Tierney Oberhammer | Fiction

My boyfriend, Charlie, is a photographer. The real kind, not the broke kind. His studio is on the first floor of our duplex in Manhattan. It’s so big that he gets embarrassed when I bring friends over. “Wow, I didn’t know you’re rich,” they say, even though I always warn them in advance that I live in a fancy apartment. “It’s my home office,” Charlie says awkwardly, as if that changes anything. I tell him that he should just say, “Thank you.” It’s a compliment, after all. He ought to be confident. I’m proud of him. Of his talent, his success. He could probably express some gratitude for his good fortune, too. Success is equal parts hard work and luck, right? I don’t have any money, and neither do my friends, but it’s not for lack of trying.

Usually Charlie takes photos of frosty beer bottles or tubes of lipstick that will appear in TV spots and on billboards. The stuff he takes pictures of always looks better in the pictures than in real life. A wedge of lime on the rim of a glass looks greener and juicier than any lime I’ve ever seen. Cheap plastic sunglasses suddenly look cut from metal and glass. It’s weird how a photograph can lie. We’ve all seen a Big Mac on TV and a Big Mac sitting in front of us on its crumpled wrapper. But if I close my eyes and think “burger,” only one image comes to mind, and it’s picture-perfect. That’s what Charlie does—he makes regular things look exceptional.

My best friend, Tamale, says I’m lucky to have ended up with Charlie. That’s not her real name, but my phone autocorrected her name to Tamale once, and it stuck. She’s been depressed recently because her boyfriend got busted for selling fentanyl to a federal agent. He’s out on bail now, but he has a tracker around his ankle, and they took all his drugs and all his drug money.

I don’t tell Charlie about any of this because I don’t want him worrying about me. He won’t let me walk Bianca alone at night, so there’s no way he’d tolerate it if he knew I was spending time in the company of a criminal. He’s suspicious enough of Tamale already. He thinks she’s a bad influence because she wears miniskirts, but I always tell him that we’ve been friends for twenty years, and she hasn’t influenced me yet. I spent my entire life around people like Tamale. What I don’t say is that I am people like Tamale.

Right now, Charlie is shooting diamonds. They arrived by courier earlier this week, and I signed for the package, a run-of-the-mill FedEx envelope. I had low expectations when he first told me the diamonds were man-made, but when I saw them, I gasped. Now he has them laid out on a square of black velvet, eleven in total, each cut labeled with a tiny tag. Radiant, emerald, baguette, pear. They sparkle like the city at night.

In the studio, I point to a rectangular stone that looks like a chip of ice. “This one’s boring,” I say. Charlie nods. Despite my lowly upbringing, Charlie and I have similar taste in most things. “Emerald cut doesn’t have many facets,” he explains. “If you’re going to get a diamond, you might as well get one with a lot of cuts.”

I wonder if different styles of ring say anything about the woman wearing them, like in 101 Dalmatians when the dogs match the owners. A pear-shaped cut for the bookish type. Princess cut for a woman flirting with someone else’s plus one. In case Charlie decides to propose one day, I show him which diamond is my favorite. It’s labeled “Marquise,” and it’s bigger than the others with an unusual shape, like a football. Or like a diamond, actually. Funny, most diamonds aren’t diamond-shaped. Marquise or not, I’ve never wanted anything as bad as I want the diamonds. If they were mine, I wouldn’t have to worry about the future anymore. I’d be set for life. But I love Charlie, so I don’t let the thought cross my mind.

I reach out to touch a teardrop-shaped stone. “Are your hands clean?” Charlie asks. “Be careful.”

Frowning, I take the diamond and hold it up to the light. I squint, pretending to observe it from different angles.

Yes, my hands are clean. Every morning at 7:30 my alarm goes off, and I start my routine. I’m productive in the morning; I don’t sleep in. It doesn’t matter how late I stayed up the night before. First I do a 15-minute yoga video. I never have to worry about bothering Charlie because he sleeps like a corpse. Then I go downstairs and put on a pot of coffee. WebMD says getting some sunlight first thing in the morning helps with sleep, so while the coffee is brewing, I walk our white Pomeranian, Bianca. She’s little, so once around the block is enough. Ten minutes of sunshine. When we get back, Bianca gets a treat, and I watch TikTok on my phone and drink black coffee until I need to use the bathroom. After that, I get right in the shower. I scrub every inch of my body. Behind the ears, the bottoms of my feet. I use soap between my legs. I shave my legs and underarms. After I dry off, I apply lotion. Then I brush my teeth and gargle with mouthwash. Only then, when I’m the cleanest I’ll be all day, do I go to see Charlie.

