“Diamond. Telephone,” Mom calls from the bottom of the stairs.
For me? thinking, I heard it ring minutes ago.
“Okay Mom . . . I’m coming!” I yell back grabbing a robe, skipping the stairs two-at-a-time down to the kitchen; again thinking, we’ve got to get an upstairs phone.
Picking up the receiver from the kitchen table, I recognize, Vie.
“Why didn’t you call me on my phone?”
“I forgot the number.”
Why was I upset? It couldn’t have been Cowen anyway. Wouldn’t he call my cell phone if it were he? I gave it to him at the funeral.
“Anyway, Diamond, what’s this? We keep secrets now?”
“Sure, Vie.”—here we go. “So, which secret do you want to discuss?”
“The one about you and Cowen Riley.”
This touches a funny bone. “Me and Cowen Riley. When did this happen? You know something I don’t?” rather flattered by the coupling.
“About you chasing Cowen Riley.”
“Chasing him? . . . Me? . . . No Vie. That would be Jackie’s arena.” Or even yours, I might add.
“Oh . . . of course, Ms. beautiful Diamond Dupree doesn’t have to chase anyone, right? . . . So he’s already yours? . . . So soon after wifey dies? Wow, girlfriend, you’re good. What do they say, ‘not even a chance for the dirt to settle?’”
“Vie. . . Tell me this isn’t why you called. . . Not with this garbage?”
“No, actually.” Her smugness conveyed through the wire. “I’m calling to give you a warning. You know I like a little drama—a little? And lately you seem to be smack in the middle of a juicy one.”
There’s always drama when Vie’s around. What’s different?
“I know you can’t be talking about Jackie; I already know about her. And there isn’t any other drama to talk about.”
“Really? Well, you’re going to meet Cowen for brunch, right?”
How does she know about that?
“Yeah; well; so? We can’t eat together. If you must know, he needs to talk with me about something, probably work. . . But what do you care?”
And why am I explaining myself to her?
“Care, Diamond?” she says in a totally controlled tone. “You confuse me with someone else. I don’t care. That used to be you. But remember, Diamond, I said I had a warning for you. Believe it or not I actually kinda like you; so listen up.
Maybe you should give Cowen some space,” she says. “He’s got issues he need to clear up.”
“Why do you think you know his business? Where do you get your information? From Jackie?”
“Actually, my source is perfect, but it is mine. I’m just giving you some advice. He’s not ready and neither are you, so just leave him along. Go back to whatever you do in New York, then contact him later. Actually, he’s too old for you. You don’t want to work forever in an insurance agency, do you? You get with him and that’s all you’ll do. So take my advice and go home.”
Well I’ve got advice for her too, get a life, but you hear me voicing it?
Before she says anything else on the subject, I say, “I’ll think about your advice, Vie. Thanks,” for whatever, I conclude hanging up.
Puzzled, I stand with the receiver in my hand. Right before hanging up she said, “And your hold may be slippery than you think. You’d better keep your eyes open.”
What was that all about? Darn it. The kitchen clock shows I’m late.
I hurry back upstairs, excited—ignoring her cryptic message—and through a shower, slipping on a simple pair of wool jersey slacks and a white silk blouse, so as not to appear frantic, since this is all very casual. Later, Cowen said he’d follow me to the airport to drop off the rental car, then drop me back home. Thinking ahead I anticipate a couple of good strong hours with him alone.
Especially since after the funeral Cowen couldn’t break away to talk to me like he requested. But it was okay. I didn’t really think that a house full of mourners the right place for intimate conversation, especially since they were there for him—former workmates and clients crowded his home, showing of his popularity. I sat there on the sofa proud to know him. I wondered after again visualizing the room, which, if any, was the one Vie warmed me about.
Funny, I did remember overhearing Vie telling Jackie about someone who kept calling his private line. Jackie thought the woman irritated him. Jackie even heard the words “restraining order.”
Poor Cowen. But what did I expect; a man that handsome would have admirers. A lot of them; even crazy ones.
Though, why should I believe Vie, and what was Jackie doing answering his private line?
And if at all possible I need Vie to keep out of my business, because maybe something is brewing between Cowen and me. What of it? He could do worst. And it’s not as if I planned it. Before I knew about his wife’s illness I actually planned on leaving. And I actually do feel bad about her death.
But I can’t think about her now; I want to hear what Cowen has to say with a clear conscious.
After I finish dressing I call for Mom; but she isn’t around. I tried to remember what she had on, because then I’d know where she was headed. Then I remembered I didn’t see her this morning. Whatever she wore would be nice though. Lately she has gone back to dressing up. She takes care of her appearance. Whenever together, no one ever thought her my mother—always a sister.
I guess Steve’s death gave her more determination than ever to stay healthy; so she really keeps her weight down. The only thing I worry about is her drinking. That’s why if Cowen and I do get together it’ll be nice staying close to keep an eye on her.
Before I leave, Vie is at my door, arms spread out against both sides of the doorframe. She didn’t even give herself time to apply her makeup.
What is this?
Blocking my exit she says, “Wait a minute! I just wanna look. . . Nice. Not overdone. Very Classy. You dress like the same old Diamond, but two months and you’re keeping secrets and sneaking off. The Diamond we all knew and loved would never do that; take advantage of a weak man? Never. Or maybe we didn’t really know her. Hum. . . So,” she says with a grin, “I just wanted to see what this new woman on the prowl looks like. I guess the same.”
I stand seething calmly.
“Take advantage of a weak man? No Vie. That would be you.”
She continues to grin casual against the door-jam. “Maybe; maybe not. But this isn’t about me, is it? It’s about you Diamond . . . about how you’ve changed. What about those little principles of yours? I thought I saw some when you came.”
I’ve had it.
“Honestly, Vie! Spit it out. What are you talking about? What principles am I ignoring? You’re not interested in him, are you? Is this what this conversation is really about?”
This is actually a strange thought. Vie and I interested in the same man. . . Is that possible? She isn’t is she. . . Not an insurance agent?
I knew she played with him, but that’s all. I need to know.
“Vie. . . Are you interested in Cowen?”
She gazes down at herself running her hands down the front of her jeans. “Wouldn’t you like to know,” she says glancing up at me beneath her lashes.
It strikes me that a comparison is being made, but I just say, “Yes, I would; yes I would like to know. Are you?”
“Not for marriage, if you get my drift,” she finishes, the tips of her fingers squeezed into her front pockets hunching her shoulders.
“So what is it? Why can’t I be interested in him?”
“Because he’s not your type. He’s insurance. You’re designer. He wants a wife at home. You’re a career woman. You want more?” says this woman of wisdom.
“Well thank you for your observations, but why don’t you just let me and Cowen work it out, okay? Be happy for me.”
“Be happy for you? Is there something to be happy about?”
“Yes,” I want to shout. . . He’s interested in me.
Shaking my head I say, “Vie. If you’ll excuse me I’ve got to go.”
With a large sweep of the arm she lets her arm drop with a flourish, letting me pass like, “Godspeed.”
And I do. I slip past her and down the front steps, furious.
Why was she grinning like that?
It actually sent chills along my back.
I think; what did I expect? I wouldn’t want to be interested in the same guy she’s interested in. But did she care? No. So why should I?
Honestly. All this fuss about a brunch date.
Suddenly it’s funny; I giggle as I pull away from the curb catching a glimpse of Vie on the sidewalk under the oak staring after me.