November 19th, 1990

November 19th, 1990

At home, England

I felt an equal mixture of guilt and glee waking up to the sight of Ben’s gorgeous head on the pillow, next to me.

“Oops,” I mouthed, slipping out of bed, just as the phone started ringing. “If this is David,” I muttered, descending the stairs two at a time, “I’m in deep doo-doo!” Quick deep breath before,

“Hello?”

“We have a twenty-two day trip for you. Report time is eighteen hundred this evening.”

“What?” I shrieked. “I’m not on standby!”

It was the laugh that gave her away. “Oh, Annabel,” I sighed, with relief. “You almost gave me a bloody heart attack!”

“So sorry, ah, not really! How are you?” She asked, just as Ben appeared at the top of the stairs, wearing only boxers.

“Ehm, very well,” I stuttered at the sight of him. Not realizing I was on the phone, Ben made his way downstairs, groaning, “Ooooohhhh. Headache.”

“I say Miss McGarr, sounds like you have company. Male by the sounds of it.”

Cupping the receiver, I whispered, “Ben.”

“Oh, you naughty girl! I thought that was all over.”

“I thought so too.”

Because Ben was within earshot, I made sure to share every detail of my upcoming trip.

“I hope he heard every last word,” Annabel giggled. “I was actually ringing to invite you to my Christmas Eve soiree, but since you’re otherwise occupied, I’ll pop an invitation in the post. Please say you’ll come! Ta ta for now darling, byeeeeeee.”

“Sounds like you’re well and truly in,” Ben remarked, from the couch.

“What’s that?” I asked, feigning an air of mild surprise.

“With him. Lover boy. You’re going to meet his family?” He shook his head. “He’ll be proposing to you next.”

I flashed my best fake smile as he continued. “What if he does?”

“Does what?” I asked, joining him on the couch.

Proposes.” He looked so crestfallen I almost felt sorry for him but not enough to give a different answer.

“I’ll say yes!”

The truth is, I only told Ben I’d say yes for the sole purpose of hurting him. I know it’s petty, but after all the crap he’s put me through I felt the need to give him a taste of his own medicine in the hope that maybe, if only for a moment, he’d feel the pain of what it’s like to lose someone you care about.

Resting his hand lightly on my thigh, he said, “It’ll be really strange if you get married first.”

“You can say that again. Especially since you’re the one about to move in with your girlfriend, stroke, fake fiancée.”

“Hmmm,” he grinned, reaching for me, which I did nothing to resist. Burying his head into my neck, he murmured, “I already know what I want for breakfast.”

November 18th, 1990

November 18th, 1990

At home, England

The phone woke me up and I picked up expecting it to be David, in full-on grovel mode.

“Hey you.”

“Hi Ben,” I breathed, immediately reprimanding myself.

“How’s tricks?”

“Good,” I fibbed. “How about you?”

“Can’t complain. What’re you up to?”

“About five seven.”

He let out a hearty laugh. “Oh, aren’t you a funny one. When are you flying again?”

“Not for a few more days.”

Regardless of whether my so-called boyfriend actually bothers to contact me or not!

“Me too.” I felt his smile through the phone. “Wanna meet up?”

“When? Where?”

Not that it matters because I’m not meeting you!

“My train gets in just before six.”

Don’t even…

“Cool, why don’t I meet you at eight after you see your mum and dad?”

“Actually, would you mind picking me up?”

“At the train station?”

“Yup.”

“Sure, see you there.”

All afternoon I toyed with the idea of ringing him back to say something had come up and I couldn’t make it but, fueled by David’s blatant lack of contact, I chose to go.

When I saw Ben step off the train, I remained as stoic as possible but truth be known, my stomach was deceiving me with that butterflies flying free feeling.

“Hey you,” he grinned.

“Hey yourself.”

“You look well,” he said, kissing my cheek.

“As do you,” I said, enjoying a quick whiff of my all-time favourite cologne.  “Flying clearly agrees with you.”

“Agrees with us,” he smiled. That dangerous little word. “Fancy a drink at The Point?”

“Yeah, why not,” I countered, still heady from his scent.