I put the stone back in the tray and turn to him. I don’t smile. “And your hands?” I ask. “Are they clean?”

He laughs like he’s choking and apologizes for his edginess. I can tell having the diamonds around makes him nervous. For most shoots, the client is present, but this time, Charlie is working alone. It’s a lot of responsibility, Charlie says. He doesn’t like it. I get it. Liability and all that. But I want to admire the diamonds without anyone wondering if I’m dirty.

Charlie and I have been together for five years, and I don’t care if he proposes or doesn’t. I’ve been married. I don’t need to do it again. If I’m going to wear a ring, though, it ought to be a ring I like. And if I am going to marry anyone, it ought to be him. I have a list—money, tenderness, good looks—and he checks most of the boxes. Yes, he’s old, short and red-faced, but I’m not twenty-two anymore. I already wasted my youth on dead beats. Charlie is a kind man, and he cares about me. I care about him, too. I’ve had the standard shit hand dealt to me for most of my life—shitty parents, bad habits, an ex-husband I don’t care to mention—and now the scales are tipping back.

Later, while Charlie is snoring in bed, I put on a robe and creep downstairs. I bring Bianca with me so she stays quiet. She is serene in my arms, her head nestled into the crook of my elbow. Even though there is a safe in the corner, the diamonds are still sitting on the table in the center of the studio with a piece of white tissue paper laid over them.

Charlie is meticulous and thoughtful, but some of his decisions baffle me. Lock up the precious gems, idiot. He’s practically daring someone to take them, leaving them out like that. But he can’t imagine anything catastrophic happening to the diamonds, or to him. Only minor setbacks. A parking ticket. Maybe a tow. A gem could slip to the floor, and we’d spend the morning searching, but we’d find it. He probably assured his contact that he would lock up the jewels when he wasn’t photographing them. But he hasn’t. That’s what a charmed life does to you. You learn to expect everything to go your way.

I lift the tissue paper, and the stones shine like animal eyes in the dark. I never really paid much attention to diamonds before now, but all the cliches are true. They are radiant, they sparkle, they catch the light. They are tiny and useless, but they must be the most valuable thing I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. I am lost looking at them. I can’t help but wonder how much they are worth. Then Bianca squirms. She’s my little guard dog, alert to the tiniest disturbance. Howling if a pen rolls off the table in the next room. She knows we should be in bed, that we are up to no good down here in the middle of the night. When I crawl back into bed next to Charlie, he shifts and reaches a heavy arm across my body. He smells the same as he always does, warm and clean. The diamonds call to me through the floor.

In the morning, I roll out my mat and put on a yoga video. I try to find a different video each day, but of course I repeat sometimes. My back has been seizing up for years, and it’s bad today. I don’t really know how to describe it, but I can feel it starting even before the pain arrives. At first, it’s like a little shard of glass is embedded next to my spine, but it’s so tiny, it’s barely there. Then, it starts to radiate heat. Eventually, it hurts when I walk, it hurts when I sit, it hurts when I stand still. I can feel myself holding my back tight, and I try to relax, but I’m scared I’ll make it worse. It’s frozen. For a decade, this happened every few months.

Charlie was worried the first time he saw me like that, hobbling from the bedroom to the bathroom, so he took me to his chiropractor. Breathe in, she said, and when I breathed out, she cracked my back like an ice cube tray. “Good,” she said, and I felt the vertebrae settle back into their little compartments. “It’s probably stress,” she said. “Try yoga.” She was right. Yoga used to be a chore, but now it’s a habit. It helps my blood flow. It steadies the heart. I have Charlie to thank for that.

Sometimes I listen to the messages they give at the end of the yoga routines. I absorb what I can. I try to be accepting, forgiving and give thanks even though there’s a lot that’s hard to accept and a lot of people I don’t care to forgive. We were together two years before I even told Charlie I had an ex-husband. But now it’s different. Lately, gratitude has been more within reach. I’m grateful for Charlie, for Bianca, for our home. For Tamale, who by pure stroke of luck, lives within walking distance. Things seem easy and good in a way I never thought was possible.

At the end of the morning’s video, while I’m laying on my back in shavasana, the instructor, a pretty white woman with a deep voice, delivers a closing message.

If you hold fire and give it to someone who doesn’t have any, you won’t have any less light. Love is like a burning flame. Giving it away doesn’t leave you with any less.

