Where is Diana?
Suzuki Pierce leaned against the red brick wall of the business college and smoked a cigarette. It was an idle gesture, to pass the time while he figured out his next move. It was the middle of the day, and he had a three hour gap between classes, which meant he had to decide whether he wanted to go home or stick around for one more lecture.
People passed him by, some turning their heads to look at him. A double take, he called it, when they were not quite sure what they were looking at. He was used to such reactions. He took it in his stride now.
Afterall, it wasn’t a deformity or a true personal fault that made them stare so. He wore a pale grey suit, immaculate and neatly pressed, with a black shirt and silver tie done up snugly at the neck. He looked like a cross between an aspiring rocker and a well drawn cartoon character. He was handsome. There wasn’t a vanity to it, it was just fact. He had never been anything else. His face was delicate rather than rugged. He was tall and lean, rather than buff. His appearance was boyish, because even his suits were made slim fitting to allow this. It was part of the reasons for the double takes. He was always immaculate, like a model in a menswear campaign poster.
“Hey, you! We need to talk!”
He turned his head to the right sharply, to encounter the piecing blue eyes of Aleesha Bird, scowling at him with the ferociousness of a bored socialite. He raised a brow in question.
“Bird,” he said in greeting.
“I told you not to call me that. What were you playing at last night? Where is Diana?”she demanded, as if she had the right. Her accent was educated Dublin, slightly petulant, as with when one was on unsure footing with another. She wore a black see through lace dress over a black wide gypsy skirt. She cinched it with a wide red belt, and he could see the black vest she wore underneath. To him, she looked like a vampire’s girlfriend.
He straightened and flicked his cigarette away. His hair moved with any of his movements, enhancing the need for the double take of those that passed. His blue black hair was only slightly over long, but so fine it moved with just the slightest provocation. It made him seem mysterious, worldly, sophisticated. All of the things that he did not feel himself to be when in her presence.
“Hello to you too. Can I offer you lunch, I’m just heading down to Govindas,” he said, standing to full height and looking down at her. The noise of Aungier street grew more pronounced by the second. He saw her eyes narrow suspiciously. He remained impassive.
“Where is Diana? What happened to her last night?”
“I have no idea. I was hoping you’d tell me. She was supposed to be with you.”
“I have to tell her.”
“Tell her what?” He walked away, crossing the street at the walk sign, forcing her to follow him. The clunk of her biker boots sounded on the pavement beside him and he deliberately slowed his strides so she did not have to run after him.
“Don’t be dense.”
“Oh, you mean our little indiscretion.” He stopped at the door of Govindas and held it open for her. There was fury on her face as she looked up at him. He waited.
“Why do you talk like that?”
“Like we are in a period drama. Are you a method actor? Then it’ll all make sense,” she said. He looked at himself, then back at her.
“You’re talking about the clothes.”
“Yes. Why the suit? Why not jeans and t-shirts? Why those big shoes? Why not Vans or Converse?” she asked. He looked hurt.
“We’re letting the heat out,” he said. She entered quickly.
“I have to tell her,” she repeated once they were seated. He nodded and tasted his paneer. Govindas was thinning now that the lunch crowd were back to work. It was still noisy, but at least he could hear Bird talking.
“Why must you?”
“She’s my friend. You can’t just kiss me and expect me not to say something. It was wrong and I have to tell her.”
“It’s Saville Row.”
“What?” Her permanent frown seemed more pronounced as she wondered what he meant.
“The suit. My father is a tailor on Saville Row. I’ve dressed in suits all my life. I was his model, and the company model. It’s all I know. I have nothing else.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“It’s the truth. I have an excellent collection. E. Zelda, Armani, Brioni, it’s endless.”
“I look sharp, don’t I? I mean, it explains the way I dress if you were wondering,” he said. She looked concerned. Not exactly the reaction he’d been hoping for.
“Why did you do it? Why would you want to destroy my friendship with Diana?” she asked gently. He looked away from her intense eyes that he could never not admire.
“I really didn’t think. I just saw you in that dress and I knew I had to kiss you,” he said. She blushed and looked away. He risked a look at her face. Dark lashes, folded down, swept the bottom of her eyes, touching a freckled face. He looked away when the lashes came back up. “Please eat.”
“I don’t think you’re normal. From the moment I met you, I never thought you were normal. Now I am convinced. I will tell Diana everything.” She stood fast. He followed suit, watching her with resignation. “I’ll make her believe me.”
“I have no doubt you will. Will you not eat first? You barely touched it.” He spoke calmly, as if there was no drama to be had. He could tell it irritated her.
“Bye, Suzuki!” She grabbed her bag and headed out the door.
He avoided looking at the other patrons as he sat, flicking his blazer back slightly to reduce wrinkling. He ate quietly, and when he finished his plate, picked at hers till it was gone as well.
He paid scant attention in the class, content to twirl the pink Muji highlighter in his fingers until it seemed to pick up a life of its own. He stared out the window, at the grey skies that settled like opaque cotton wool, and equally as suffocating. He questioned the wisdom of sticking around for the lecture. The Business Communication class was his most easy subject and he could have done well without the need to sit in on a lecture. As it were, he barely heard the drone of the lecturer, the thoughts in his head louder than any words pertaining to good communication in business. But since lunch he’d remained unsettled and uncertain. Not about what he was doing, but how he was doing it.
