Cathy Ulrich

Diamonds Between Us

My darling the jewel thief comes by to see me with a diamond clutched between her teeth.

She keeps it in her mouth when she kisses my toes, one by one, and when she nuzzles my chin as she slides into the bed beside me.

She broke in through the skylight again, shaking shards of glass from her hair. My father pays for the apartment, and he doesn’t understand how the skylight keeps getting broken.

Birds, I tell him. Suicidal birds.

My darling the jewel thief is telling me how she stole the diamond in her mouth, but it’s hard to understand her because she won’t take it out. It sounds like: shh, shh, shh.

The first time I met my darling the jewel thief, she was breaking through the skylight to rob me.

Burglarize, says my darling. It’s only a robbery if someone’s there.

I was here, I say. I’m always here, the consumptive heiress confined to her bed. (Do people even have consumption anymore? says my darling the jewel thief. What decade is this, anyway?) I have servants to tend to me, and visits from my parents, and stacks of books for when I grow bored with the television set.

Break the set, I tell my darling, and we both laugh after she’s kicked her boot through its screen. There’s always a new one by the time she comes by again. My father purchases them, and he doesn’t understand how they keep getting broken.

More birds, I say. Different birds.

My darling the jewel thief doesn’t want to break the television set tonight. She wants to see if there’s anything on the news about her latest heist.

Shh, shh, shh, she says, and I click on the television set with the remote. She curls in bed beside me and plucks the pearl from my earlobe. My father buys the jewelry, and he doesn’t understand how it keeps going missing.

Don’t say birds again, he tells me.

The jewelry arrives in boxes with the new television sets for the servants to unpack and bring to me. They drape me in rubies and emeralds. My darling’s eyes go wide when she sees me.

Aren’t you beautiful, she says, and embraces me silkily, stripping me of my gems before I can speak.

On the television, they’re showing footage of the burglary she pulled tonight, and the cops that followed her after she set off a silent alarm. On the television, they’re showing the outside of my apartment building and the neighbors on the sidewalk outside, gazing up at the one lit window on the top floor.

They’ve gotten hold of the helicopter from the daily traffic report, and I can hear its whirring blades outside and see the backs of our heads on the television screen. I’d like to ask my darling to break the television set again, so I can’t see the police coming up the stairs, to break the set so I can’t see them seeing us.

I grab hold of my darling’s hand. Oh, what will my father say?

My darling isn’t afraid of anything. She smiles, the diamond glinting between her teeth, and strokes my hair.

Shh, shh, shh, she says.

In her spare time, Cathy Ulrich makes beaded jewelry, which is funny, because all she ever wears is earrings. Her work has recently appeared in Five 2 One Magazine, Cheap Pop and Spry Literary Journal.