Scavenging through the refrigerator, I find chicken, olives and a can of diet ice tea. Grabbing a couple of napkins, I head back to the table.
I hear Vie running up the back porch steps; then she bursts through the door, panting, “Did you hear the news?”
“No; what news?” I ask, though more intrigued with, why were we added to her gossip drops?
Mom looks only mildly curious, still slowly turning the pages of a new boutique catalog.
“Mrs. Riley killed herself?”
“What!” I shout turning towards Mom’s, “Diamond!” as she wipes soda from her pages.
Soda? Is that all she can think about when someone dies? I wonder spinning back to Vie.
“Vie, are you talking about Cowen’s wife? That Mrs. Riley?”
“One and the same.”
Oh no; what happened?
“Oh, that’s horrible news,” Mom says glancing up, but still thumbing through the pages, dabbing at wet spots with her napkin. “What happened?”
“Man, Mom. I can’t believe it; she committed suicide. She took her own life? Vie told Jackie that she was depressed and all, but I didn’t think it was that bad; not that I knew anything about her, really. That makes me feel worst. It was like she didn’t exist; now she actually doesn’t. He must feel awful. I know he does. I would.”
“Well, it wasn’t like you had a lot of opportunities to talk to him . . . right? I mean, you mostly did your work and he was gone a great deal of time? There was no time to get too personal, otherwise you would have told me.”
“No we didn’t get the chance to talk a lot, but we did work together on the decorating project. I guess I had an opportunity to ask about her then, but I never even thought to. Now she’s dead. It feels kind of awkward. I don’t know what to say.”
“Well death and funerals are awkward. But you didn’t know. I’m sure he doesn’t expect a lot from you. Seems to me that he’s been pretty private about the whole affair anyway. You didn’t know because he didn’t bring it to the office.”
“Yeah, you’re right. If he wanted me to know, he would have said something. But now I wish I’ve had to opportunity to meet her.”
“To see what type of woman Mr. Riley would marry.”
“Why would you want to know that?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Just curious I guess,” I said dropping my head over my plate. Shocked with the realization that I wondered if she were anything like me.
I’m also shocked that Mom and I are even discussing anything at this length. Matter-of-fact, this past week her mood’s improved. She’s begun playing the piano again, and she’s stopped the constant drinking. She’s even cooking again. So now I find it somewhat easy to talk to her.
Plus, I’m pretty sure that night she said she wished I were dead wasn’t directed at me. She was sleepwalking in her nightmare.
“So when is the funeral?” Mom asks.
“Friday,” I say while getting up.
“Where are you going, honey? I’m enjoying this; I thought we would stay in and talk awhile. It’s been ages since we’ve just sat around and enjoyed each other’s company.”
What’s gotta into her?
“I’m about to run to the mall and pick up something for Mrs. Riley’s funeral. I didn’t know that I would need any attire like that when I was in New York, so I didn’t bring anything back.”
“Oh, honey, you don’t have to worry about that. I have plenty of black dresses, unless you just want to own your own. Matter-of-fact, I have something that I know you’ll love. Hold on a sec.” Mom hurries from the kitchen and comes back with a fabulous simple black knit dress unlike anything I’ve seen.
She says, “It’s a designer original.”
“Mom, it’s beautiful. I can’t … you keep it.”
“Diamond don’t be foolish. Actually, you can have it. It has a large enough hem so we get it ready for you, okay?”
“If you’re sure.”
I fall in love with it, not just because it’s beautiful, but also because it’s the only dress that I can remember Mom giving me. Yes, I would like to own my own dress, but I definitely didn’t mind wearing this one. I thought that I would look great in it.
“Diamond. Why don’t you go and pick up the car and drive it to the funeral? The dealer finished it a few days ago now. They had been dragging their feet, but I had them put a rush on it. If I had a man around, they wouldn’t delay the way they do when it’s a single female.”
She was probably right.
“Sure Mom. I’ll do that the first thing tomorrow morning.”