She entered fifteen minutes in.
“Sorry,” she said, as she hurried to the back. The lecturer frowned hard, clearly debating whether to send her back out. But Aleesha had already found a seat and was seated. Suzuki straightened from his slouch, his body stiff and nervous now. His attention remained on the white board until the end of the class.
He lingered after, taking his time to get his books together. A difficult feat as he had no bag and could not pretend to be packing it. She was asked to stay back so after deciding sufficient time, he left to wait outside.
He was nervous. He was not used to it, but he interpreted correctly that it was necessary that he felt that way. He was making a move, he needed the extra adrenaline to carry it through.
She exited a few minutes later. She started on seeing him. He stood easily, one hand in his trouser pocket and the other holding his books casually. He saw her blink.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“Do you need a lift?” he asked. She continued to watch him. He waited her out.
“Where is Diana?”
“I don’t know, Bird.”
“She is not answering my calls or texts. Does she know?” she asked. Suzuki stayed colorless in his expression. How to explain to her?
“Not exactly,” he said. She stiffened. Her face was a wealth of information. There was alarm, upset, anger, disdain. All directed at him because she blamed him for something. But he knew for a fact that she did not know what she blamed him for.
“Did you tell her?” she asked in a small voice.
He’d arrived at the party with Diana at his side. They looked good together. People often took pictures of them just for the novelty. He’d worn a slim fitting suit; a red slim fitting blazer, black trousers, black shirt and tie. He looked foreign, handsome, and untouchable. She had chosen a short white dress that enhanced her from pretty to smoking. She had a habit of leaning into his body anytime anyone wanted a picture. He allowed it because he knew how to play a part. A party was where you did this.
She was also Japanese, but unlike him was born and bred in Osaka. He was of Japanese ancestry but was born and raised in England. He’d spent most of his life explaining it to people. Being from London and having to do this allowed him to appreciate his difference and work with it. It was an innate part of him now, and he appreciated it like fine wine. He denied being arrogant. People tended to see him that way. His ego was ever present, but in the guise that he knew himself far better than people thought he should know about himself at his age.
“Aleesha is gonna come later, when everyone is almost gone,” she told him.
“She’s shy. I convinced her to wear pink and she’s not very happy about it.”
“How did you convince her?”
“I won a bet. She had to do as I asked. I chose to ask her to wear a pink dress. You will be pleased.”
“Not if she’s unhappy,” he said. She looked at him as his gaze swept the private party. They were still in a nightclub and it was as loud as it could get. He was nervous. He had only recently decided that it was the night.
“She’s a punk. A rock chic who has never worn heels in all her life. Without all of that dark make up she’ll feel quite exposed. She is not happy, but she has no choice. You can choose how you approach her.” She said this last bit in his ear, sticking her tongue a little in. He flinched.
“It’s time we broke up,” he blurted out. She started.
“Yes, now,” he said. She stood.
“Get lost.” She walked away from him and into the party proper. He saw her begin to dance provocatively. She had no shortage of partners.
“She’s avoiding you ‘cos we broke up,” he said, as a stray wind whipped the tip of his tie over his shoulder. He pulled it back and tucked it behind the single button that held the blazer together. They were walking around the side of the building towards the car park where he’d parked his car.
“Now do you understand?”
“No! No, I don’t understand. I do not understand anything!” The wind scattered her curly red hair. He tried not to stare openly. He thought her hair glorious when wild like that.
“Would you like me to explain?”
“Explain what? Is there something else I don’t know?” she asked.
They finally made it to the car park where he paid the balance first before leading the way.
“Diana and I…” he began, but she was not ready to listen.
“But you two love each other.”
“She loves you, Suzuki!”
“She does?” He stopped suddenly, looking down at her with confused eyes. “Did she say this?”
“Of course. You’re her boyfriend. It is only natural that she would. Say it, I mean,” she said, blushing now that she realized that she was delving into personal matters. Suzuki only wished she would get more personal.
“The car’s over here.” He headed to the new Mercedes and opened the door for her. She entered without thanking him. He waited until she was secure before he closed the door after her. Then he went to the driver side. He got in and strapped himself in. He saw her rubbing her hands together and he quickly started the car and turned on the heat.
“Did you break up with her or was it the other way around?” she asked.
“Does it matter?” he asked as he drove out of the garage.
“Did you cheat?”
“Not physically, no.”
“What does that mean? Are you in love with someone else?” she asked. He did not respond.
The silence lengthened. After a few minutes he turned his head to see if she was alright. She was staring out the window, though she could not see much. The rain whipped into the glass like suicidal water pellets.
“I don’t love her. She does not feel the same way either, Bird,” he said gently.
“Why did you kiss me? That stupid dress, I remember. Do you know how humiliated I felt last night?”
“I have a fair idea.”
“Then why did you…”
“Because I knew that if I did not do it then, I would not have the courage later,” he said. She turned to him once more. He watched her face fall.
