Beautifully Complicated

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Chapter 4: Flashing Lights

I was severely outnumbered, and wildly unnerved. No escape plan or plan of attack entered my brain, only the silent sound of panic. My bottom slowly descended onto a chair as I shakily sipped my wine. The other women followed my lead.

“Take a breath, sweetheart,” Cordelia advised. I looked at her like she was crazy. “They’re not going to hurt you, not as long as I’m here.”

“I’m still trying to figure out why you’re here. My assistant suggested I come here to meet with other women who were going through a divorce like I’m about to, yet you and Lou are still happily married, and so are quite a few of the women in this supposed support group. Tell me again why I shouldn’t be concerned?”

“Because my son has no idea what we do here. None of the men in our lives do.”

“What do they think y’all do here?”

“Well, to be quite honest, it depends on who you ask. Sylvie’s family thinks she aids young women through divorce proceedings and breakups. Blithe, there, her husband thinks she hosts book club meetings. Young Zoe, her boyfriend believes she’s having a girls’ night, which isn’t entirely incorrect. Genesis and Madeline’s family think they’re having a weekly business meeting. The list goes on and on.”

“And Lou? What does he think you’re doing right now?”

“Meeting with producers about a new film, which again, is not entirely incorrect,” she giggled.

“And dare I ask what it is y’all really do here, or is that as complicated as the lies you tell to your sons and significant others?”

“Life in general is complicated, my dear,” Sylvia said leaning toward me. “What we do here is find the beauty in that complication.”

I did not remember asking for a riddle, and couldn’t understand why my question was answered with one. “Uh, I don’t follow.”

“Hazel, you are currently in the center of an exclusive meeting of the minds, an elite group formed to network the lives of many.”

“Oh dear God. Please don’t tell me y’all are a sorority.”

Her laugh was just as bubbly as the voice she greeted me with on the phone. “Oh, no, dear. We are a secret society; our union is a lifelong commitment. Truthfully, we are bonded even in death, and the meetings we have, as well as our existence in general, are unknown by non-members.”

“So, if y’all are so secret, why are you telling me? I’m not a member. I didn’t know you existed. I don’t even know who you are or what you’re called!”

“We are called The Diamond Secret Society, and you are here because the private practice within your business and the current changes in your personal life have placed you on our radar.”

“My … what?”

“Oh, cut the crap!” one of the Hollywood wives I recognized, Daisy Payton, bellowed. “Everyone here knows that your floral shop ain’t a damn floral shop.”

“Actually, it is …”

“Shut up, Josie!”

“Why? One of her whores is screwing my husband too! I have just as much to say about this as you do.”

“Okay, let’s get a show of hands,” Sylvia started, resuming control. “Who has a husband or boyfriend, or girlfriend for that matter, that has been a client of Hazel’s?”

The air in my chest abandoned me when all but five people raised their hands. “Oh, shit.”

“Keep your hands up. Now, how many of you know somebody outside of your significant other that is or has been serviced by Hazel’s company?”

My mouth fell open when every hand in the room waved freely, including hers. A light whimper pinched out of my throat.

“Hands down. See, dear. We all know you quite well. Your affairs aren’t as secret as you think they are.”

“Don’t scare her, Sylvie,” Cordelia intervened before standing to sit next to me. “Nobody knows about you and your business outside of this circle.”

“And by this circle, she means the entire society.”

“Daisy!”

“What does she mean entire society? There’s more of you, more than the people in this room?”

“We have over 500 members around the world, but the whole does not know about you yet, and they will not find out about you specifically until you are initiated in.”

“And you will be initiated.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“That’s why we asked you to come tonight. We want you to join us. Your … initiative in building a business that secures some of the deepest and darkest secrets of this town without our assistance or connections …”

“Or approval.”

“Or knowledge!”

“… Has made you a prime candidate, and quite frankly, a very necessary one. As fellow key holders to the underground workings of the world, it is imperative that we are all on the same team, moving toward the same goals, and ensuring that the scales of humanity remain balanced.”

The scales of humanity? That’s a little overzealous, don’t you think?”

“Dear, I fear you are underestimating our influence. We are doctors, lawyers, officers, entertainers, and laborers. We are chefs, bartenders, journalists, nurses, and politicians. We are engineers, teachers, business owners, homemakers, and therapists. We are the wives, mothers, girlfriends, daughters, and miracle workers of any and every dominant man on the planet. We know all, see all, are all, and have the ability to end all with the information we gain through our professional and ancestral connections, and pillow talk. When you hear famous singers chant how Girls Run The World or how Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend, it is a private shout-out to us. We know it, but no one else does, and they don’t need to. The Diamond Secret Society is a collection of women with the utmost power; we just made the universal choice not to abuse it. And you can be a part of all of this.”

“If I join you.”

When you join us.”

“But I don’t understand why you want me. The sex portion of our business wasn’t even my idea; it was Lorenzo’s!”

“And now that you and Lorenzo are splitting up, what do you plan to do with it? Are you going to shut it down?”

“I mean, eventually. That was always my and Lorenzo’s plan.”

“She can’t shut down!” Daisy yelled. “If any of the secrets she knows leak out, it will be the end for all of us, and our husband’s careers.”

“But I wouldn’t – I wouldn’t tell anybody.”

“The fact is, Hazel, this isn’t just about you anymore, or Lorenzo, or your relationship with him. Like it or not, you’re in the system. Our society sisters that work for the government know about you, Lorenzo, and Donato’s Budding Deliveries, but we’re not concerned about Lorenzo. He wasn’t running the daily operations of the business; he was just a name on your list of escorts.”

“That’s not true! Both of our names are on the building, on the tax filings … We’re co-owners!”