We sat in our old favourite spot at the bar and Ben ordered a rather expensive bottle of red. “How many times do you figure we’ve been here?”

I shrugged my shoulders, distracted by the movement of his hands.

“I’d estimate hundreds,” he continued. “Not to mention all the films we’ve seen here. Do you remember when this place first opened?”

“Of course,” I laughed. “We’re only talking about five years ago.”

“Which was what? About two years into our relationship?”

Our and relationship in the same sentence did something to my breathing.

“That sounds about right.”

We laughed and reminisced about all sorts and when the bottle was empty (Ben drank most of it) I asked if he was ready to go.

“Where to?” His tone was beyond suggestive so, in an attempt at feigning innocence, I said, “Don’t you want me to drop you off at your mum and dad’s?”

He looked at me with an all too familiar expression that made my stomach react in an all too familiar way. “Can I come and see your new pad first?”

Don’t. Even. Think. About. It.

“Sure,” I smiled.

 

November 17th, 1990

November 17th, 1990

At home, England

Just got off the phone with David and I wish he hadn’t called.

He’s been gung-ho about me spending Thanksgiving with his family and we’ve discussed the details over and over, but then tonight, he had the audacity to say, “You know, I’ve been thinking.”

Uh-oh, I thought. In my experience, those words are usually followed by words that bring tears, not necessarily in a joyous way.

“I think it’s too soon.”

“What is?” I asked, fearing I already knew the answer.

“Too soon for you to spend the holiday with my family.”

“Oh,” I uttered, a lump quickly forming in my throat. “You mean Thanksgiving?”

He mumbled a sound of agreement. “What are your thoughts?”

“Ehm, I mean, we’ve talked about-”

“So, you’re good with it? If you don’t come, you’re good with it? Cool.”

Absolutely not cool!

“I wouldn’t go that far-”

“Listen, I gotta go, but we can follow up when you get here.”

“Follow up?” I hissed, the reality of what he was saying beginning to seep in.

“Sorry, I mean we can discuss it more, when you get here.”

I’d much prefer to know before we touch down in LA.

“Ok, I’ll ring you when I get to my room, should be just after four.” Curt tone. Fully intentional.

“No need,” he said, sounding more than a little distracted. “Just meet me in the lobby. I’ll be there at eight. Maybe nine. I’ll leave a message.”
“Nine? Why so late?”

“I don’t have time to get into it right now!” His tone was so abrupt that I actually held the receiver away from my ear and by the time I put it back, he was gone.

Something about his tone has left me feeling uneasy. I know he has a stressful job and I know he has a tendency to allow the demands of it to affect him but usually when that happens, we talk about it and he says doing so makes him feel much better.

I’m sorely tempted to ring him back but with the mood I’m in, that’s probably not the best idea. I’ll wait for him to contact me to apologize, which hopefully will happen sooner, rather than later.

 

November 16th, 1990

November 16th, 1990

At home, England

If I had a pound for every time Sarah used the word, “wedding,” tonight, I’d be a wealthy lass!

We arranged to meet at six at The Barn in Central Milton Keynes, after Sarah finished work. Even on the phone, I could tell she was bursting to tell me something. No sooner had we taken our seats by the roaring fire and ordered drinks and a couple of starters, when she shrieked; “I have a wedding date!”

“Yay! When?”

Sarah proceeded to share not only the date (next summer) but every other detail of what promises to be an outstanding day. Her description of “the bridesmaid dress,” she already picked out doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, but when, in the history of the world has any bridesmaid ever worn a dress she actually liked?

“So,” she said, finally taking a breath. “Are you excited?”

“Very,” I smiled. “This is great news.”

“I’m not talking about my wedding, I’m asking if you’re excited about your wedding.”

“What on earth are you talking about?”

“Don’t you think you’ll get married next year?”

“I’m not even engaged!”

“Yet!” she exclaimed.

I shook my head dismissively.

“Christmas is just around the corner,” she sang, flashing her engagement ring.

“You should meet Lorna,” I laughed. “She’s as keen to marry me off as you are.”

“Isn’t she getting married next year?”

“Yeah, next March, in Bermuda. David has already agreed to go with me.”

