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Authors: Kate Klise

Tags: #Fiction, #General

In the Bag (2 page)

BOOK: In the Bag
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Now all I wanted to do was kill myself.

” I said again.

“You know I hate that word,” Mom said, walking the short distance from the bedroom to the living room of our borrowed apartment on rue des Trois-Frères.

“Well, I hate myself,” I answered, flopping on the futon.

it?” Mom demanded.

But one look at the grubby wad of clothes in the middle of the floor answered her question. Instead of the clothes I had carefully chosen and meticulously packed, she saw a pile of old T-shirts, dirty jeans (
Who packs unwashed jeans?
), stinky hiking boots, boxer shorts, and one wrinkled white shirt.

“Whose stuff is that?” Mom asked.

“I don’t know,” I answered.

“Then how’d you get it? And where’s your bag?”

“I don’t
” I said icily. And then I hated myself even more for snapping at my mom. I swallowed hard and tried again. “I somehow picked up the wrong bag at the airport. I’m such an idiot.”

“You’re not an idiot,” Mom insisted. She looked around the room. “Do you have your book bag?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I had that with me on the plane. It’s the other bag—the bag I checked.”

“Okay, did you have
bags when we went through Customs?”

I thought back to the line we’d stood in at the airport. I was carrying two bags. The Customs agent had looked at me and then at my passport. Then he stamped it, and that was it.

“Nobody opened my bags,” I said. “So I don’t know if I had the right one even then.” I could feel hot tears burning in my eyes.

“It’s okay,” Mom said. “We’ll go back to the airport and get your bag. It’s not a big deal. Just give me five minutes to change clothes. I’ve got to get out of this blouse. I smell like vinegar.”

She turned and promptly stubbed her toe on a table.

” she said. And she hobbled down the hall to the bedroom.



h, hell.

What had I done? Webb thought I was being short-tempered with him about the bag. And granted, that was one complication we didn’t need. But the truth was, I was kicking myself for something I’d done earlier in the day.

Here I had one of the biggest commissions of the year—designing an exhibit of digital art at the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid—but instead of working on my final notes for the show, I spent the entire flight from Chicago to Paris obsessing about a woman sitting in first class.

I saw her as we were boarding. She was already seated, reading a magazine and drinking a complimentary glass of red wine from a real glass. (Ah, the privileges of first-class travel.) I was glad to be walking behind Webb so I could linger a bit longer over this vision in seat 6B. I willed her to raise her eyes from the magazine so I could see her face better, but she was engrossed in a recipe. I tried to see what it was. Something
? Something
? I was struggling to read upside down.

And that’s when Webb stopped to help an elderly passenger load a roller bag in the overhead compartment. I walked right into my son and lost my balance. It was only for a split second, but long enough for me to bump Ms. 6B’s arm just as she was raising the glass to her lips.

“Dammit!” I said as she spilled red wine down the front of her blouse. “I’m so sorry.”

“Oh!” said the woman, her eyes on the stain.

“Can I—” I started to say.

But a flight attendant swooped in with a damp cloth. “Here, let me blot,” she told Ms. 6B. And then like a stern nurse she ordered me to take my seat. “

I spent the next eight hours in a fog of mental distraction and physical contortion.

If I twisted my neck to an absurd angle, I could see her from my aisle seat in row thirteen. I watched her cross her legs, first in one direction and then the other. She was wearing attractive black shoes that she slipped off early into the flight. How old was she? Forty? Maybe forty-five?

I watched as she coiled her golden-brown ponytail around itself until it became a bun. A bun? No, that sounds like something from my mother’s generation, and this was definitely a postmodern woman. Witness her rectangular glasses—so chic and architectural. The perfect frame for her angular face. In a previous era, she might’ve been a noblewoman who modeled for Botticelli.

Best of all, I didn’t see anyone sitting next to her. For a moment I almost regretted cashing in my first-class ticket, provided by the client, to buy coach-class tickets for Webb and me. Neither of us fit comfortably in the seats, especially not my six-foot, four-inch son.

But there we were in row thirteen. While Webb watched the god-awful Adam Sandler movie, I drafted the note in my head. When Webb finally closed his eyes to sleep, I pulled a piece of paper from my briefcase and began writing.


Dear Ms. 6B,
Please forgive my clumsiness while boarding. I would be more than happy to pay for the cleaning or replacement of your blouse. Truth is, I would be even happier if you’d let me take you to dinner sometime when we return to our side of the pond. That is, if you do plan to return to the U.S. (For all I know, you could be Parisian. You have That Look. )
Were I traveling alone, I might be bolder and introduce myself to you when we land. But for now, all I can do is invite you to e-mail me if you’re interested in meeting an admirer who feels terrible about ruining your travel attire.


Most sincerely,
Mr. 13C
My e-mail: [email protected]
P.S. You are truly first class.

