“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.”
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?”
“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.
“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.”
“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.