Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Chapter Thirty-One...Is She On To Me?





Chapter Thirty-One


           

“You’re going to have to run, Miss.  They’re already boarding.”

“But will my bags make it?”

“I can’t guarantee that, but you’ve got to hurry.”

Looking at the two pieces on the conveyor belt, I consider booking another flight to keep us together, just as the pieces disappear into the rubber slats.

Great . . . Oh well, too late now, I think, jetting off for the gate.

Trying to keep calm while hurrying I think, everything spelled incoming disaster—Vie’s persistency, her dress.  But what did I do?  I disregarded all the signs.  I know that when you deal with women and a man’s involved you can’t let down your guard. 

Buckled in while watching the flight attendant perform her ritual I try to relax.  I fail.  I keep thinking; and what did I do? rehashing the morning, remembering my promise not to let this happen again.

What a fool.  I guess I deserve it for being so stupid, though my jaws tighten in contradiction, furious because I feel I don’t really deserve this.

Accepting an orange juice and pretzels from the flight attendant, I look out the window.

“Wait one second.  I’ll come back with your drink,” she tells the passenger in the seat in front of me.

An older man struggles with the closing of an overhead compartment, in a hurry to vacant the aisle of the oncoming cart.  Another attendant pulling the cart turns; suggests, “Wait.  I’ll get that for you.”

Wait.

“Wait here,” Mr. Riley said, near his car in the agency’s parking lot, while he ran back inside to retrieve some files.  I had no time to compose myself before his quick return.  During the drive to the airport, he broke the silence with, “So what happened back there?  Is that you?” 

I remembered thinking, you chose to drive me; I didn’t ask.  What right do you have questioning me?  That was precisely why I didn’t want to accept the ride, I figured in retrospect.

“What do you mean, ‘Is that me’?  You mean how I usually dress?” I asked.

“No.  How you were acting before you noticed me.  What was that all about?  Is that usually you?  I would have sworn it wasn’t.”

I almost slumped down in the passenger seat, a sulky kid grabbing her knees in rebellion.  But I pictured Vie in Mom’s car.  Instead I folded my hands in my lap, irritated that I felt ashamed.  I visualized myself turning my head towards him, saying, “Mr. Riley.  Let me inform you that I’m a woman with a business of my own in New York.  It may not seem so, but I’m a designer with a rising name.  I just took this job to help out my mother.  Who you’ve been working with these past few weeks is not me.  So I’d appreciate you not acting as if you know me.”

But I say, “Mr. Riley, I’m sorry.  Actually, I don’t know what got into me.  Lately I haven’t been myself, but I had no idea you’d be there.  I would never intentionally disrespect you.  It won’t happen again,” since I’m not coming back.

I paused and he glanced at me smiling, said, “Thank-you for taking the time to explain.  I just feel that I’m a pretty good judge of character, and I was surprised.  I thought that maybe one of the guys caught your attention. But Diamond, you don’t need to dress like that to draw attention.  You already do.”

The whole incident then seemed to amuse him.  With my arm against the door, I glanced out of the window grateful for the constant flow of the traffic, as Mr. Riley told me that he came back because some needed papers were missing from his briefcase.  That told me that Vie and Jackie had anticipated the drama.

I thought; that’s okay.  You can fool some of the people some of the time.

We finished the drive in pleasant generalities, with me developing a greater respect for classy Mr. Riley.

At least I can thank Vie for reminding me to get my luggage--.

Reminding me to get my luggage as if she knew the car would be towed?  So what was the point of that?  I thought she didn’t want to see Mr. Riley and me together; though she did look shocked when he offered me a ride.  Actually Jackie looked even more shocked.  Was she really the one behind the tow?  If so serves her right.

Thought I don’t know how I didn’t see it coming.  And what would I have done if the luggage were left?  Let me try navigating that creek without a paddle with Nanette in the boat.  I would have been shipwrecked for sure.

Staring out of the plane’s window, I see Jackie’s face, her scorn slowly replaced with another’s from the not too distant past.  I relive it again amid the clouds.

