back then kept me in hot water.

Does intensity like that just fade?

I never asked.  I felt I had no right.  And what does Vie do?  Just burst right in without regard to anyone’s feeling.  But it’s amazing.  Mom somehow seemed to escape the bitterness I felt about his rejection.  He just up and left us without looking back.  That memory just boiled my blood. 

Mom really has restraint—especially regarding Vie.

But I continued to think, maybe sometimes you just want to vent to someone regardless--.

Again proud of Mom and wanting to reemphasize to Vie what a woman Mom can be, I chime in, “And Mom, didn’t you say Steve was terminally ill the last five years of his life?  I know that wasn’t a picnic.” 

“No.  No it wasn’t.  But Diamond, Steve couldn’t help that.  And I promised, ‘In sickness and in health;’ so I took care of him in the house we bought together. I still loved him.  That’s what you do when you love someone. . . And yes, sometimes it was lonely; but it’s okay.  I’ve got you now, right?” she says now close enough to ruffle my hair.  “Besides, I can now ‘find myself.’”

What she says softens my former irritation.  I actually felt needed again when she said the words, “I have you.”

I think, I’ve made the right choice—despite Madame’s wishes.  If Mom desires me here, then here is where I’ll be.  “Rome wasn’t built in a day” was Madame’s quote too.  

Mom is saying, “Now, come on girls,” her voice regaining some of its earlier excitement.  “Breakfast is getting cold.  I’ve splurged.   Today I have a feast prepared.  Come!” she orders.  “Vie, you’re going to eat aren’t you?  No diets today?” 

Vie always says she’s on some sort of diet; then she pigs out.

Vie looks at my mother and I can’t decipher the meaning behind her expression, though I can imagine.  But it doesn’t matter.  The things Mom said assure me that given time and opportunity, she could be the essence of motherhood, something I plan on granting.

“Vie, your tongue ring.  It won’t catch on bagels, will it?” Mom asks.

Well, Mom’s only human.

*Diamond has now initiated her own column: Dear Diamond.

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