I contemplate what she’s saying. How do you give a person fire? I cannot find a way for what she says to be true. My chest clenches. I resent this woman and her naive ideas. I want everyone to stop saying things are fine when nothing is fine, not really. Fire burns because it is burning something. When there is a scarcity of warmth or light, it’s not fire that is in low supply, it is fuel. All of these yoga teachers and spiritual leaders are delivering bullshit with a side of ocean waves, and if anyone really listened, they’d know it. When you give something away, it’s gone.

I’ll admit it: I want stability and security without having to look too deeply into anyone’s eyes. I don’t want to bare my soul. Been there. Done that. It’s just a setup for heartbreak. My ex-husband swore on God, in sickness and in health. Through good times and bad. I believed every word of it. I gave him everything I had. Then one day, he left on a dime with his head held high. Head held high! To this day, his leaving remains a mystery. So I don’t give anything away for free anymore. I am willing to make other trades though. I have to be. I wish it were different.

I’m in the kitchen cooking an omelet with our new omelet pan while Charlie is downstairs in the studio. I don’t really work anymore, but I help Charlie out with emails and invoices when he gets busy. It was new to me, but I figured it out. “Thank you for reaching out.” “I look forward to connecting.” I try to add value, and I think I do.

Charlie has been shooting the diamonds for days now. I can tell it’s meticulous work. He’s got a tiny little toolset. Tweezers to adjust position and a miniature brush to remove particles of dust. Whenever I come downstairs to say hello and give him a kiss, I ask him, “How is my best friend doing?” I am making a joke about the diamonds—a girl’s best friend—but I think he thinks I’m asking him how he’s doing.

I’ve never been the kind of person who thinks of their significant other as their friend, though. It’s different. I don’t read all of Tamale’s texts and emails or get jealous when she has a dinner date with a friend. I don’t trim her nose hairs and ear hairs. I don’t wax her back. I don’t scoop the seeds out of her tomatoes and prepare her a salad every day at lunchtime. I don’t strap on high heels for Tamale or stroke her forehead until she falls asleep at night. And we shared a bed when I first moved to the city. I’ve known Tamale for nearly half my life.

I usually avoid the studio during shoot days because the lights hurt my eyes. Right now, I can hear the bulbs flashing and clicking through the floor. If I go down there, I will see red squares burned behind my eyelids for an hour. If I stay too long, a migraine will develop in the back of one eye socket and spread to the base of my neck. I don’t complain though—I try not to cause problems—and I linger in the room when I deliver Charlie his eggs.

I admire a close-up shot of the teardrop diamond. It’s blown up to the size of a dinner plate on the big monitor. Charlie tells me the omelet is delicious. I tell him his image is stunning. It doesn’t look as beautiful as the real thing though. The diamonds are special. They aren’t a burger or a pair of sunglasses. Charlie must be feeling telepathic because the next thing he says is that the photo needs retouching. “It’s not ready yet,” he says. “OK,” I say. He’s the expert. Still, I don’t think a million hours of editing could do a diamond justice.

Back upstairs, I do some research at the kitchen counter while I eat my half of the omelet, which is delicious. I remember Superman used to make diamonds by squeezing a lump of coal in the palm of his hand. The immense heat and pressure was akin to conditions far under the Earth’s surface. It turns out that scientists grow lab diamonds the same way. They put a diamond seed next to a piece of carbon and then blast it.

Do you know how long it takes for a diamond to form naturally? Billions of years. Do you know how long it takes to grow a diamond in a lab? Six to eight weeks. There’s only one downside to these science-experiment diamonds, and in my opinion, it’s irrelevant. They are cheaper than mined diamonds. But cheap is subjective. For a certain type of person, none of it’s affordable. And for another type, it’s all within reach. And guess what? Do you know who can tell the difference between a mined diamond and a lab diamond? Nobody. Lab diamonds are also more ethical than mined diamonds, but I am generally more concerned with my own little life than I am with the condition of the world. There’s only so much a person can do.

I pour some more coffee and learn about the four Cs of quality. Cut, carat, color and clarity. I learn that a diamond loses about half its retail value immediately upon sale, like a new car driven off the lot. I also learn that there’s always a market for diamonds. Guns and diamonds, Reddit says, are always in demand. I read the descriptions of different cuts of stones. “This diamond lights a fire,” one website brags. “Radiant-cut diamonds are an excellent choice for those wishing for more brilliance and fire without the price tag of a round.”

