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Now we have the end of the chapter, the calm before the storm of action that will end Act I of the novel. Diana’s home life is one of the key features of the novels and short stories. We never learn all that much about Mustapha’s, because he’s a private guy. Diana is kind of private, too, but she’s got this vivid family life that keeps her balanced. We’ve already met Grace, twice, and heard about ex-husband Andrew. Now, we get to meet the relative who’s the most fun to write:
Diana opened the gate to her driveway: no motorcycle. She could feel her shoulders unkink at the prospect of a few hours of silence and solitude. Her personal e-mail had a message with a video link from some friends in Chicago: she wanted to watch it over a second glass of wine.
But as she walked up to the front door, the thumping of music from within gradually became louder: her shoulders kinked right back up again. Opening the door sent a wave of disco at her. She rocked back on her heels for an instant, then cupped her hands and shouted “Fiona?”
Fiona was on the living room floor, in the lotus position, her bright blue facial mask contrasting with the black silk kimono embroidered with cranes. Her eyes were closed, her fingertips curled up to meet above her palms over her knees. She wore high-grade noise-canceling headphones.
Diana snorted, walked to the stereo, cut off the music. An instance of blissful silence before Fiona squawked, “Hey! I had me a ticket to Nirvana.”
Diana said, “Isn’t meditation about quiet and inner peace?”
Her little sister took off the headphones. “Where’s Grace?”
“I’ve no idea. I’m not going to drive her away by asking questions. Why wear headphones and then turn up the music?”
“I live above a nightclub. I can’t find inner peace without a beat coming up through the floor. But all the lyrics are so trite I can’t stand to actually listen.” She arose from the lotus position without wobbling. “So he bought himself a cow. I’m happy for you both.”
“Of course. He’ll be busy plowing her fields and will therefore have less time to annoy us both. I wish him the best.”
“Of course not. I’d say I hope his heart gives out while plowing her, but think of the effect on the poor girl.” Fiona went to the kitchen sink, took her time washing off the face mask. “Besides, he hasn’t a heart: he had it replaced long ago by some kind of reactor.”
Diana scanned Fiona’s face for signs of even a hint of laugh lines, but even at thirty-two now, Fiona was fresh as a college girl, eerily ageless. “Thanks for your support.”
“I mostly just thank the fairies that he’ll be further gone from our lives. It’s a dream come true.” Fiona pointed to a green paper bag on the kitchen counter. “There’s pie. And whiskey.”
Fiona comes up in the stories and other novels, but this is our first encounter here. She’s beautiful, brilliant, and entirely self-centered. Unlike Diana, who while very wealthy has a sense of civic duty to do something valuable with her life, Fiona simply doesn’t care. As we shall see, she not only lives above a nightclub but also owns and runs it. Like Grace, she lets herself in; like Grace, she wears headphones; like Grace, she mocks Andrew—though while for Grace it’s mostly loving, it’s decidedly not for Fiona.
Note her arch, mannered way of speaking: he hasn’t a heart, not he doesn’t have one. This plus the lack of aging makes her a kind of faerie, someone whose feet don’t quite touch the earth, in contrast to the very grounded Diana. When Fiona can be bothered, she provides Diana a great deal of insight about the stranger aspects of cases. But she’s a faerie: she’ll only do it on a whim, or if you go through the right rituals.
Later, we’ll get more background about Fiona. She and Diana are half-sisters, not full: Diana’s mother died when Diana was an infant, and Fiona’s mother died when Diana was thirteen and Fiona four. Diana, for all practical purposes, is Fiona’s mother as well as Grace’s. So they’re more, not less, than full sisters. But none of this is germane right now, so we just let them talk.