Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Chapter Forty-Seven & Epilogue...Is She On To Me?


Chapter Forty-Seven




I heard the door open, but not close.

A second later, the flick of a switch—the kitchen’s ceiling fan and a click of the stove burner. . . . On or off?

Now I feel her over me.  Amazingly, through the slits of my eyes, the concern etched across her features surprisingly warms me, watching as she stoops to peer into my face. . .

“Gawd, Diamond!”

“What!” my body jerking from her fright.

Vie stares down at me disgusted? . . . Why?

“I thought you were dead.  Don’t ever scare me like that again.   And what’s that smell?  Gawd, Diamond, you stink,”—her words curbing any spot of humor I’d ordinarily feel towards her fear.

Fine.   Leave me alone and let me sleep . . . on the floor? I realize; arching my back trying to snap out its stiffness.

Ah.  I recall last night’s drama, asking; “Where’s Crystal?” not remembering her rising.

“Why you wanna know?  To pin that on her?” my eyes following Vie’s to a toppled empty wine bottle at my knees.

“That . . . that’s not mine,” I manage despite a tongue thick and heavy, a mouth gone sour.  “Look, Vie.  Though it’s no concern to you; I didn’t drink all that,” I defend myself against this mound of mock squatting before me. 

Crystal.  It belongs to her; it’s not mine.  Speaking of which. . .

“Vie, where’s Crystal?” I ask again.  “Why aren’t you answering? . . . Is she in her bedroom?” the unbelievable reality of her leaving me on the floor painful, especially after I returned for her.

Absolutely incredible.

“No, Diamond.   Not there either.   Probably ran thinkin you were gonna kill her.”

“What?  What are you talking about? … Kill her? … You’re crazy.”

I stare at her waiting for her to explain.

“The stove, stupid.  I saved your life.  You forgot to turn it off . . . right?” the usual glint back in her eyes.

Backing up she begins to smirk.  “Don’t tell me Mom’s tryin to get rid of you, wee lil’ Diamond?” she asks, while her hand strokes her chin in wonderment.  “Wow.  I guess I really did save your life.   Well, how bout that?” she gloats, now leaning against the dining room table; arms folded across her leather jacket covering the outfit . . . she wore yesterday?

Or is this the same day?

“Well, well.  I say you owe me,” this meaningless pronouncement breaking my train of thought; though her first words. . .

Kill me.  That’s ridiculous.  Crystal wouldn’t do that? . . . Why would she want to? as the number one reason comes to mind.

But she couldn’t; could she? . . . Would she?

Remembering her look of hatred quickly saps my energy; leaves my body limp with this extreme desire for no more pain.  This thought: just let me die, shocking me into questioning my sanity.

I quickly recognize the root stems from Vie and her bogus insinuations.

Yes.  Vie is the negative and hateful one.  There’s no reason for me to think about death.

Yes.  Shake it loose, Diamond.  Crystal turned off the pilot when she lit her cigarette, remember?  Otherwise, the house would’ve blown up already?  Right?   And why turn it back on? . . . . Lose the house because of me?

Ludicrous!

Though, does the house really matter to her?

But she was too drunk to be that deliberate, right? I ask, again envisioning that occasional flash of hatred in her eyes.

No, I deny again, though my hand and heart flutters contradict my rational mind.  Dropping my head to my knees, a faint groan escapes my throat, but my heart’s pace increases.  Yet, my mind’s constant reasoning hangs steady intend on winning me logically.

Physically exhausted, a familiar release strains against my lids.  Months into years I’ve fought this exact moment.  Face-to-face with the complete brutal truth: Crystal and Madame both hate me.   I knew it.  Always did.  Just wouldn’t believe it.  And here Vie stands to make sure I get it.

Okay, I get it! gripping the thin fabric on my knees, I snort, unexpectedly snorting again, my hand covering my mouth trying to suppress spewing sobs born from these recent revelations suddenly curling me into a ball, the piano’s leg hard against my back.  I let loose, my body jerking in spasm, each convulsion tightening my muscles, negative truths attacking my temples.  Disturbing moans continue to escape me as if some wounded wolverine lies dying within.

After some time, hiccups arrive, the leather of my jacket a horrible cold handkerchief to my drippy nose, while shadows across the living room’s mantel further confuse me as to the time of day.

“Gawd, Diamond.  How long are you gonna lie there?” Vie’s disgusted tone emphasizing the true state of our association.

Seeing the tips of her dirty cowboy boots, I ball up further to escape the obvious: that she’s incapable of blinking in sympathy. 

“Come off it, Priss Miss.  Stop your sniffing or I’ll help?” a glance revealing a hand poised to slap me her offer.

Amazingly the hiccups retreat and the occasional tear ceases in anger, let her try it, my thought and stare; but my joints boycott efforts to get up.

“I can’t believe you,” she continues, though backing up.  “Who would believe this is the same Queen Bee stepping up in here not long ago.  Look at you.  And I thought I needed your help.  And just what‘d you do if your life really was bad?” she asks.

But Vie hasn’t a clue to my real situation, I think, staring up; fed up.  Maybe she’d be a little more sympathetic, if she did.

Holding out my hand I tell Vie to, “Help me up.”  Instead she folds her arms tight beneath her breasts infuriating me further.

Then I hear her; her “Meow.”  Then again.

Angling towards the front door, I again try to stand.

“Don’t you dare,” Vie screams.  “Don’t you dare let that crazy cat in here!” she repeats, skirting the dining room table into the far corner, rattling the glass knick-knacks on the curio’s shelves, her voice rattling too.

Vie terrified of a cat?  Why? I wonder, finding some energy to refocus.

