A veritable quandary







Diana and Sam escaped from the occult atmosphere in Sam's little yellow Honda Civic. (She didn't drive domestic unless it was an especially good deal.) The atmosphere of the cafe they went to was more eclectic than occult; at least that's what they claimed in their advertising. The assortment of theater posters, photographs and artwork on the walls was an obvious attempt to earn the attribute. When Sam and Diana arrived, the theaters still hadn't disgorged their audiences and they were able to enjoy a certain amount of privacy.

A small, dark, full-bearded waiter took their order, capuccino and a Mexican chocolate.

"And we'd like to see the desserts," Diana added. "You'll feel better after one of their calorie bombs. The beneficial effect is well worth the price of a piece of cake."

"Even if the prices are rather on the steep side." Soon it would be Diana who would need the comfort of calories. Sam took a deep breath and took the plunge. "Di, I've decided to quit the band. Now that Joe has left the station, the job is getting more and more demanding, and I just can't afford the hobby anymore. I need a little more time for myself too."

"Aw, shit." Diana doodled with the water running in rivulets of sweat down the side of her glass and heaved a sigh so heavy it would have squashed a horse. "Are you sure?"

"I'm sure."

"Well, if you quit it still doesn't have to be the end of the band, does it?"

"Come on, woman, get real." Sam liked to use journalistically incorrect language in her off-hours. She didn't let her hair down precisely, but she let it out: her Afro was always hidden in a decorous bun for her job. (At KWET they had wanted a minority, but not conspicuously so.) "You and Reilly are not getting along very well these days."

"I can still work with Reilly."

"But what if he can't work with you?"

"Well, it's not like we're living together or anything."

"No, just working intensely together. Come on, Di, admit it. When you two don't get along, then the music isn't any fun either."

Diana felt slightly sick. "I guess I've seen this coming for a long time, but I haven't wanted to believe it's true."

"Just like the Di we all know and love."

Diana's second sigh could have squashed an elephant. "Maybe it really is the end of Crimes of the Heart," she said mournfully.

Sam gave Diana an ironic look over their water glasses. "Not by a long shot," she predicted.

"Oh, Sam, I'm sorry," Diana said. "I wasn't thinking about Joe!"

Sam smiled. "I know you weren't. It's rare when you do think about what you're saying."

Diana began to protest, but she was interrupted by the arrival of the drinks and the dessert tray, accompanied by the mandatory descriptions of the irresistible qualities of each chiffon, pie and cake (promoted to torte in restaurant lingo). Devil's Food has long since gone the way of kidney-shaped tables; any dessert without at least a hint of the exotic is doomed to be unbought and uneaten.

"I'll have the almond cheesecake," Sam decided.

"And I'll have that rich-looking chocolate creme thing," Diana said with less culture than was appropriate to the setting.

"The double-chocolate," the waiter said with discreet humor.

"You're not worried about the calories, are you?" Sam said.

"I wouldn't talk if I were you. You didn't exactly order fruit salad yourself."

"They didn't have any."

Diana laughed. "See, you're feeling better already and we haven't even gotten the decadent desserts yet."

On cue, the desserts deposited themselves on their table with a flourish. "You are right, though," Sam said, taking the first bite with relish, "the beneficial effect is well worth the price of a piece of cake."

Sam could appreciate the piece of cake, but she would be the first to admit that losing Joe wasn't as bad as she had at first feared. It had been a painful loss, of course, but to a certain extent it had also been a relief. He had been more than her colleague and lover, he had also been her "superior"--in more ways than one. Besides being an anchor and a step above her on the ladder of TV station hierarchy, he was older, he was male, and he was white. The socially accepted superiors accumulated beyond endurance; the relationship was loaded too heavily to one side. The basis of his authority was so strong, Sam found herself bending shape to fit him almost against her will. When he left the station, he had expected her to follow him, and she had expected to do so herself. It had sent a thrill through her when she realized she wouldn't. Love is hard bait to resist, but the longer he was away, the more she grew back to her original size.

"Here's to forgetting men," Sam said, raising her cappucino.

"Let's hope you don't need as long as I do," Diana said. "It's a year now since the business with Geoff and I'm afraid I'm still not completely over him."

"Oh, Di, you've got it bad."

"Maybe that's the way I want it."

"Maybe so. I never thought the man was that big a deal."

Diana stared at the whipped cream and cinnamon on her Mexican chocolate. "I really would have liked to give it a try, though."

"No man is worth losing your appetite over. You're not eating your double chocolate. Or drinking your liquid chocolate either, for that matter. If you have to mope, mope about the end of the band."

Diana laughed. "Shit. I should be comforting you and here you are comforting me!"

"So stop giving me the sentimental bull and pick up your fork, woman."

Diana did just that and gave Sam a grateful grin in the process.

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