“Ooooohhhh,” she cooed in such a way as to make the girl sitting next to us flash an approving smile.

I’m surrounded, I thought.

“Well make sure you tell David I want him at my wedding. But don’t tell him anything about what you’re wearing, I want that to be a surprise.”

“Oh, ok,” I uttered.

 

Two weddings.

Two outfits.

Two countries.

One guy.

 

November 15th, 1990

November 15th, 1990

At home, England

I went to great lengths setting the table with the mish mash of china I’ve collected, going so far as to pull out the crystal glasses Nana bought mum and dad many moons ago. I cut flowers to a size suitable for table conversation and lit a few candles.

Before mum was even in the door, she was oohing and aahing over how good “the dinner,” smelled. I graciously accepted the chocolate gateaux and popped it in the fridge, inwardly feeling amused that she’d at least taken the time to tear the price from the Waitrose label.

I poured the drinks and we started in on the prawn cocktail, hoping my parents wouldn’t notice the absence of Worcestershire sauce, which, until this afternoon, I had no idea called for such.

Dad was first to finish, while mum was still in the midst of recounting the story of the Thanksgiving she spent in New York.

“Och, you’re going love it,” she gushed, smiling from ear to ear. “Wait ‘til you see the size of the turkey!”

“With the weather being as it is in Southern California,” dad mused, “I wonder if they’ll have it outside.”

“Oh, I didn’t think of that, I’ll have to check with David.”

Mum shook her head, dismissively. “It’ll be inside,” she stated. “Trust me.”

I topped up the drinks and cleared the dishes from the first course. Coming out of the kitchen empty handed, I smiled nervously and declared, “I have an announcement.”

I saw mum’s eyes dart to my stomach, prompting me to laugh.

“Mum! It’s not that sort of announcement! Honestly, what are you like!”

Dad, clearly oblivious, gave me a questioning look.

“I don’t have anything else for us to eat!”

I watched dad sniff the air.

“What you smell is a failed attempt at chicken cacciatore.”

Dad burst out laughing. “What happened?”

“I don’t really know, all I can tell you is that it’s in the bin. Totally unsalvageable.”

“Not to worry,” mum chirped. “It’s not about what’s on the table, it’s about who’s around it.”

“Get you,” I laughed.

Dad nodded his head and held up his glass. “To our wee family,” he beamed. “May you enjoy your first American Thanksgiving, hen.”

“Thanks, dad,” I smiled.

“Here here,” mum concurred.

“Cheers,” I said. “Can I interest anybody in some cake?”

 

November 14th, 1990

November 14th, 1990

At home, England

David’s last secretary was a bimbo and the latest one sounds like a battle-axe. Honestly David, something in between would be most appreciated!

I rang his office first thing (five pm here!) to let him know standby was over and everything was still on for my LA trip but a woman with a scratchy sounding voice picked up his private line.

“Hello, I’m looking for David, please.”
“He’s isn’t here,” she stated, sounding like a suspicious wife.

“Do you know when he’s expected?”

“For what?”

“Eh, for work.”

“Who is this?”

“This is Karen, his-”

“Are you a client?”

“No, I’m his-”

“I can take a message.”

Yeah, right!

“Do you know when he’ll be in?” I asked.

“No.”

“Can you tell me if he’s travelling?”

“No.”

Trying my hardest to mask my aggravation, I explained that I was enquiring if he out of the country on a work trip.

“He’s presently out of the office,” she retorted.

“I gathered that.”

“Is there anything else?” Saying her tone sounded impatient doesn’t begin to cover it.

“Yes, there is actually,” I said in the snootiest tone I could muster.

“What do you want?”

Oh, where to begin!

“I’d like you to take a message please.”

“Now?”

“Yes.”

“Go ahead.”

“Please tell him his girlfriend from England rang and would appreciate a call back.”

She hung up before I had a chance to say anything else.

Oh, and my new roster arrived. I’m on the trip Millie and I requested, leaving Boxing Day, however, Millie’s name isn’t on it which means I have to break the news I’m going without her. Fortunately, for me, she’s presently on a plane to Buenos Aires.