He’d always liked Aleesha. She was the one that he had always admired. Although he thought she had terrifyingly bad taste in clothes, which involved a lot of black strangely put together, she had beauty in her face. He liked the thick red curls, the deep blue eyes, and the freckles that dusted her cheeks like liver spots. Her imperfections were perfections, because in his world there were no blemishes, and she was the ultimate blemish.
He’d tried to make a move straight away but from the way she’d looked at him at first sight, he’d known his chance would be less than successful. She considered him too odd and her mind could not wrap itself around the fact that he was quite normal. He’d felt defeated for a while.
He already knew Diana from around the college, and knew her to be housemates with Aleesha. It had seemed an easy idea to enlist her help. He had never lied to her. He went out with Diana so that Aleesha would see more of him and get to know him. It also helped that they all attended the same classes. It was only a temporary set up. Diana was more than happy to help. He had offered her a way to get new season collections at a very marked down price in London. He knew people from the fashion world and he never had any qualms in calling them and asking for a favor.
The question had always been about when was the right time to make a move. He hadn’t seriously thought about how he was going to approach her, but when he’d seen her walk in, his heart had bloomed. She’d looked awkward in a bubble gum pink above the knee ruffle dress. Diana had obviously went full out malicious. Her dark make up was gone, replaced by something light. She looked exposed and achingly pretty. He’d only meant to say hello to her. But when he’d arrived at her side, he’d dropped his head and touched his lips to hers. She had stiffened. Then she had kissed him back. It was so unexpected that he gave himself to the moment, and to her.
She’d pushed him away when she came to her senses, and she did first. With one look of horror, she’d run from him and out of the club. He hadn’t seen her again until the next day in front of the college, looking angry and confused.
He hadn’t imagined her response to him. He hoped it meant that he was not too late and she had warmed to him. Except now she was worried about Diana and refused to think about her feelings for him.
He got out of the car with her. They walked to the front door of the house together. She had barely spoken for the rest of the trip. He’d let her be, hoping it all eventually came out in his favor.
“Look, I’m sure Diana is fine, but I’ll look for her if you are still worried,” he offered. She looked at him.
“Did you two really break up?”
“Because of me?” she asked. He hesitated in his reply. “Suzuki.”
“Can I tell you the truth? Will you remain open minded?”
“I tried to ask you out but you would not even stand still near me. You looked at me like some kind of freak and you ran. So I asked Diana to help me. I did not betray her or lie to her. She needed a favor and I needed her help. This is what I am, Bird. I am an ordinary guy, and I dress only a little different. I’ve liked you since the moment I looked at you, and the more I get to know you, the more I know we could be great friends. Diana is just upset she won’t get some free clothes anymore.” He stopped, waiting for her to knock him down. She didn’t. So he continued. “I don’t regret last night, but I promise I won’t invade your personal space anymore without good reason, if you don’t want me to. Just tell me that I was not imagining things last night. That you did not push me away.”
She was staring far away, anywhere but at him. He took a step closer, standing in her line of vision but not not too close.
“I…” She looked up at him, face worried. He did not look away.
“Tell me, it’s okay.”
“Can I talk to Diana first?” she said. He swallowed his disappointment well, hoping she did not see it in his face.
“Sure. I’ll make some calls, ask around where she might be.” He took a step back and walked away from her, back to his car.
He was dialing a number when the taxi cab pulled up in front of the house. Diana stepped out, wearing oversized tracksuit bottoms and hoodie, with yellow flip flops that clearly were not hers. Suzuki put his phone away and went to her.
“Diana, where the hell…”
“Don’t start with me now, it’s been a long day,” she said as she walked past him. Aleesha was also staring at her.
“Diana, we’ve been so worried,” she said. Diana raised a brow.
“Is it ‘we’ already? Damn, boy, you move fast!” she exclaimed. Aleesha’s face flamed. Suzuki walked over to them.
“It’s late. I’m glad you’re alright, Diana, but I will see you both tomorrow,” he said as he left. Diana entered the house, slamming the door after her. Aleesha stood at the front steps, staring down at the car. He started it but did not pull away, wondering what was on her mind. He got out of the car when she began to walk his way.
“I know who you are, Suzuki, I’ve always known. I know about your parents, I know that you live by yourself in a big house by the sea, I know that you’re only here for a year. Yes, you over dress everyday, but that does not change the fact you will not be staying when the year finishes. I also know that you’re not the kind of guy I’ve went out with in the past and I’m afraid you will see what I’m really like and want to get back to London even faster.”
He smiled as she spoke, reaching out gently to take her hand.
“I extended my course time last week,” he shocked her by saying. She continued nonetheless.
“I don’t agree with what you did with Diana, but she seems fine. And I will admit that I like what I’ve learned about you in the last three months, if it is true.”
“It is all true,” he assured her. She nodded. “Let me take you to dinner, Bird. Kind of like a Q&A session where you get to ask me anything you want,” he said. She smiled.
“Okay, but first I’d like to…”
“On it,” he said as he leaned down and kissed her again, this time with a clear mind and conscience.