I go to see Charlie in the studio again. He’s got a black latex glove on his right hand, and he’s leaning over his camera setup like a surgeon. Each time the bulb flashes, I wince and feel my vision being chipped away. Charlie notices me and the look of concentration on his face melts into a smile. He’s always happy to see me. “Darling,” he says. He leaves his camera and puts a hand on my back as I lean over the table to examine the stones. “How are you feeling?” he asks. The question fills me with guilt.

“Fine,” I say. I point to the diamond labeled round cut. “This diamond lights a fire,” I say. I raise my eyebrows. I’m making a joke. He laughs. He doesn’t exactly get it, but he gets it enough.

He shows me a 12th piece, one that I haven’t seen yet. The diamond is set in jewelry and hangs from a chain. “It arrived late,” he explains. It’s a single stone, the size of my thumb, cut into the shape of a cross. There is a tiny gold Christ attached to it, complete with miniscule stakes driven through his lumpy hands. We examine the necklace together. Charlie turns to me. “Is this what Jesus would have wanted?” he asks. I laugh and laugh.

He seems relaxed now, so I ask him what the diamonds are worth. I have no sense of how many carats they are. He says the expensive part is probably cutting them. An uncut diamond looks like a chewed up hunk of plastic. The value is in the labor.

“How much do you think they are at cost?” I ask.

“Not a lot.” I can’t tell if he doesn’t know or doesn’t want to talk about it. He never wants to talk about money.

I take a guess. “Like $300, $400?”

“Yeah, that’s probably right.”

“And how much do they sell for, retail?”

“$5,000 each,” he says. “The cross is worth more. Maybe 25K.”

I don’t say anything for a moment. I have an idea coming to me like a train a hundred miles away. Soon I’ll be able to hear its whistle, a warning call. Then I’ll see its headlight shining down the track, just beyond the railroad switch.

Twenty-five thousand dollars is a lot of money. Plus the eleven other diamonds. That’s $80,000 worth of carbon crystal. Little bits of coal, transformed. I know it’s nothing to Charlie. They are probably paying him 25K just to photograph them. But it’s a lot to me. It’s not fair. He’s not smarter than me or more attractive. But I depend on him. He doesn’t hold it over me, but he knows it. I love Charlie, but I hate this fact.

I know I am lucky to have a decent, law-abiding man. He doesn’t ruffle feathers. He works as much as he needs to pay the bills and save for a textbook future. Then he spends time with me and Bianca. He goes out to lunch with his mom. Meets friends for a drink. He likes to play board games and go on bike rides and watch stand-up comedy specials. I don’t have anything to worry about, not really. But I worry. I always have, and I always will.

It’s below freezing outside, so I bundle up to take Bianca on a late morning walk and head to Tamale’s apartment. When I’m out front I text her and she buzzes me up. She’s always home during the day. She doesn’t work since her boyfriend has lots of money from his business, but I guess that’s changing now.

Tamale left the door to the apartment cracked open for me, and she’s inside painting her nails without any pants on. She’s wearing a lacy, red thong and a gray T-shirt that doesn’t fit. It looks like a child’s shirt. It’s cute. She’s got her computer out, too, and she’s clicking around on eBay. Her nail polish is the same lime green as the Y in the eBay logo. I point this out to her. “I know,” she says. “I love this color.” She tells me that she’s selling some clothing to make a little extra cash, but she keeps seeing things she wants to buy. I’ve never used eBay in my life.

I tell her about the diamonds while she adds a second layer of color to her nails. Twelve diamonds, I say, worth $80,000. She keeps painting. The police will blame the courier or the client, I say. They might also blame me, but it won’t matter. It’s not hard to think up suspects. It’s a literal treasure for the taking, and it boils down to acting chops. Finesse. I will be Method. I imagine how a person would feel if they were robbed while they slept in their bed. Violated. Exposed. It’s easy to imagine a feeling I know. I will sit down, too stunned to stand. I will weep with fear for what might have happened. I can pull it off.

Tamale pauses. Blows on her nails. “I deserve more than half if I’m the one who’s gonna do it.” It’s what I expected her to say. I point out that without me, there’s no opportunity. “I’m the plug,” I say.

She starts the top coat. She always does a professional-level job on her nails. They look amazing, filed to almond-shaped tips, little toxic green paring knives. She looks up. “But without me, you wouldn’t know what to do with a dozen diamonds.”