 

November 13th, 1990

November 13th, 1990

Flight from CAI – LGW

At home, England
Finally got to chat to Pamsy tonight.

“Hello stranger!”

“Karen! It’s so nice to hear from you.”

“It’s been yonks, hasn’t it, how are you?”

“I’ve been so busy, you know how it is.”

“I do, I just got back from Cairo this morning after being called out. I tried to sleep but-”

“Ugh, I hate that feeling, when you toss and turn.”

“Hostie problems,” I laughed.

“Yeah, I know, listen to us, we sound like two old birds. Tell me everything!”

“Like?”

“Start with your love life.”

“Let’s see, ehm, I’m going to LA next week on a request trip.”

“Ooooh, for Thanksgiving?”

“Yes!”

“Oh wow,” she shrieked. “You’re going to meet the family!”

“Seems I am.”

“This is major. Actually, no, more like epic!”

“I have to admit, I’m a bit concerned about meeting them.”

“You have nothing to worry about, they’ll love you. Play up on your Britishness and talk about tea and the queen and stuff like that. Before you know it, you’ll have them eating out of your hand.”

I laughed. “Good advice, thank you.”

“And wear something demure, not that you wouldn’t but-”

“I already have the outfit sorted.”
“Good. The last thing you want is his mum thinking you’re a bit of strumpet.”

I laughed. “That would not be good!”

“How long have you been seeing him now?”

“We met last July, so it’s-”

“Long enough to know how you feel about him. And?”

“And what?”

“How do you feel about him?”

“I love him, you know that. He’s amazing.”

“Oh wow, I think it’s time I bought a hat!”

I laughed. “I don’t think we’re at that point.”

“Hurry up! What’s the hold up?  I want to come and visit you in LA!”

“Oooh, now there’s an incentive!”

“I see a ring on your finger by Christmas.”

“Ok, now you’re making me nervous.”

“It’s just marriage,” she chuckled. “It’s only for the rest of your life, nothing to worry about.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Aw, I’ve really missed you. It’s so nice to hear your voice again.”

“Yours too darling,” she said, her tone so sweet and familiar.

“Your turn,” I said.

She chuckled. “How much time do you have?”

 

November 12th, 1990

November 12th, 1990

Cairo, Egypt

I wasn’t surprised to find only Carmel and Joe in the lobby this morning.

“Great turnout!” Carmel joked.

“It’s your fault for having such a raucous room party,” Joe groaned. “My head is throbbing.”

“Mine too,” I croaked. “I haven’t had that much fun at a room party in ages. You’re a bad influence, Carmel!”

“Years of fine tuning,” she chuckled.

We made our way through the balmy air, to the market, overflowing with people and a combination of pleasant and pungent odours, wafting from the makeshift stalls. The conversation flowed and turned to our personal lives, at which point Carmel asked if I had a boyfriend.

I nodded. “He lives in LA.”

“Ouch,” she said. “How difficult is that?”

“Very! I’m going for Thanksgiving though, so-”

“Ooooh, sounds serious,” Joe chimed. “I hope you have something dazzling to wear.”

“Funny you should mention that,” I said, going on to tell them about the dress I planned on wearing. The one I (read as; Lorna!)  hadn’t yet managed to find shoes to go with.

“Sounds like something you’d wear with a strappy sandal,” Joe suggested.

“What about a kitten heel?” I said, thinking of Lorna.

Shaking his head, with a look of mock horror, Joe shrieked, “Nooooooo!”

“What about a classic flat?” Carmel suggested. “Or maybe that’s my age talking.”
Joe said, “Do you mind if I ask your age?”

I was glad he did as I was also interested in knowing. Carmel is very youthful but I knew with two teenage daughters she must be well beyond my age bracket.

“I’m thirty-six,” she smiled. “Ancient.”

“You don’t look it,” Joe gushed. “Maybe those room parties aren’t so bad after all!”

We continued shopping and Joe found a pair of sandals he insisted were, “A must have, but only with jeans, not the blue dress.” The sandals are a little bejeweled for my taste so I expect mum will be nabbing them!

