divorced divas 02 - crimped to death

 

 

Crimped

to

Death

A Divorced Diva Mystery

Tonya Kappes

 

Dedications

To the men in my life: Eddy, Austin, Brady, and Jack! They encourage and support me unconditionally.

To my readers! You keep me going and continue to help me live my dream. Thank you!

 

Chapter One

 

Honk, honk.
Willow squeaked and rolled her ball around.
Honk
.

“The Beaded Dragonfly,” I answered the old rotary-dial phone that hung on the wall in my bead shop.

I still smiled every single time I said my business name. It was mine, all mine.

“Yes. I understand,” I said into the phone and looked out the big front window of the shop.

The light pink awning that hung over the storefront doors with The Beaded Dragonfly printed in black flapped in the morning breeze. The dragonfly mascot with the beaded tail was printed on the windows. The sun hit the tail of the dragonfly and projected the colors on the wall of the shop like a rainbow. It was truly magical. Exactly everything I had always dreamed of.

Honk, honk, honk.
Willow batted the ball with her nose better than soccer players used their feet.

I tried not to laugh at how cute my pet pig was. “Your daughter’s wedding jewelry will be just as beautiful as Margaret McGee’s.”

The day was turning out to be a beautiful day and the beads glistened throughout the store showing all of their brilliance. The large windows were big assets. I knew the natural light that shone through would give each bead and gem the sparkle that would set my bead shop apart from any other.

The front door flew open; just like a tornado Marlene Dietrich flew in for her afternoon shift at The Beaded Dragonfly, my lapidary.

Weak, weak, weak.
Willow’s tail twirled and she darted into the storage room in the back of the shop as fast as her little hooves could carry her.

As soon as she saw Marlene and her sky-high heels take the first step onto the hardwood floor, she was out of there.

“You better run.” Marlene cackled and held her foot in the air, heel jabbing toward Willow. “I love pork on a stick, it’s called a corn dog!”

Marlene’s foot dropped and in one swift kick, she sent Willow’s ball into
The Under
.

Sigh
. I let out a long, deep breath.
The Under.

To most people
The Under
of things probably didn’t bother them. Me, well. . .I’m a different story. Even as a child I never liked
The Under
.
The Under
of beds,
The Under
of cars, even basements in houses were
Unders
. I had never explored the true reasons why I had never liked
The Under
, but I would think it would have to do with all the scariness of a monster
Under
the bed theory you heard about as a child.

Regardless, I never stuck my hand in
The Under
unless I had a big light illuminating the entire dark space.

“No. Not just as beautiful. Even better than Margaret McGee’s jewelry.” I gave Marlene the stink eye as she sashayed her long-legged, leopard-print wearing, hip-hugging, skin-tight jeggings legs toward me. “Great. I will mark you down. See you then.”

I placed the phone back in it’s cradle and grabbed the calendar next to the cash register laying on the glass counter and marked the new appointment with a mother of the bride.

“Really, Marlene? Must you always come in here and torment Willow?” I asked and put the calendar back.

“She’s the one who started it.” Marlene slid off her long leather gloves one finger at a time and dropped them on the counter.

Marlene didn’t give scaring poor Willow a second thought. She unbuttoned her coat and hung it on the coat tree at the front of the shop near the door.

“Besides, you really shouldn’t bring your pet to work.” Marlene cocked her perfectly waxed brow and tugged on the v-neck part of her black top, tucking her girls away for the day.

I ignored her and looked at the list of clients I had on the schedule.

Marlene leaned on the counter and drummed her long red acrylic fingernails on the glass.

“Whatcha doing?” She batted her long, fake, implanted eyelashes.

“Working.” I looked at her, a little irked by her cool manner. I pointed to the stack of boxes in the corner of the room that was filled with merchandise that needed to be placed on display. “Something you should be doing.”

Marlene Dietrich had been working for me every since she stepped high-heeled into Swanee, Kentucky and she knew exactly what her job duties were. Unpack new inventory, put new inventory on the shelves, and answer the phone. Easy.

She and Willow were enemies from the start. Willow was scared of Marlene’s boisterous cackle, not to mention the spikes on her shoes. Marlene loved to aggravate my poor pig.

“Did you have enough coffee this morning?” Marlene chomped on her gum. I could smell it and almost taste it. “Because I can run down to Second Cup and get you one. Plus I have to drop off a new batch of Agnes’s fudge.”

“No I don’t need a cup of coffee.” I glanced up and glared at her. “I need you to unpack those boxes.” I pointed over to the three stacked boxes in the far corner of the store.

“Fine.” She dragged her hot pink purse toward her and took out a small plastic container filled with fudge. She took her gum out and stuck it right on top of the cash register. She took a piece of Agnes Pearl’s delicious chocolaty treat out of the container and took a big bite. Her eyes closed. “Mmm.” Her eyes opened. “You sure you don’t want a piece?”

“Marlene, Food Watchers would call you a saboteur.” I pushed the container away.

The smell alone would make me gain five pounds and tonight was my weigh-in night.

“Okay.” She put the container back in her purse and pushed it toward me to stick it behind the counter. Her long nails plucked the wad of gum off the cash register and plopped it back in her mouth.

My eyes lowered and my nose curled as I watched middle-aged Marlene strut her thin body over to the boxes. I had to admit I was jealous.

I looked down into the glass counter. My dull brown hair fell into my face and I tucked a falling strand behind my ear. It wasn’t a secret that after my divorce from
what’s his name
, I had put on a few pounds and clothes with elastic waistbands had become my best friend.

A few months ago I decided to make a change and join Food Watchers. I had been really watching my weight and lost a few pounds, but not enough to really make a difference. Yet.