“I’m the one that has to be there,” I say. “I have to look Charlie in the eye.”

She nods. “You sure you wanna steal from him? That’s your man.” I’d been waiting for this question, too.

I kiss Bianca’s wet nose and examine her perfect little feet. “We’re not stealing from him. We’re stealing from a company that grows diamonds in a lab like they’re greenhouse tomatoes.”

Tamale tells me to stop playing with the dog. “Be serious,” she says.

“I need money.”

“Do you, though? Charlie loves you. He takes care of you. Just like John takes care of me.”

She’s right, but she’s missing the point. “What do you think is gonna feel better? Having 80K in the bank or not having 80K in the bank?”

She scoffs. “20K after we split it. You don’t get full price for stolen goods. I’ll have to fence it.”

I don’t like how quickly the profit margin is dropping, but twenty thousand is still something, and something is better than nothing. It’s at least vex money. Plus, Tamale needs the cash, so I know she’s not going to try too hard to convince me that I don’t. We aren’t arguing. We’re just figuring it out. “Tonight,” I tell her.

She shakes her head. “Text me if you change your mind.” Then she holds up her hands so that I can admire her work.

I walk the six blocks back to the apartment with Bianca inside my coat. Her little breaths are warm against my chest.

Charlie and I go out to dinner after he is done working. He drives us to a restaurant uptown. We order head-on shrimp, poached chicken and lemon pasta with butter. I sip my wine and ask him how the shoot is going. He’s having an issue with lighting because the lens has to be very close to each diamond to capture the detail he wants, and it’s casting a shadow. He thinks he has a solution figured out though, and he’ll be done soon. Better late than never.

“I can’t wait to finish this job and get them out of there,” he says, referring to the diamonds. “Good riddance. We can relax.”

I like that he thinks of us as a team. We can relax, he says, as if the root of our anxiety about the diamonds is the same. In a way, he’s right. We both look forward to their departure. But I dread it. His embarrassment. The police in our home. I’m not sure how he will explain to his client that they weren’t in the safe. I’ll have to play stupid. But it’s all temporary. There will be commotion, lessons learned, and then we will carry on.

I want to ask if the diamonds excite him at all. “You could pick one up and swallow it,” I want to say. But I don’t want the diamonds on his mind, so I change the subject. I describe a show I’m watching about nocturnal animals. Bats are knocking into each other all the time, I say. Their radar isn’t worth shit. He tells me about his friend whose marriage is falling apart. Together, we watch a hostess with lip filler teeter around on too-tall heels. We agree that despite all that, she’s cute. We like her. I pour the remainder of my wine into Charlie’s glass. He needs to sleep tonight.

After we finish our entrees, Charlie orders an aperitif, and I get a cup of coffee. Charlie is tipsy. I can tell because he gets goofy when he’s drunk. He keeps telling Dad jokes and winking at me. He’s giggling a lot too.

“Remind me which diamond was your favorite?” he says.

“Marquise,” I tell him. “The most diamond diamond.”

I touch his thigh. I kiss him. Back at home, I spend a long time under him, then on top of him. Up and down. “Are you close?” I ask him. My thighs burn. I wonder if Tamale is checking her phone, expecting me to text her. In the end, Charlie has had too much to drink. I slide off of him and close my eyes.

Charlie is snoring like an ogre when Bianca first growls. It’s 3 a.m. I take her into my arms and hold her under the covers. “It’s just the wind,” I whisper. “Hush, hush.” She wriggles and writhes. She’s strong for such a little dog, and she can hear something that I can’t hear. She wants to protect us. Charlie stirs.

I hold Bianca’s snout shut, but I can’t keep my hands on her. She breaks free and starts jumping around the bed, yelping. I scramble, trying to contain her. I make my voice deep and serious. “Bianca, no,” I say. “Come here.” But she can’t even hear me in her agitated state. She leaps from the bed and hops around on the hardwood.

Charlie turns on the bedside lamp and squints, rubbing his eyes.

“Bianca,” he says. “What is it?”

Bianca jumps back onto the bed, then off again. She scratches at the door to the hallway. I don’t have a sense of how much time has passed. Only a few minutes. I don’t know how long it takes someone to break into an apartment, collect something and exit. The door isn’t difficult to open. I left the deadbolt unlocked. Tamale is just using a credit card to jimmy the doorknob, and I told her exactly where the diamonds are.

“Go back to sleep,” I tell Charlie. “I’ll take Bianca to see. It’s nothing. The wind. Maybe she heard a mouse.” He leans back into the bed and pulls the covers over his head.