We continued meandering through the market and Joe shared with us that this is his first trip back after six-months of unpaid leave.

“Nice sabbatical,” Carmel commented. “Did you do anything special?”

Joe got a little quiet and for a second he looked like he was about to cry. “No,” he uttered. “I lost my partner of seven years, to AIDS.”

Carmel let out a sound that described exactly how I felt and there was an awkward pause that I certainly didn’t feel comfortable filling.

“It’s rampant,” Carmel said. “I can’t begin to tell you how many friends I’ve lost. I’m so sorry.”

“Me too,” Joe sniffed, his voice cracking. “Such a cruel way to go.”

“I’m so sorry,” I uttered, thinking of Florence and her younger brother’s recent diagnosis.

 

November 11th, 1990

November 11th, 1990

Flight from LGW – CAI

Somewhere over Greece

 

Woke up with the phone ringing. Hoping it was David, I made a grab for it.

“Karen?”

“Yes.”

“Morning. This is Stan from crewing, I have a trip for you.”

Please say LA, please say LA!

“Hold on a sec, please,” I said, reaching for the pad and pen on the bedside table. “Ok, go ahead.”

“Report for the BA one five five at-”

“Cairo, right?”

“Yes. Report time is-”

“I already know, thanks.”

“Righty-o.”
Working in Economy with an on the ball purser called Carmel. The rest of the crew seem super friendly, pretty typical for TriStar crew. It’s the jumbo gang that tends to be more senior and somewhat snooty.

During the three-hour delay Carmel maintained her pleasant, professional demeanor, which emanated throughout the cabin, consequently leading to fewer passenger complaints, which I’m all for!

So far, the flight is going swimmingly, albeit in the wrong direction!

 

November 10th, 1990

November 10th, 1990

Excelsior Hotel, Heathrow Airport, England

 

Woke up with David on the phone.

“Hi honey, sorry to call so early.”

“It’s ok,” I croaked. “What time is it?”

“I’ll give you a clue, it’s dark.”

“Dark here too,” I laughed. “Six o four, which means you’re still a day behind.”

“Crazy, huh?”

“Hmmm, is everything ok?”

“Yeah, I just got home and I’m lonesome without you, so I figured I’d call.”

“I’m glad you did.”

“Is Lorna still there?”

“No, she’s already back in, as she calls it, the land of the clogs.”

“That’s funny. How’d the visit go?”
“Great. She certainly knows how to keep me on my toes, which you’ll see for yourself next March.”

He paused before saying, “Refresh my memory.”

“Lorna and Klaus’s wedding? In Bermuda? Did you forget?”

“Ah, that, no, no, I hadn’t forgotten about it.”

Clearly, you did!

“That’s when you’ll get to meet a handful of my cast of characters.”

But only a few, I don’t think you’re ready for all of them yet!

“Awesome. What’s your report time today?”

“Oh, I didn’t get a chance to tell you about that, it all changed.”

“What happened?”

“The aircraft went tech in Harare so I start standby at two this afternoon.”

“At home?”

“No, they put me on ninety minutes notice so I have a room at the hotel.”

“This won’t affect your trip out here, will it?” I loved the concern in his voice.

“No, that’s a request trip, should be fine.”

“Cool, that’s cool. It’d suck if you couldn’t come.”

“That’s an understatement. Did you say you just got home?”

“Yeah, I was out to dinner with a client from the Tokyo office.”

“Another day, another dinner.”

“Yup.”

“How was it?”

“Tedious. The dude has the personality of a snail. Or maybe a gnat.”

I laughed. “Poor you. Did you at least have a decent meal?”

“Sushi.”

“I no longer feel sorry for you.”

He laughed. “It was nothing like our sushi place. I was thinking, maybe we can go there the night before Thanksgiving.”

“Oh, I’d love that.”

“Cool, I’ll make a reservation. I’m sure it’ll be, what’s that expression you use?”

“Chock-a-block.”

 

I have a dinner date!

In LA!

And I have a dress to wear to Thanksgiving!

In San Diego!

In the meantime, I’m alone on Saturday night in a hotel room, waiting for a call that could take me closer (yay!) or farther away from the one I want to be with.