January 3, 2008
"Here you are, miss."
"This is the place? Is this 119th Street? Oooh, this is the place. It's beautiful," Dior Emerson said as she peered out of the cab window. "It's just like the pictures."
"The pictures?" The cabdriver turned in his seat and looked at her.
"Yes," Dior said excitedly, wiggling her shoulders as she spoke. "I just got a new job here in the city, so I had to find a place fast, so I contacted a broker and they sent me pictures and I picked this house. I've always heard of brownstones, but I'd never seen one before. I can't believe-"
"Yeah, well, this is the place," the driver said, obviously no longer interested in Dior's story. "That'll be twenty-two fifty."
"Oh! Okay." Dior pulled some bills from her Gucci bag and handed the cabbie three ten-dollar bills. "Keep the change," she said grandly.
The driver looked at the money, then back at Dior and stuffed the bills into his pocket.
"So, you just got a new job, huh?" he said, suddenly interested as he flipped a switch to unlock the car doors. "What are you going to be doing?"
"A copywriter for an advertising agency," Dior said excitedly. "Senior copywriter, to be exact. And guess what? They found me through a headhunter. That's really a big deal because that means they were looking for someone like me. And it pays so much more than my old job in Montreal."
She joined the driver outside as he took her bags from the trunk. "This is like my dream job, in my dream city. I always wanted to visit New York, and especially Harlem, and now I'm living here! I'm telling you, I was destined to live in New York. I mean, you can't walk down the streets in Toronto and just bump into celebrities like you do in New York. Or go into restaurants and run into Robert De Niro or Woody Allen or Spike Lee or Beyonc��."
"Well, you're probably not going to run into them in Harlem too much, maybe Spike Lee. Most of the others hang out downtown." The driver looked at her hopefully.
"And shopping! I can't wait to go shopping in the Big Apple," Dior gushed. "I want to get all of the latest fashions."
"The best shopping is downtown, too, miss. You want me to take you downtown now?"
Dior shook her head as she looked at her luggage. "No, I should go ahead into my apartment and start getting unpacked."
The driver shrugged, then got in his car, leaving the luggage on the sidewalk.
Goodness, Dior thought. He could have at least carried it to the building. She sighed and grabbed the handle of one bag and threw the strap of another over her shoulder and lugged them over to the brownstone. January in New York, it seemed, was as cold as in Montreal. Even though her thigh-length mink was warm, she wanted to get inside as soon as possible.
"You must be Dior Emerson."
Dior looked up and saw a middle-aged woman with a blue wool coat, a blue felt hat pulled low over her graying dreads, and a cigarette dangling out of her mouth.
"I sure am. And you must be my new landlady! Mrs. Graham, right?" Dior stuck out her hand to shake the woman's hand.
"I am, but you can call me Margie. I've been looking out the window for the last hour waiting for you to arrive. This house I'm renting out, I call it Margie's Diamond Palace." She pointed to the building they were standing in front of. "And that one"-she pointed to the brownstone two buildings down-"I live in."
"They're both very nice," Dior said politely.
"Yeah." Margie looked at her very strangely. "Very nice. What kind of accent is that?"
"I thought you were from Canada."
"I am, but we speak French in Montreal. All of my family also speaks English, though. I've been speaking it since childhood."
"Is that right? Not that it's any of my business. None of my business at all. Well, come on, I'll give you a quick walk through the palace and then give you your keys. I wanna get to bingo before it gets too crowded."
The woman dropped her cigarette on the sidewalk and stamped it out with her foot. "Let me help you with your bags. Youse a little bitty thing, aren't you? What are you, a size three?" She picked up the smallest of the bags and walked down three steps to a private entrance.
"Size zero," Dior said as she picked up two of the bags and followed her new landlady.
"I don't even understand a size zero. Doesn't compute. How can someone be a size zero? Makes it sounds like they don't even exist, if you ask me." The woman pulled out a large ring of keys and fiddled around until she found the proper one and inserted it into the steel-gated door. "Still, it looks good on you. You so petite. I hope you don't have one of them eating disorders they be talking about on Oprah. Not that it's none of my business if you do. None of my business at all."
"How you ladies doing?"
Dior looked up to see a tall scruffy-looking brown-skinned man wearing an army jacket smiling down at them. Even from twenty feet away Dior could see the plaque on his yellow and brown teeth. "This your new tenant, Miss Margie?"
"Yes, she is, and don't you be harassing her, Jerome."
"I was just trying to be nice," the man said in a hurt voice as he shuffled his feet.
"Carry your ass down the street and be nice to someone else," Margie barked as she pushed open the door and shooed Dior inside.
"Not one of your favorite people, I gather?" Dior said as they entered the building.