I immediately regretted the P.S. It bordered on sleazy, but I liked the way it balanced the note. I hoped she’d read it with a wry smile. She looked like a woman with a sense of irony, the kind of character you see in BBC dramas. A Kate-Winslet-esque actress who wears red lipstick and a silk slip.

I wondered if I’d really have the nerve to give the note to the woman. Probably not. I’d never done anything even remotely like this before. Who
this kind of thing? Desperate men. Lonely men. Single fathers with teenage sons.

I decided to do it. Why not? Why the
not? What did I have to lose?
I thought.
I’ll do it!

I waited until we’d landed at Charles de Gaulle and were collecting our luggage at the baggage claim area. Webb and I had to catch our connecting flight to Madrid at the Air France terminal, so there was no time to waste.

“Grab your bag and let’s go,” I told Webb. I’d already spotted Ms. 6B by the baggage carousel.

She was taller than I’d thought. Prettier, too, with an air of self-confidence. Her face looked freshly washed. Her hair was pulled back in the original ponytail. The style nicely set off her long neck. I liked her choice of travel clothes: wide-leg black slacks and a short black jacket that covered her ruined blouse. But mostly I liked her face. The narrow nose. The way her lips formed an involuntary smile. She looked strong but kind, even after a transatlantic flight.

I brushed past her, close enough to see she wore no rings on her left hand. Then I stuck the note in her bag.

I did it!
I thought.
Two seconds later my mind shifted to:
Why did I do that?

“Come on, Webb,” I ordered under my breath. “Get your bag and let’s go—

It was my fault he’d grabbed the wrong bag.

Oh, hell.



h, please.

I didn’t even see it until we were back at the airport, looking for my daughter’s bag. Coco was paging through a laminated book, trying to find the picture that best matched her black duffel bag. I was digging through my purse in search of reading glasses.

That’s when I saw it, a note wedged in an inside pocket of my bag.
Was I really that careless with my purse?

My chest tightened as I checked to make sure my wallet was still intact. When I was certain it was, I read the note silently while Coco continued to flip through the suitcase book.

My first reaction?
Oh, please.
Any man who calls a woman “first class” is a man who will also call her a “lady” and, later, a “lover.” It reeked of Tom Jones and Neil Diamond.

But it was even worse than that. This guy had obviously
to bump into me and ruin my blouse—a favorite Donna Karan piece—so he could offer to pay the cleaning bill if I’d just send him my e-mail address.
What kind of scam was this?

I tried to remember what he looked like, but it had all happened so fast. I couldn’t have picked him out of a lineup.

And what
did I have that made me appear Parisian? Was it just the fact that I drank two bottles of wine on the flight? Two
bottles. In total, probably less than one bar-size glass of wine.
made me look Parisian? Oh please, Mr. Lineman.

Why were men so damn pathetic? More to the point: Why did only the most pathetic men find me attractive?

I read the note again. “Our side of the pond.” Oh, stop. Who
that? And wait. He’s “not traveling alone”?

Now I wished I had seen this guy. So he was traveling with someone (the poor girl) and sticking notes in other women’s purses? Oh, this was a class act. And they say men can’t multitask? Did he preprint these things before he left home, and then find lonely-looking women to spill things on so he could stick notes in their purses?

Did I
lonely? Answer: No. I looked tired, which I was. And I always looked more tired when I traveled. And I was using dime-store makeup because I’d run out of everything good and didn’t have time to go shopping for cosmetics before we left Chicago.

I decided right then and there to treat myself to new makeup in Paris. Maybe Coco and I could get professional makeup lessons at Galeries Lafayette. That would be fun.

I considered e-mailing the note-passing joker just to let him know what a jackass he was.
I thought,
what I really should do is give the note to airport security—or maybe Interpol?—and let them deal with it.
I mean, honestly, it was outrageous that this jerk had practically
me on the plane. And then he had the audacity to rummage through my purse?
What I really should do,
I thought,
was . . .

“Mo-om!” Coco was waving her hand in front of my face.


“They don’t have it,” she said.

“Have what?”

” Coco stated emphatically. “It’s not here.”

“It has to be here,” I told the woman behind the counter. Then, in broken French, I asked if it was possible the bag was on the next flight.

“You can wait if you want to,” the woman finally answered, as if waiting for luggage was something people did for enjoyment. She had a silk scarf tied around her neck in that effortlessly stylish way only French women can pull off.

“Could it be stolen?” I asked.

possible,” the woman said, looking in the distance and frowning.

Why did French women feel the need to sulk? Did they think their pouting—combined with that catty air of self-important laziness they cultivated—made them even more beautiful? The fact that it did only made it doubly annoying.

“Mom,” Coco said, tears now welling in her eyes. “I need my

“I know,” I said. Then, turning to Mademoiselle Scarf, I said firmly: “
S’il vous plait
. How do we report a missing bag? Or a

“There,” said the woman, making an airy gesture toward a counter littered with forms against the opposite wall. “Or you can file the paperwork online. The

BOOK: In the Bag
8.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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