“How cozy. You and Riley all buddy buddy,” Vie said dragging out his name, her boots once again on the seat, arms wrapped around her knees. “You’re fast,” she needled, though I drove her home after my workday.
So it was my turn. “I don’t know, Vie. Mr. Riley promised business opportunity meetings. And he seems pretty motivational to me. You see how the other agents reacted. They were lit.” Flipping the script, I continued; “I bet he can put a fire under you.”
Not meaning to sound like Jackie, I hurried on without at a glance at her. “And you heard him say he gives incentive awards. How much you make is up to you.”
“Fire, huh? Well; maybe; but Diamond, you know office work is not my thing. Please. . . . I’m just along for the ride”—literally, I thought.
Though expecting Vie’s response, I continued to push. “Come on, you wouldn’t like getting paid to prance around the men all day?” I ribbed.
Laughing, her gaze swung back towards me. Looking directly into my eyes she said, “Hey. Maybe, you’ve got something there,” finally taking her boots off the seat. Again facing forward she stretched out her feet, her hands behind her head as if contemplating the thought, as we headed home.
“He sure dresses sharp,” Vie observed, as if visualizing him.
“Yeah, he does,” I agreed. “Do you think it’ll motivate the guys? You must’ve seen the way they eyed his clothes.”
“Yeah. Humph. Who needs a hundred Mr. Rileys?”
Why not? It won’t be half bad.
Actually, I could see it happening overnight with Mr. Riley’s charisma and example. Already today the male agents tucked in their shirts and tighten their ties—as if we wouldn’t notice, while Mr. Riley stood at the white board. He took off his jacket, cuffed his shirtsleeves and helped everyone understand deductibles, while looking executively crisp.
And his suits? Not some rack attack. Definitely tailor-made. I envisioned him entering each day dressed in navy blue pin stripes, heather grays.
“Vie, did you hear Mr. Riley recommend shops? . . . That was pretty unselfish of him, don’t you think,” I asked, finding myself smiling.
“Maybe . . . but why? Again, what’s wrong with their clothes?” she asked.
“I don’t think he meant that. It’s just, look at the guys. Do they look professional to you? No wonder sales are down. Mr. Riley just wants to take the shop to a new level—a classier level to impress future clients. Dignify the agency.”
I admired the direction he was going.
“And Vie, what about Jackie? Do you think she’s going to change her style?” I wondered, amused. Though, if she does I suspect it’ll be for different reasons. “Maybe less provocative?”
“Maybe, maybe not,” Vie smirked. “But, Cowen did tell her to ‘tone it down.’”
“No he didn’t. He said that?’ I asked, shocked, both hands gripping the steering wheel as I kept looking at her to see if she’s serious.
‘Naw. You’re kidding.”
“I can’t imagine. . . He didn’t say that, did he? He just got here. Tell me; what did he really say?’
Vie laughed. “You think you know him already?”
“Don’t you? He seems pretty open.”
“Yeah. Okay, I’ll give you that; he does. . . Anyway, when we were leaving today, he said it to Mr. Peters and she overheard.”
“Said what? What did he say?” I demanded. It seemed important to know, though I couldn’t say why.
“Wow, Diamond; he’s married.”
“Yeah? What does that have to do with anything? Just tell me what he said?”
“Well. He said it kind of in a loud whisper,” she continued, her arm over her headrest as she faced me. “At first I thought he was kidding, but I guess he wasn’t.”
“Okay, okay” she says, quitting the stalls. “He just said to Mr. Peters, looking at Jackie’s outfit, ‘No wonder the men aren’t “out” bringing “in” policies.’ And he wasn’t smiling. She must’ve heard; she was standing kind of near. I did, and I was farther away.”
“Being the new boss, and hot at that, she’d better get on his good side. Don’t you think?”
She’s a smart chick, I thought. She’ll know what to do. Though, isn’t Jackie engaged? I wondered. Now all her future efforts may include or will be directed totally towards Mr. Riley.
Probably. . . But that shouldn’t concern me; I’m not in a race.
“You know, Diamond. Jackie hates your guts?” Vie offered unsolicited.
And I hadn’t noticed? Like she hid it? Sometimes I’m sincerely amused by it. Jackie’s attractive, sexy and older than me; yet she always watches me, as if we’re after the same thing. But we aren’t, so what’s her problem?
I glanced over at Vie as if to say, “And?” then decided to ask, “Do you know why?”
“Um-a-um,” she pretends, shrugging her shoulders. “Why don’t you ask her?”
“Because it’s not that serious,” I answer just as casual. “I just figured since you brought it up you wanted to tell me.”
And it isn’t important, though I believed I knew. The guys. I kid with them all the time, but I’m the new girl. This is her territory. No bonding, talking and laughing. This puts hatred, or something similar to fury in her eyes. And even today, despite last Friday’s scene, when Mr. Riley had a few funny words for me, Jacqueline Slaughter looked like she could grind glass with her bare gums and spit them at me. If only she knew how uncomfortable Mr. Riley makes me she wouldn’t consider me a threat.
“I notice that after you left his office you didn’t talk much with Mr. Riley,” Vie interrupts. “Why is that? Don’t you like him?” she asked, her eyes accusing, “I know you do.”
I said, ‘He’s nice enough; I don’t know him yet.’
“I thought you said you did,” she said, grinning.
“I didn’t answer,” I say still seated beside the fireplace, after replaying this whole morning’s scenario to Mom in a low voice. She? Sprawled out on the sofa, dead to the world.
“Truth is he’s very likable, Mom. He’s compassionate and understanding, but his strong resemblance to Seneca makes things awkward. Gets under my skin. I swing back and forth between like and dislike.”
Maybe she hears me. Knowing she doesn’t, I get up, tucking the throw tighter around her body still dressed in a red wool crepe dress from her afternoon excursion.
That should be news to her, my dislike of Seneca. If she did hear what would she say?
Reseating myself in the wing chair, I think about her afternoon, wondering; what brought her in so early today? And also . . . what made that necessary? My main question facing me. Another empty bottle.
This time whiskey; straight?