“Thank you, darling,” he murmurs. Then he sighs and pushes the covers off. He’s standing. He’s opening the door. “I’ll go,” he says.

“No no no,” I say. “You sleep. I’m already up. It’s fine.”

He frowns. “You’re not going to check alone.”

I pick up Bianca and hold her against my body so that she won’t squirm as we descend the stairs. I tell her hush. I’m sure she can feel the pounding in my chest. She’s calmer now though, which is a good sign. Charlie uses the flashlight on his phone to light the way, and when we reach the first floor, he turns on the overheads. It’s too bright.

I put Bianca down, and she scampers around, sniffing. She scratches at the studio door. I try to control my breathing. I exhale slowly. I feel suffocated. I worry Charlie can hear my thudding heart. But nothing looks disturbed. I wonder if Tamale chickened out. Maybe she didn’t come at all. We agreed not to communicate unless it’s in person. I have plans to stop by and see her in a few days. I just need to act normal.

Bianca pushes the studio door open and disappears inside. Charlie watches her.

“Why is the door to the studio open?” he says.

“It’s usually shut?”

He follows Bianca, and I follow him. Inside, it is dead. Inert.

He turns slowly in the room, scanning. Then his body stiffens, and he turns again, faster.

He is across the room in three long strides, and I can tell before he says anything that they are gone.

“Oh my God,” he says, over and over, louder each time. “Oh my God.” His voice cracks. I join him standing at the table, looking down on the empty square of black velvet. It absorbs all the light in the room. “Oh my God,” he says, muffled now, with his face in his hands. I’ve never seen him like this.

He’s crying. He holds the table for support. I expected his usual measured response. Charlie is action-oriented, a problem solver, and this is a practical matter. Put on a pot of coffee, I want to tell him. Call the precinct. His reaction is disturbing. It fills me with dread. Saliva builds up under my tongue. Bianca barks and paws at Charlie’s legs. I swallow.

Walking home from Tamale’s earlier, I had been unsure of what I would say or do when Charlie realized the diamonds were gone. I worried that the disbelief of, “Are you kidding?” would seem too lighthearted, and stunned silence too dramatic. What I want to tell Charlie now is that anything you get in life is either going to stay with you forever, or you’re going to lose it. Those are the options, and since nothing is forever, it’s important to prepare for losses. Eventually, everyone loses everything.

But I have a role to play. I put my hand on Charlie’s shoulder. “Baby,” I say. “I’m sorry.” He holds his face in his hands, and I hold him. It’s not a dream, I want to say. It’s not a nightmare, either. Wake up. An awful thing has happened, but we’ll get through it. It’s too soon to tell him, but with enough time, the feeling of terror will fade. “Charlie,” I say. This time he looks at me, eyes wide. In his echoey studio in the middle of the night, a pitch black square where the diamonds were, his face is filled with fear. “Call the police,” I say. I go to the kitchen and take the tin of coffee from the freezer. I grind the beans. When the officers buzz our apartment, Bianca goes berserk.


My memory of the diamonds remains beautiful, but it’s in the past. They were magical, catching light, impossible to pin down. I wish I had held all twelve of them in my palm at the same time when I had the chance and pressed my fingers into the sharp edges. Imagine all that heat and pressure in six weeks’ time. Miraculous. When I think about the diamonds now, wherever they are, they seem grotesque. Pornographic. Something I am ashamed to want as badly as I did. As I do.

Things have changed. Tamale moved out of the city with her boyfriend once the charges against him were dropped. She tried to convince me to go with them, but how could I? New York City is the most hopeful place in the world. There’s nowhere I’d rather be.

I admit it’s been rough since Charlie and I split. I didn’t expect to miss the relationship this much. I miss Bianca, too. But no matter. I rented a little room a bit farther out. I got a job I can do from my phone.

I still take walks, sometimes for an hour or longer. Through the flower markets on 28th Street, the diamond district at 47th. I see horse-drawn carriages entering Central Park. The white Clydesdales wear red feathers on their heads and the riders don top hats. You see? You can buy a few minutes of a fairytale, but it’s not cheap.

I bet I have passed one of those diamonds glittering on the ring finger of someone on the street. It’s become a habit to check, not that I would be able to tell. At the end of the day, natural or lab grown, they all look the same.

I know a diamond isn’t a promise. It isn’t security. Still, I wish I had kept the Marquise for good luck.