“Not once the divorce is finalized,” Cordelia smiled. “Meet Jewel Socorro. She’s one of the best lawyers in the state of California, and a D3S, 3rd generation.”

“I’m sorry, D3S?”

“Diamond Secret Society Sister,” Jewel clarified. “As soon as Cordelia heard that Lorenzo left you for Silvana, she called me to file the divorce papers immediately.”

“What the … wait! How do you know that … I mean, what if we decide to work it out?”

“After what he’s done, do you really want to? Besides, with me on your team, I can assure you that we can secure Donato’s Budding Deliveries in your name, especially since you were the one handling all the paperwork and managing the business.”

“How were able to file on my behalf without my fucking say?”

“Let’s just say, we have friends in high places,” Cordelia laughed as snickers filled the room.

“Y’all think this is funny? You tricked me into coming here, you’ve hijacked my marriage …”

“No, Silvana hijacked your marriage; we hijacked your divorce.”

“And now you think you can pressure me into joining your little club? What if I say no?”

Sylvia tossed a file folder on display with my name on it. “I don’t think you’ll want to. In fact, what you might want to do is take a look inside this.”

My mouth fell agape as I viewed photographs documenting my and Lorenzo’s home life, the lives of our escorts, as well as their meetings with our clients. I wasn’t too surprised by the personal information they had acquired about Lorenzo’s family since Cordelia was a member, but the content about my parents stiffened my body with a terror I had never known before.

“Raphael Esperon and Sarai Christopher Esperon, right? My, my, your mother and father have done rather well for themselves ever since they ran away from the Hawaiian group home they grew up in. We all found it quite interesting that they started out in life as, what’s the proper term, troubled teenagers? Your father went from petty theft to protecting and serving a small community on the other side of the ocean.”

“How did you …?”

“I imagine him and your mother moved to the Flintridge suburb so no one would ever know about their … tortured pasts? And your mother … now, that’s a tale. She went from promiscuous party girl to prosperous party planner. Since she was one bad choice away from becoming a working girl herself, how would she feel if she knew that the daughter she worked so hard to keep away from that lifestyle was making a living from … her old habits?”

A tear slipped down my cheek as her words and evidence penetrated my soul. I knew my parents had a rough childhood, but neither of them had ever disclosed any of the disturbing details, and the only other people I called family, Chloe and Frank’s parents who also came from La Luna Youth Home, made some kind of pact to never tell their children about their former lives.

I should have found comfort in the fact that my parents had also lived a life in camouflage, but all I could think about were the times they encouraged me to succeed the right way, how proud they were that I had my own business, and the fact that these women had the ability to shatter everything that I worked so hard to conceal and everything my parents worked so hard to achieve.

I couldn’t let that happen. “What do you want?”

The loathsome grins that met my gaze made me sick to my stomach as Sylvia answered, “We just want you to join our little club, that’s all. In fact, we feel it would be in your best interest to do so.”

“It’s also in our best interest, Hazel. You see, we were – and are – extremely impressed by how you run your business. People trust you. Your employees trust you with their lives and wellbeing, your customers trust you with their secret lifestyles and hidden desires, and my son trusted you with his greatest fears and wildest dreams. To my surprise, you’ve manage to guard them all. That is why I recommended you to the council,” Cordelia revealed as my eyes threw daggers in the center of her forehead. “You could have left my son when he cheated on you, but instead of falling into the victim role, you created one of power.”

“So I have you to blame for this?”

“You have me to thank. You have the ability to be way more powerful that what you believe yourself to be. You’ve already proven that by the actions you took in a time of personal crisis. But if you continue to hide behind the unfortunate circumstances that led to you exhibiting that power, you will never truly discover what more you can do for yourself or the family you will eventually have … or the world for that matter.”

“And y’all want to help me discover my … power?”

A unanimous roar of yeses fell over the crowded room. Based upon their menacing presentation, deep down I knew the group’s intention of having me become a part of their secret society revolved around more than just them compassionately aiding me in a journey of self-empowerment.

“There is just one catch, Hazel,” Cordelia opened. “Well, a few catches actually. You can never close your shop, no matter what personal tragedy you go through, and that includes your upcoming divorce. It is your secret window to Hollywood’s underworld, and we need your eyes to capture the views we cannot see. Second, you can’t date anyone in The Diamond Secret Society or any of the member’s significant others.”

“How in the …”

“Don’t worry. We’ll give you the list. And, last but not least, you can’t speak about The Diamond Secret Society to anyone who is not a part of The Diamond Secret Society. Do you understand these rules as I’ve laid them out to you?”

I nodded, but that wasn’t enough.

“We need to hear you say it, Hazel.”

“Yes. I understand.”

“Ladies,” Sylvia called out, “on your feet. As we welcome our newest member, we must remember that we are bound together now and forever as Diamonds: some may be pure, some may be rough, but we as a whole and as individuals are unbreakable. Hazel, repeat after me: I, Hazel Yuri Esperon Donato, am and will always be … a Diamond.

“I, Hazel Yuri – Wait. I haven’t used my maiden name since I got married.”

“We all include our maiden names when we’re swore in. It’s a representation of committing our whole selves to The Diamond Secret Society.”

I nodded in understanding. “I, Hazel Yuri Esperon Donato, am and will always be a Diamond.”

“I will never turn my back on my society sisters, and I will uphold the sacred rules of our covenant and all the secrets therein.”

“I will never turn my back on my society sisters, and I will uphold the sacred rules of our covenant and all the secrets therein.”

Diamonds are forever,” Sylvia chanted as she lifted her glass of wine in the air. We all followed suit.

Diamonds are forever.”

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