“That stupid cat attacked Crystal.  Do you hear me?  I saw her.  Crystal came practically skipping outta here when that cat dropped on her from that tree like she was waiting for her,” she explains, while pointing out of the window, more animated than I’ve seen her recently. She continues, “Crystal screamed and could barely tear her off her.  I bet she’s still on her way to the hospital now.  I thought I saw her face bleeding.”

Staring at Vie, who doesn’t bulge an inch from her corner with her eyes bucked in horror, the craziness of the whole situation almost caused me to shout with laughter.

A scarred face is the only way to get a rise out of Vie?

No longer suspicious about who caused the cat’s disfigurement, I swing back towards the continuing “meows,” seeing her distorted though still beautiful face reminding me of another marred beauty.

“Prudence.”

“What?”

“Nothing.”

Nothing that she’d care to understand, but the cat now had a name.

Prudence, for Prudence Nobles—though Prudence would never attack anyone.  

Yes, Prudence cared about people, although she needed help herself.  The cat reminded me of her.  Though crippled by age, her inner strength and beauty still glows like the cats’.  Somehow, despite their tragedies they continued to cherish their independent lives.

And look at me.

Suddenly, I’m embarrassed; my plight pathetically not a problem.  It took a name to remind me that I had my own life apart from this back in New York.

So why am I still sitting here?

Someone once said, “When it gets dark enough, then you see the stars.”  Inwardly smiling, I bless Prudence, visualizing her face, old, yet content, happy, always positive, realizing, that’s the to way live—live your absolute longest with dignity.

With renewed effort, I crawl to my feet.  I saw survival through the cat, Prudence, and amazingly Vie’s situation.  She was right.  My drama disappeared.  I had no reason not to live my life with joy.

Bending, flexing, then groaning before heading to the stairs, Vie’s, “Where are you going?” behind me causes my grin and my answer, “What do you care?” automatically springs to mind.  But I decide, no.  Leave it, hesitating only a second with my hand on the banister, before turning my head, smiling broader, answering with a great sense of satisfaction; “To shower.  I’ve got a plane to catch.”

Yes, after years of trying to please Crystal who left me laid out and alone in the dark, not to forget Madame also, the day finally beams bright.

I whisper the words, “I’m going home.”

“Good.  I’m going with you,” Vie answers back with the ears of an elephant.  “I want to hear you play that sax.”

“What?” I ask spinning around.

Play the sax?  Now how does she know about that? when I remember what I overheard—her and Sky.

“I want to hear you play at Sax. . . You know.  Do your advertising thing at the store. . . Sax Fifth Avenue, right?  You know you mentioned working that store before,” she says, wide-eyed and innocent.

“No Vie,” I answer, “I don’t think I did.”  But what her plans are I’m not interested in figuring out.   Right now I’ve got plans of my own to make.

In the meantime, “Vie, I need you to watch out for Prudence; you know--Emanon.  She’s got a real name now.  Watch her until I can come back for her;” then maybe I’ll help you.  With a child, HIV, and a boyfriend like Sky in her life I think she may need it.

“The cat?” Vie asks, repelled.

“Yes, Prudence the cat.  Convince her to trust you, then maybe I will.”

“A cat, huh? . . . Alright.  I think I can handle that,” she agrees with guarded assurance; some conceit.  “But for how long?  When will you be back?”

“I’ll let you know.”

But for now it’s time for me to fly like an eagle.

The End






Epilogue

Journal entry:

Fri., Nov. 29th:

Tonight she’s not alone.

She’s happy; proud to accommodate many guests captivated by her essence, her beauty enhanced by a Manhattan backdrop viewed in a windowed wall.  Mesmerizing too? Her entertainers; a trio—violinist, pianist and flutist, center stage.

No wails she utters, no need for envy; she gently sways in contentment.

My barge endured, now beautiful and strong. 

While fellow music lovers gather around the table sampling wine, coffee, and cookies I bite on the tip of my pen dangled over the page, wanting to laugh out loud.

Those words, beautiful and strong not only applied to the barge, they could and did apply to Cowen.  Cowen Riley whose face two weeks ago displayed wonderful shock when I informed him of my move back home to New York.

Why am I so tickled?

Could there be a slight satisfaction in knowing that maybe he wanted me around more than he cared to admit?

“So young lady.  What’s so funny?”—her southern drawl endearing.

I look up smiling into those twinkling watery eyes, though still intense, wanting to squeeze her frail little frame to life.   I had no words to describe how much I missed her company.

Finally I say, “Oh.  Just thinking about someone back in Chicago, that’s all.”

Prudence smiles back; “Well, Honey, I’m glad to see that you can still smile.” 

Looking at me a second longer she then asks, “How about a cup of tea after the performance?  My granddaughter and I would love your company.”

Smiling around Prudence to a young woman similar in age to myself, I then glance down at my new leather journal entitled, Beginnings, and ask, “How about a rain-check?” staying still as to my scheme to help Seneca capture Sky.

Thin dry fingers amazingly caress my shoulders in a gentle squeeze.

“A rain-check it is.”

As the musicians reclaimed the stage I quickly finished writing:

Yes I remember those two months; they revisited me involuntary and often, sometimes a nightmare; other times enlightening, a poignant reminder that even though growing up is a mountain hard to maneuver, the headiness you receive when you do exhilarates you . . . for the next climb.

I recall Prudence once quoted, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, which said, “Therefore, we do not give up, but even if the man we are outside is wasting away, certainly the man we are inside is being renewed from day to day.  For though the tribulation is momentary and light, it works out for us a glory that is of more and more surpassing weight and is everlasting; while we keep our eyes, not on the things seen, but on the things unseen. For the things seen are temporary, but the things unseen are everlasting.”

Shall I say “Amen”?