Margie grunted. "Most of the people on this block are nice. But that damn Jerome is a pain in the ass. Whatever-you don't be nice to him, because if you do he'll be in your face all the time and trying to get into your panties, too. Damn shame. That man's pushing thirty years old and still living off his mother. Trifling is what I call him."
"Oh my God, this place is just beautiful," Dior gasped as they entered the apartment. "It looks even better than the pictures the broker sent me!"
"It should look good. I spent a bunch of money on the renovations. They just finished sanding down the floor, so make sure the moving men don't scratch them up when they move your furniture in."
"The floors are gorgeous. I've never lived in a place with hardwood floors before. And look how high the ceilings are. It makes it look like a ballroom. Oh my God, does that fireplace work?" She rushed over and ran her hand over the wooden mantelpiece. "I can just see myself drinking champagne in front of a roaring fire! Oh, I'm going to love it here!"
Margie chuckled. "Look at you getting all excited. Yeah, the fireplace works. Come on, let me show you the rest of the place."
"And oh my God, look at the shutters! The windows actually have shutters!" Dior ran over to the window and started flipping the shutters open and shut. "It's just like in the movies."
"Uh-huh, just like in the movies. Listen, are you mixed with something? You look like you might have some Chinese in you with them small slanted eyes and that long black hair. Your mother was Asian? Not that it's none of my business. Not my business at all. But I'm just curious."
Dior smiled. "No, I'm all black. Both of my parents were light-skinned, too, though."
"Okay, just asking. It looks good on you, anyway. Now, you wanna see the rest of the apartment? Like I said, I don't wanna be late for bingo."
The walk through only lasted another fifteen minutes, but Dior enjoyed every moment. The kitchen was spacious and had all new cabinets. The bathroom, on the other hand, was quaint and old-fashioned, with a large tub that looked as if three people could fit comfortably. And because she had what Margie called the garden apartment, she also had use of the small backyard.
"Now, here's your keys. This one is for the front door, and this is for the apartment," Margie said when they were through. "You don't have a key to the upstairs front door because you're not going to be using it. I rented out the three upper floors, and the new tenants are going to be moving in soon, but you're the only one with a private entrance. That's why you're paying twelve fifty a month instead of eleven hundred like everyone else. And believe me, that's still cheap. But that's enough for now, 'cause I gotta go. And remember, I just live two doors down if you need me."
Dior waited until her new landlady left, then pulled out her cell phone.
"Auntie Claudia, I'm here! I'm at my new place! And it is sooo beautiful! It's just like the pictures! The hardwood floors are amazing and the fireplace, Auntie, it's marble!" Dior exclaimed, rubbing her delicate hands across the mantel. "Oh, and the ceilings, they reach up to the heavens, Auntie, I swear to you!"
Dior walked into the bedroom and opened the closet. She thrust herself inside and leaned her back against the wall. She closed her eyes and smiled. "Auntie, the closets are to die for! They're huge! And there are quite a few. I can use one just for my pocketbooks!"
"Hard to believe with as many pocketbooks as you have," Aunt Claudia joked. "I would think you'd need two or three closets."
"Well," Dior giggled, "we all have our vices."
"Honey, I just want to let you know how proud I am of you, landing this new job and moving to a new city on your own. You're really proving yourself to be quite a young lady."
Dior smiled. That meant a lot to her. Aunt Claudia had been the guardian of her and her two younger brothers since their parents died in an automobile accident ten years before when she was only sixteen.
"Thanks, Auntie," Dior said sincerely.
"The only thing is, Dior, I want to remind you that you have to be more responsible about your finances. You spend way too much money on clothes and pocketbooks. I don't want you getting in over your head, okay?"
Dior sighed. "I won't, Aunt Claudia. I promise. But listen, I'm going to get off the phone because I want to do some sightseeing while it's still light out. I love you!"
"I love you, too, baby. Be good now!"
Dior hung up and went into the living room and laid her suitcase down to open it and realized that it was locked. She dug through her duffel looking for the key and then her pocketbook. She couldn't find it. She began to rack her brain trying to figure out where she had put the key to her suitcase. All of her clothes and shoes were in that bag. All she had in the duffel were pajamas, underclothes, and toiletries. She started to panic thinking about what she would have to wear for the next few days if she didn't find the key to her luggage.
She snapped her phone open again.
"Auntie Claudia," Dior said frantically. "I cannot find my key to my suitcase and all of my clothes are in there."
"Well, did you look in your pocketbook?"
"Yes. It's not in there. And it's not in my duffel bag, either."
"Well, what about your jeans and your coat? Check all of your pockets."
"I have. I can't find it anywhere! Auntie, it's lost. I don't believe this. I'm going to have to go out and buy some new out- fits."
"Dior," her aunt all but shouted. "Didn't we just talk about your spending habits? Girl, just take a bobby pin or something and pick the lock."
"You're right," Dior said quickly. "I'll do just that. Love you!"