“Oh, these are beautiful.” Marlene dangled a strand of coral beads in the air.

The sunlight gushed through the front windows, and hit the gems perfectly as the prisms bounced off the ceiling and walls.

“I can put these on my new necklace.” The words of excitement oozed out of her mouth like honey.

One good thing about Marlene, she showed up to work and she loved to design jewelry, which was altogether a plus for me.

“Oh no you won’t,” I assured her. “Those are for the new bridal line.”

She snarled and stuck them where they were supposed to go, the new bridal side of the shop. The right side of the lapidary was big enough for me to have a small café table with two chairs and a display case for unique and expensive beads a bride would wear on her wedding day.

I used that side of the shop for bridal consults and the other side of the shop for beading classes for customers, as well as the pre-made jewelry selection for anyone who wanted to buy, not make.

“The Divas would love them.” Marlene took one last look at the coral beads before she reluctantly dangled them on the hook that was meant just for them.

“I’m sure they would, but I have to make a living,” I reminded her.

The Divorced Divas, the Divas, for short, was a group formed in the most unlikely of ways. I was driving through Swanee during a rough day. Sean, my ex—aka what’s his name—hadn’t paid the alimony, and in the back of my head, I knew I needed to make a payment to the Sloans for rent.

The church sign read, “If you are divorced. Stop here. Meeting at 7pm.” As luck would have it, it was seven p.m. I whipped my little VW Beetle into the parking lot and marched right in.

The women greeted me with open arms, and we’ve been close ever since.

We found laughter and tears while bashing our ex-husbands and cheering each other on. Diva Flora White tended to take suggestions literally. Once, she cut all the armpits out of her ex-husband Bennie’s, shirts, put them in a garbage bag and dumped canned kidney beans on them. When he came to get his garbage bags of expensive lawyer clothes, he had a little treat inside. Needless to say, the Divas group got a visit from Noah Druck, our local cop. He suggested we bash our ex-husbands only figuratively from then on, unless we wanted a slew of lawsuits.

We Divas loved meeting and came up with all sorts of fun evil plots to hurt our exes in our heads, but that’s where they stayed. The church wasn’t able to accommodate additional meeting times, so we moved them to different Divas’ houses, a hotel I had rented on the edge of town, and then finally to The Beaded Dragonfly.

“Good afternoon.” Donovan Scott strolled through the door with two cups of welcomed coffee in his hands. “I thought you might need one of these.”

He stood there, devilishly handsome with a nice smile on his face. His dimples deepened, making his blue eyes stick out even more against his olive skin.

“You were right.” My heart sank into my stomach. “I do need an afternoon pick-me-up to get through the rest of the day.”

I tugged my shirt down below my waist and walked from behind the counter. I couldn’t hide my body behind it forever. Since I had been going to Food Watchers, I started taking daily walks with Diva Bernadine Frisk, plus I had also been taking a self-defense class from Donovan—as well as a going on a couple of dates with him.

The word date was used loosely. Most of the time it was late night conversations at his house. We had yet to take our relationship to anything more than kissing. Though it wasn’t far from my mind. After all, I was a woman in need.

“That was a big hike yesterday.” He walked toward me with the cup held out in front of him. His fingers touched mine, sending a zinging shock through my core. “I’m glad we decided to venture out.”

Ahem.
Marlene cleared her throat.

I had totally forgotten she was there. That was one thing Donovan did to me. . .made me forget my surroundings and drop the world from around me. That was a good sign. Something a man hadn’t done for me in a long time.

“Marlene, you know Donovan.” I gestured between the two. “Don’t you have some fudge to deliver to Second Cup? I bet Bernadine is waiting for it.”

Diva Bernadine was also my neighbor; she lived in a huge cabin across the lake from my little cottage—that was why it made it so easy for me to have a daily walk. She and I both did Food Watchers and kept each other accountable.

Recently she opened up a coffee shop in the middle of town, Second Cup, after she and Henry, her ex-ass, went to court for a fifth time. She realized she couldn’t rely on him, so she’s putting her alimony money to good use and investing in her future with the only café in town. Unfortunately, Henry moved back to Swanee and not only opened up a dental office, decided to sue Bernadine for a sixth time. This time he was suing to stop all alimony payments.

You could only imagine what all the Divas had planned for him.

“I guess I will do this later.” Marlene left the boxes where she found them and went behind the counter to get her purse. “I’ll be back.” She gave Donovan the stare down as she passed us on her way out.

Marlene wasn’t a big fan of Donovan. She adored my ex-ass. Only because he flashed his playboy smile and complimented her whenever he saw her, sending her body into full-on shivers.

Technically, Marlene was an honorary Diva. She loved to date the wealthy men that were on their way to the home of the near death, i.e. nursing homes. She enjoyed the lavish lifestyles they could give her, which didn’t include marriage. Marlene definitely saw marriage as a ball and chain.

Unfortunately, her love ’em and leave ’em attitude came to an abrupt halt when she crossed the wrong ex-wife a few months ago. She’s been on a man dry spell for a while, making her cranky. I’d give her a few more months and she’ll be back to her old self.

“Thank you so much.” A half smile crossed my face as I watched her leave the shop.

I turned to Donovan. His gaze met mine and made my heart flutter. He grinned and straightened his shoulders.

“You look great.” He pulled a chair out from under one the six tables where I host beading classes.

“Thank you.” I felt my cheeks redden. I looked away.

Nervously, I picked at the edges of the coffee cup sleeve. We weren’t used to being out in the public. It wasn’t his doing. It was mine and I couldn’t figure out why. Sean knew I was going on dates with Donovan, but I had never been on any dates other than with Sean. I did a lot of self talk about how it was just not a routine and I needed to go with the flow. Only the flow was always going against me.

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