I see her.  Again, seated right in front of the stage.  Always in the same spot.  But, today when he finishes, he looks over the crowd in my direction.  I’ve got his attention, I think looking down at my recently manicured hands clenched around the stem of my wine glass, though it isn’t the first time.

But she has his attention too.  And she isn’t happy.  I know it.  I saw it in her face when she turned around to scan the tables.  She searched for me off to her side, partly shadowed against the wall.

I think, she must be a girlfriend, growing warm.  Is it because of him, her or the wine? I wondered.

She taps the table with long red nails, but no music plays as the saxophonist names their next piece.

Ordinarily, she sits back, provocative, self-assured, maybe twenty-six and beautiful—a groupie turned girlfriend?  Now she sits stiff; inflexible.

After a couple of more numbers, the applause and whistling is deafening.  I restrain myself from standing, though I wish he knew how proud I am to be a part of his performance.  It felt special, like he really performed for me tonight. 

I continue to sit as couples and singles start to exit, while family and friends of the group mingle front stage.  I wait for the club to empty, while the musician’s disassemble their instruments.

“Hello.”

Wine splashes the table, as I realize, it’s her.  I didn’t see her coming, so intent on the stage.

“Hello,” I return, not comfortable with her presence.  This whole level of discomfort is unsettling.  Who is she?

“So you want to talk with Seneca?” she asked with no introduction, her words spoken with authority.

“Yes.  That’s right,” my napkin dabbing at the spill.

What’s it to her?  I feel I should be a bit more cordial—she just may be a girlfriend, but I can’t seem to help my building animosity.

“Regarding?”

“It’s personal.”

“I deal with his personal business.”

Suddenly I place myself in her shoes.  If she is a girlfriend, she has a right to know what I want.  The problem is, I don’t know what I want.

“Listen.  I’m sorry.  My name is Diamond.  Diamond Du--.”

“Jessie.”

The girl’s long blond hair almost slaps me across the face, while I inhale the scent of vanilla and smoke, as she turns to Seneca.  A smile now brightening her face, she says sweetly, “I’m coming,” before turning a glare in my direction.   She then glides over to Seneca, squatting down over the edge of the stage.  He says something to cause her further displeasure with me, but he smiles at me over her shoulder.

She returns to me taking a winding route through many tables, but with the same air.

“He wants to see you,” she says.  “If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you into the office.  You’ll be able to talk there,” flicking her hair; so dramatic, like in a teen-drama.

“Thank you,” I say, slightly pacified by Seneca’s attention.

I follow her through a door that says ‘For Personnel Only’ into a small dark office.  As she turns on the light, she says smiling, “Wait here.”

Wait here.

I did; I waited an eternity at the carousel.  After everyone else leaves as I come to the horrible realization that my luggage is lost.  The bench only provides physical support, as I contemplate my nervous breakdown. 

Oh god.  I have exactly two hours to meet Nanette and no outfits.  A day in Dante’s Inferno might prove to be a cruise in comparison to the way this day is going. 

I pace trying to think of how I could possibly redeem myself with Nanette, but my brain is frazzled.  I keep coming up short.  Then I recall that I have a few more items at home in the boxes I hadn’t unpacked.  But I had better call Nanette to let her know that I’ll be late.

Before I can dial, the phone rings.

“Hello?”

“Diamond.  Nanette.  Where are you?  I called the airport, so I knew the plane would be late, but you landed a half hour ago.  Are you en-route?”

“Actually, Nanette, I’m running late.”

“Even later?”

“Well, yes.  A little later.  But I’m coming, give me about an hour.”

“Another hour?”  She sounded like a parrot.  “Why?  I need you here now.  If you can’t come now, don’t come.  I mean it Diamond.”

“Don’t come?  No Nanette, I’m coming. . .”

“Good-bye.”

Good-bye?  Just like that?

Good-bye.  No talk with you later.  See you soon.  Just “Good-bye.”  Well, the tears of frustration finally roll down my cheeks and off the end of my chin. 

Ah, Diamond.  Dry up.  This isn’t any place to cry.