The Pearl Earring
The gold engraved invitation stood propped on the sitting room mantelpiece for several weeks and Dame Roma's secretary had been very gracious when I had accepted her request for my husband and I to dine with her at Government House at a black tie dinner.
After much agonising and wardrobe rummaging, I had selected a glamorous suit in beautiful green/navy shot Thai silk which only needed a strand of pearls and matching earrings to compliment the outfit. My husband had a bow tie and cummerbund, made of the same silk, to dress up his basic dinner suit and I felt that we would add some colour to the Governor's table.
Friday was always a busy day in our house and this particular day seemed more frantic than most. An inter-collegiate soccer match was scheduled across town and my son needed to be collected at 6pm. The Walford girls debating team were in the state semi-finals and my daughter and her friend were to be picked up at the Town Hall at 6.30pm, which is when my husband's flight from Melbourne was due to land.
Drinks and canapes will be served at 7.30pm stated the invitation. I hung our evening outfits ready, with socks, pantihose, polished shoes and all other accessories at the ready. The lasagne was in the oven and the salad was crisping in the fridge, ready for the kids to heat and eat and I had set a supper tray for the baby-sitter, who was always ravenous. I confidently believed that I had organised everything for a quick turn around and exit from the house.
Showering early, I quickly applied some make-up and blew my hair into a stylish bob. Pulling a tracksuit over my lingerie, I jumped into the car to start my collection of family members from three directions around Adelaide. On arrival at Rostrevor to collect Ken, I pulled out a garbage bag, with the bottom corners cut off for my mud-encrusted son to clamber in to.
I drove back into the city and around the block, waiting for the girls to emerge from the Town Hall before heading down to the airport to collect a somewhat weary businessman. Brian headed for the shower as soon as we reached home and I rinsed the muddy soccer player with buckets of warm water in the back garden. It was now approaching 7.15pm and I raced to the bedroom to get dressed.
A lacy camisole, superfine pantihose, the slither of silk as the skirt and jacket were quickly donned. I picked up the string of pearls and fastened the catch at the nape of my neck. Reaching for the earrings, I gasped with horror! There was only a single pearl stud in the little velvet-covered box.
Searching along the top of the dressing table and down on the carpet did not yield the pearl stud. Neither did another check in the bathroom. With panic rising in my throat, I looked in all of the logical places - on the bedside table, on the carpet beside the bed, another search of the dressing table top, a rummage through the other little boxes in the jewellery box.
My husband stood at the front door, car keys jangling in his hand impatiently, glancing at his watch and tapping his foot. All three children were searching for the missing pearl stud and I was now on the verge of tears.
"Anyone at home? Is that lasagne I can smell?" Rachel, our favourite babysitter, called out as she came into the house and strolled into a state of panic and chaos.
"Mum's lost her pearl earring and they are having dinner at Government House at 7.30," said Susie. "We have searched everywhere and just can't find it."
"That would be a different pearl earring to the one you have in your left ear, would it?" asked Rachel dryly.
I peered into the dressing table mirror and saw that she was correct; I had an earring in my left ear lobe and was clutching its mate in my right hand. How had I missed noticing the stud? When had I put it on? I had no recollection of doing so, only the memory of trying to organise a busy family in a very short window of time.
Everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief as I pushed the earring into place and adjusted my composure. I tossed my head, pulled my shoulders back and walked serenely out of the house to the car, with the gold engraved invitation clutched firmly in my hand.