Now, Auntie knows me well enough to know that any excuse I have to buy new clothes is a good one in my book, and come on, no one can deny that this is a very good one, Dior thought as she checked her pocketbook to make sure that she had everything she needed-her credit card, her cash, her cell phone, her keys, and her lip gloss.
The walk to 125th Street only took a few minutes; the shopping took almost two hours. Despite the wintry cold weather, the streets were packed with shoppers and drivers. Dior was enthralled with not only the stores, but the dozens of street vendors who lined the streets hawking their wares. There was eye-catching activity everywhere. On one corner there were two guys break-dancing. On another, a man was playing the saxophone. Dior hadn't seen a city like it, especially in the dead of winter. Even the advertisements seemed to have life. Big and bold, they appeared as a backdrop, adding their own exciting element to the scene. The streets were packed with herds of people, various kinds of people, from old to young, white to black, short to tall, and everything in between. If you don't fit in here, you don't fit in anywhere, Dior thought. And she felt right at home.
She picked up a couple of pairs of jeans and tops from a boutique, but couldn't find anything she thought suitable for work. She did find a wonderful Louis Vuitton garment bag, and had the salesclerk put her new clothes in it rather than shopping bags. Then, remembering what the taxi driver had said about downtown shopping, she quickly waved down a cab and asked him to take her to the famous Fifth Avenue.
Dior bounced around in the backseat as the taxi driver zipped in and out of traffic like a bat out of hell. Clutching the passenger seat's headrest, she stared out the window, taking in the sights.
Stores lined the sidewalks for miles and there was indeed something for everyone. You had your small wholesale shops, your high-end boutiques, your big chain stores, and a host of independent retailers selling merchandise right on the streets.
Everything seemed to be fast-forwarding-the people, the sounds, and especially the traffic. There were hundreds of cars sharing the street, 90 percent of which were other taxis. Cars were double parked and other cars were weaving around them swiftly. Horns and screeching brakes acted as a sound track to the motion picture of Dior's new hometown-New York City.
Suddenly, traffic was brought to a standstill, causing the taxi driver to slam on the brakes.
"Oh, good grief," the taxi driver sighed.
After being jerked forward and then back, Dior sat up in her seat to get a glimpse out of the front window.
"What's going on?" she asked, staring at the crowds of people standing on the corner up ahead.
"It must be someone famous," the driver responded, pointing to the double-parked Maybach about four cars in front of him.
Dior's eyes widened as she anticipated seeing which celebrity would hop out of the much respected, luxury vehicle.
The taxi driver tried to maneuver the cab into another lane, but it was no use. People were holding up traffic waiting to see who was causing such a parade.
"I wonder what's going on," Dior mumbled as she watched photographers and news cameras emerge from the crowd.
Then Dior's question was answered when she saw an older man holding up a Scarface poster that read HEY, AL, SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND.
"Oh my God," Dior blurted out. "I think it's Al Pacino! He must be going into that restaurant!"
"Ohhh, today is the day that he is opening his new restaurant, that's right," the driver said. "I read it in the newspaper this morning."
"How much do I owe you?" Dior asked in a hurry. "I have to see Al Pacino! He is my favorite actor! And I'm not just saying that because he's out there, either! I'm serious. Since I was little, I've loved Al Pacino. I never thought I would meet him, and now that I have the chance to, I can't let it pass! I would kill myself first!" Dior exclaimed.
"Oh my. Well, just give me eight dollars. Don't worry about-"
"Here, keep the change." Dior cut the driver off, shoving a ten-dollar bill in his palm. She quickly got out of the cab.
"Thank you," she called out, speed-walking toward the crowd, lugging the garment bag with her new clothes over her shoulder.
"Excuse me, wardrobe. Excuse me, wardrobe," she said repeatedly until she found herself at the front of the red rope.
As if it were planned, the minute Dior got into position, a middle-aged white man wearing a tuxedo opened the back door of the Maybach. First an unknown female got out and then Al Pacino followed. Unable to help herself, Dior screamed. Her idol was just a couple of feet away from her in arm's reach. It was unreal. She didn't have a camera, but she figured she could get a few pictures with her phone. While he stopped to sign autographs, she took her phone out of her purse and started snapping. As he started to walk her way, she realized she didn't have anything for him to sign. Other people in the crowd had posters of him or memorabilia. She had nothing-nothing she could get to easily and quickly. Her nerves were out of control as he signed an autograph right next to her. She could have reached out and rubbed his face he was so close. As he finished up and started to walk past her to the next person with something he could sign, Dior quickly lifted up her shirt and asked him to sign her chest. He chuckled, but he didn't say no.
Excerpted from Diamond Playgirlsby Daaimah S. Poole Miasha Deja King T. Styles Copyright © 2008 by Kensington Publishing Corp.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.