Hot for the rock . . .
If her old-fashioned family had never left Morocco, Michelle Benamou would have been in big trouble, being almost thirty and nowhere near married. Luckily, in the hardy multicultural stew of New York City, she's been able to follow her other dreams, working her way up from broadcast news producer to on-air reporter. Still, there's something sparkly missing from the ring finger of her left hand. . .
Michelle thinks maybe her sexy, ex-Marine boyfriend can provide it -- until Joe abruptly tells her adios. Her old friend Benny from the Bronx is an intriguing possibility -- but he's out in L.A. . . . and not quite divorced.
It's tough for a sexy, very modern urban woman to follow the traditional calls of the marriage muezzins to matrimony -- especially when the rest of her life starts racing rapidly downhill. Suddenly in desperate need of an affordable new Manhattan apartment (an oxymoron), and quite possibly a new career (a catastrophe), Michelle's got other worries besides finding passionate love sealed with an "I do."
But a diamond is just coal, after all, until it's forged by fire and time. And sometimes something precious, strong, dazzling, and enduring can turn up when you least expect it . . .
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About the Author
The daughter of an Iraqi immigrant, Jessica Jiji is a speechwriter for the secretary-general of the United Nations. Her first novel, Diamonds Take Forever, was published in 2005. She lives in New York City with her husband and three sons.
Read an Excerpt
Diamonds Take Forever
By Jessica Jiji
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Jessica Jiji
All right reserved.
"Blow job?" Cherise asked.
"I said boob job," Wanda whispered in response, her soft tone an attempt to lower the volume all around. We were, after all, seated in the sandstone-colored waiting room of InSPArations on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
"Up or down?" I wanted to know, taking a sip of decaffeinated green tea.
"Isn't it obvious?" Wanda asked. "Reduction!"
"That's not so bad," I offered. Somehow it seemed less vain.
"It's gruesome," Cherise put in, no less loud than the pink streaks in her dirty blond hair.
"Shh!" Wanda urged. "She'll hear you."
The nearby beauty we'd been gossiping about must have done just that, because she suddenly looked up from her copy of Spiritual Makeover.
Silence reigned following the accusing glance, but only momentarily.
"I think it's a Fogel," Wanda ventured. Not only could she identify any plastic parts people might have purchased, but she could pinpoint which doctor had provided them.
"You are incredible," said Cherise, managing to exude both contempt and admiration.
"I," Wanda replied with pride, "am a professional." Like so many others capitalizing on the free-floating anxieties of New Yorkers, she was a consultant. An image consultant.
"Then again," she said, wrinkling a brow that was about to be covered with two hundred varieties of imported mud, "I'm doing so well I may put myself out of work. I lost three clients already this month."
"Sweetie . . ." Cherise cooed reassuringly. We both knew Wanda was neurotically successful, but we liked her enough to assuage her fears.
"Why would they leave? You're the best!" I reminded her. This was true; through a wardrobe overhaul, creative cosmetics and the occasional nip and tuck, Wanda could make Judge Judy look like this year's It Girl.
"That's the problem. They get beautiful, and happy, and before you know it they're engaged to some perfect guy and I'm no longer needed," she sighed. "It's awful."
"Doesn't sound so tragic to me," I confessed. Sounded more like a lifelong dream: Happily Ever After. The ring, the dress, the bouquet and, of course, the Prince. "I can't wait until Joe proposes," I added, somehow deeply embarrassed by the desire.
"Maybe it's a Sharma," Wanda considered, more interested in which surgeon had done some stranger's tit job than in my future husband.
There was a brief silence, until Cherise said, "These plants here look really thirsty," and surreptitiously poured her green tea into a nearby ficus tree.
I was bashful about wanting so badly to get hitched with Joe, but not about my right to girlfriend counsel. "You guys!" I complained. "Do you think he ever will?"
"There," Cherise said, stroking the leaves. "Is that better?"
Wanda was more direct. "I have my doubts . . ." she began.
"Joe's all right and everything," Cherise finally acknowledged. "But does he -- " she stopped herself, then started again. "Do you really want to get married?"
"Of course she does," said Wanda, who had already grabbed the gold ring, not with a bad-boy boyfriend but with a sincere suitor. At least one of them understood me. "It's just that, well . . . Joe?"
Scratch that -- neither of them understood. Neither of them saw that he was not just a ripped ex-soldier with slick Latino moves. Joe was a responsible adult who would make an amazing father. Okay, maybe "Take Our Daughters to Work Day" might be a little awkward if Joe reached his goal of joining an anti-narcotics crime squad busting cocaine dealers at the source, but he'd always pay the bills on time.
A receptionist tiptoed over to the three of us. "Who goes first?" she asked.
"Michelle," Wanda and Cherise replied in unison, both apparently having decided that I was the one who most needed to relax and clear my head. But their kindness seemed patronizing, and I felt myself growing defensive. Joe is a man of action! I wanted to shout over the synthesized bells chiming in the background. He's probably going to surprise me any day now!
But it didn't take days. The shock hit that very night.
We were under the stars at the moment of rapture, secluded in a spot he had carried me to while he jogged to the beat of his favorite military pep chant:
Running through the jungle
With my M-16
I'm a mean motherfucker
I'm a U.S. Marine!
We weren't in 1970 'Nam, of course, but it felt nearly as dangerous after midnight in upper Manhattan's Fort Tryon Park. And although he wasn't packing -- least of all the fabled assault rifle of his little verse -- I felt absolutely safe in his arms.
And oddly shielded by the danger that kept most people out of the area after dark. Safe in solitude, Joe and I rolled together in our open-air bed. The familiar refuge of his embrace was all the more sweet in the strange setting. After muffling our achingly luscious moans, we savored that joyous interval of tranquillity just after sex but before returning to the dull everything else.
I broke our sacred silence with The Talk -- the one that starts, pathetically enough, "I'd just really like to know how you feel about me."
"I love you -- you're my girl," he said, rolling over and lying by my side as a car screeched around a corner.
"Like your girl as in you want to stay with me forever?" Colossal neediness prompted me to ask against the odds, since I already knew that none of his fabulous future plans included wedlock. And those plans were closing in: Joe was on track to graduate from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, making him eligible, thanks to his five years in the military, to pursue his dream career as a drug enforcement agent.
But I'd never taken that goal too seriously, thinking he was just besotted with all those young-dumb-and-full-of-cum cop movies.
Excerpted from Diamonds Take Forever by Jessica Jiji Copyright © 2005 by Jessica Jiji. Excerpted by permission.
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