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On Pearls, Planes and Pretending

What the fuck have I gotten myself into, I think as I sink into the soft leather seat.

“Welcome to flight 781, Mrs Klein.”

Oh sweet Jesus, they’re calling me ‘Mrs.’ I pretend to be demure, tilting my chin down,

looking up through thick black eyelashes and softly caressing my necklace.

The beads roll bumpily between my forefinger and thumb. I glance over at him, so calm

and dignified.

I feel like an imposter. It’s no coincidence that I am adorned with uncultured pearls.

The beverage cart rolls down the aisle, its crystal contents clinking a classical song.

I seriously need a Coors Light, with a tequila chaser.

“Oh yay-es, I'd love a gloss of champayyyygne,”

I say with an epic failed attempt at an Australian accent.

I hear myself speaking as if I’m in an echo chamber, and I cringe as each drawn out

vowel resonates back to me.

Why the fuck can’t I just be myself, I say to myself as I anticipate a sudden onset of


“Give me a fucking shot now, you Aussie bitch!”

My brain is a literal pinball machine with foul words bouncing noisily within its

clustered confines.

I gulp the champagne down in one swig, hoping I've

swallowed my bad behavior with it.

My better half glances over at me and his forehead is twisted into an odd mix of

disapproval and confusion.

It’s a look I would grow accustomed to as the years progressed.


My hand flies to my mouth, and I accidently slap myself.

My eyes are as wide as saucers.

The burp bounces off the walls of the airplane's cabin.

I hear faint chuckles behind my seat.

My dearly beloved scowls at me, his withering look of condemnation sinks me further

into my seat.

I begin to laugh nervously, but it comes out as a high-pitched cackle.

His chin tilts down as he glares at me over his glasses.

His lined forehead looks like a sand dune after a wind flurry.

“Oh fuck,” I whisper to myself, fleetingly proud of my verbal restraint.

I look back at him with a tight-lipped smile and, what seems to me, a dignified nod.

I sit up a little straighter in my seat and gracefully slip one leg over the other, rocking

my high heel in the air ever so casually.

I’m feeling unusually regal right now.

I’m clearly a quick study.

Emily Post would call this a proud moment.

I nudge him with my elbow, and give him a double thumbs up.

He and a prissy male flight attendant share a fraternal frown.

We were on our way to one of the world’s most

exclusive hotels, a virtual playground for the

rich and famous. As fate would have it, I

would play dress up for the next twenty-

something years as the wife of a celebrated

international hotelier.

And, thankfully, as I grew to be less of an imposter my better half learned to embrace

his own wild side, albeit a tempered version of my own.

We shared raucous laughter with the powerful likes of Rupert Murdoch and company;

had an intimate evening with Audrey Hepburn accompanied by her ever present grace;

and jumped in a golf cart with a renowned head of state to help him find a place to pee

in the bushes during a prestigious international event.

Interspersed with our high profile entertaining, I had moments of extreme bad

behavior or, as I liked to call it, lapses of judgment:

"You can’t be mad at me for skinny dipping with the staff, I’m bonding!”…

“I didn’t pass out in the staff village. I just was having a little rest on the floor.”…

“How was I supposed to know that was a $1500 bottle of wine? It was 4am and we

were THIRSTY!”

Fast forward 9125 days.

We are ushered to our seats.

The years have been kind to us, as our hearts hold the sparkling treasure of two and a

half decades worth of precious memories.

Our eyes twinkle as we relive the frowns, the smiles, the tears and the laughter.

The flight attendant delivers two long stemmed glasses of bubbling champagne.

We toast to 25 years of love and adventure.

I tilt the glass toward my lips.

The bubbles pop wetly at my nose.

I take a sip.

‘Here's to rough edges smoothed by love and laughter.'

His eyes crinkle into a heartfelt smile as he holds out a dark blue leather box, its border etched in gold.

I pull at one end of the sleek red ribbon and it gracefully slides onto the table.

The box reveals a bed of ivory silk adorned with a strand of pearls.

I can feel his warm sweet breath on my cheek as he reaches forward and clasps the

pearls around my neck. They’re cultured.


Barbara Anne Klein

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