She won The Invite in a raffle at The School.
It was one of those schools where all the children had hair of silk and eyes of clearest laughter – to match their existence, marked privileged by the Gods. But marked by Gods or not, children are tough work. Yet she truthfully felt in her job a fulfillment not many can boast of – after each day of teaching ended, a sense of fulfillment kept her warm all the way home, where she would feed the tabby cat and watch the latest episode of The Kardashians.
After all… What a life that would be! The one made unattainable to her by laws of serendipity and DNA! During working hours, she wouldn’t let these thoughts go far, but at night, alone in her room, in the flat she shared with four other girls in Tooting, the Kardashians were welcomed to join her fantasies of What Could Have Been. Not that she was jealous or anything, mind you, merely… Merely… unfortunately seduced towards a lifestyle of riches and glamour.
But now, she had won The Invite. First she had been thrilled beyond belief – an invite to the Charity Ball! She couldn’t believe her luck. It was a prize in the yearly raffle, in which no prize was to be laughed at; all donations were from the parents, whose existence was marked ever more clearly than their offspring’s as advantaged; by Gods… and other things. But here it was, a ticket, to spend a night in the role she dreamed of! Nothing could ruin this illusion! Nothing!
Except… what was she going to wear? Most of her clothes were not suitable to be worn while receiving this invitation! Let alone attending the event. It was sad, to try to maintain a businesslike appearance – a professional teachers’ appearance – in the throes of Primark and H&M, when the lovely little angels whose minds she tended to, tussled about in tiny cashmere sweaters.
As the day of the ball was dawning, it became increasingly difficult to conceal her distress. In her spare time she visited Harrods and Harvey Nichols… a tourist in the Luxury World, not knowing how to respond when friendly shop assistants asked if she was looking for anything special. Yes!? Was it that obvious? A bloody makeover, please!? With a tight smile she cursed the zeros on the price tags. It was torment. She’d have to order a knock-off online, from one of the websites the girls in the flat-share liked so much. It would just have to do.
But one day, after finishing up her last class, a gentle tap sounded on the door of her classroom. ‘Yes?’ she answered softly, still with a lingering smile, a leftover from the satisfying days’ work. It was Mrs. Rudd–Leighton! Mrs. Rudd–Leighton was the mother of Louis, a boy in her class whom she had grown to like a great deal. Of course, you weren’t supposed to have favorites at all in her profession – but with a clever boy like Louis, it was impossible not to.
‘Mrs. Rudd–Leighton, how can I help?’
“I just wanted to come and thank you in person for the work you’ve done with Louis – really, his advancement this year has been outstanding. My husband and I both know we have you to thank for it.”
After much blushing and denial, she sunk into the warm haze of praise, made especially special from such a remarkable woman as Mrs. Rudd–Leighton – a jewellery designer with a boutique nestled between Cartier and De Beers on Bond Street – her pieces fetched astronomical sums and were known to be a favorite of Royals and celebrities alike. Celebrities like the Kardashians, for instance…
“Now – are you excited about the ball?”
For a moment, she lost her footing, had forgotten all about the ball.
“Oh – yes, yes, very excited!” she answered, but Mrs. Rudd–Leighton did not miss a trick.
“But…? Tell me now, what’s troubling you about the party?”
And before she could contain herself, she spilled the misery of her wardrobe malfunctions in gulping despair to this pristine woman, this woman who clad none other than Kate and Kim – the goddesses!
“Please,” came the calm voice of Mrs. Rudd–Leighton, “Don’t worry about what to wear; I will lend you a necklace. I will lend you a necklace, and then it won’t matter what you wear.”
Truly there are angels walking this earth.
Thence came the day of the Ball. Nothing could quench her love for life on this day! Not when the boiler broke and she showered in ice-cold water, nor when her cat threw up on the carpet did she waver one moment in excitement for the night; tonight!
She had received the borrowed miracle from Mrs. Rudd–Leighton; and now carried the thought of this spectacular piece as if it were a hidden superpower. And wasn’t it? A fantasia of diamonds, intertwined to form a flowing cascade of droplets, hung from the half-moon of a perfect curve. It was a beyond dreams. After dressing in the simple, black, floor-length dress she had ordered on ASOS, she placed the piece around her neck for the hundredth time since she received it, and looked at herself in amazement. It was she, but she, as God should have done it – refined. A vision of sophistication and affluence.
At supper she was sat at the very same table as Mrs. Rudd–Leighton, who bestowed upon her compliments of beauty as well as introductions to the rest of the table. The gentleman to her left happened to be a particularly handsome male example and she knew him already of course through the pages of Tatler, and other, lesser, magazines. Any other night he might have been out of her league. But tonight, it was the weight and worth of the necklace that made her every move magic – she was grace, a show-stopper, drawing the attention of men and women everywhere with whispers of “who is she”… tonight; she was in a league of her own.
After supper, there was dancing; a lot of it was done with The Gentleman, in perfect unison with shots of tequila. When he led her away from the dance floor to a quiet room hidden from view, there was little question of what would happen on the pool table; in perfect view of the Old Master Paintings peering down from the high walls. The evening ended in ecstasy.
She returned home that morning, happy, exhausted. The Gentleman had even booked an Uber Exec for her, sparing her the fare to Tooting! Such gallantry! Drowsy from drink and fun and romance, she begun undressing in her little room. She combed her hair and cast off her dress. But when she reached to unclasp the necklace, her hands were left searching the nape of her bare neck – it was no longer there. With a gap in her heartbeat to rival any cardiac arrest, she realized the truth of what her hands already knew – she had lost the necklace. Never before had a woman sobered up so quickly, never before had a cat screeched so loud upon being catapulted from a heap of clothes in search of a necklace that does, indeed, not exist in that perimeter anymore. The catastrophe was now fact.
She bolted back to the venue of the ball, but no missing jewel was there. The staff looked at her with true emotion, and secretly thanked higher powers for not being in her shoes. But she was a good girl, and so she would make right – there and then she made the decision to resolve this wrong and pay back Mrs. Rudd-Leighton whatever price the necklace was worth; a simple search on her jewellery website told her.
It was more than she could ever afford to even think about, the down payment on a flat… but one must start somewhere… So she booked a meeting with her bank and asked for a loan of the maximum that her salary would allow: £30.000. On the way home, trailing onwards she could see the years dwindling before her, her life signed away to debt. It was a miracle they granted her the loan, but it was such a weak flicker of light in such an endlessly dark tunnel, she could only muster a weak sob of gratitude. This wouldn’t even be the beginning…
For the next couple of weeks, she went about her job in the same manner as always. Mrs. Rudd–Leighton had been calling her and leaving friendly messages, but she had not had the heart to answer. Postponing the problem until she could gather more funds; she began to take more loans through different banks, thus enabling her to pay off the price of the necklace quicker! Her own future no longer mattered. She had created this disaster, through dreaming and greed and the need to have a taste of something that wasn’t real, and this was her punishment. Never again, would she fly so close to the sun. Never again would she crash down to the ground with such force, for the ground was where she intended to remain firmly planted from now on.
Two months after the ball came the gentle tap on the door which she had so dreaded. Mrs. Rudd–Leighton came into the classroom, beautiful and cool as always.
“Mrs. Rudd–Leighton, I… I’m sorry I haven’t returned your calls.”
“Are you quite all right, dear? You look a bit pale.”
She had to sit down on a chair, for the whole classroom had begun to spin. Faced with the terrible monster of the truth that she must tell, her own carelessness slammed against walls in her head and heart.
“I – I am so sorry. I didn’t call you back because I’ve done an awful, awful thing, the most awful thing. I lost the necklace… at the ball. I didn’t dare talk to you because I realize what a horrible human being I am – but I promise, I will pay you back! I have taken a loan – no – two loans, at the bank, and if it is the last thing I ever do, I swear, I’ll repay you! I am so sorry- I know my apology can never be enough…but….” Tears streaked her face and her cries echoed in the classroom covered in children’s drawings.
“My dear!” exclaimed Mrs. Rudd–Leighton, grabbing hold of her hands and looking her in the eyes with distress of her own. “The necklace is a fake! It’s worth nothing! It’s a replica of one of my designs which I give to friends to wear to events! I’m the one who is sorry – I should have told you the true worth of it, but I thought you understood…I would have never let you go on the tube with the real deal!”
And so it was that the world crashed back into her like a pendulum, and knocked her again after she’d sworn to keep her feet so surely planted. Life, as she knew it, was once again over, and she was ready for a new start.
If you yourself are looking for a beautiful, one-of-a-kind statement necklace; the sort that will make you a princess at the ball or the ballbreaker in the boardroom, visit MalaLondon, who can bedeck you with jewels for an utterly risk-free price!
We’re the only ones who really owe anything – and that’s a big thank you to Kiran from MalaLondon who let us use her pieces in this shoot to compliment our homage to Guy de Maupassant’s original story ‘The Necklace’.