Things can happen. You can meet the biggest dream you ever wished for.
|Win at the "Holiday Short Story Contest" prompt: A woman bought a handbag (purse) for $1 in a thrift shop. A week later she finds a key in one of the pockets.
Amelia Everworthy never shopped new. She prided herself on it. Her secondhand clothing reeked of earlier times. The crushed rose petals were good enough perfume and makeup for her. They did their purpose in discouraging money hungry suitors away.
“Let them drown in their own drooling lust for my money.” She clutched the ratty, threadbare purse with the broken zipper in her fist that held the few coin to be spent that day.
“Amelia? What’s this?” She twisted the folds so hard and quick her purse became more rips and holes than cloth. Coin scattered, bounced, rolled for escape towards the door she’d been intent on opening.
“Come back here. You are mine.” A quick hawkish pounce and the coin lay trapped in her hand. A fierce, predatory gaze filled Amelia Everyworthy’s eyes as she rose back to six foot, thin frame and pushed onward.
“Merryweather’s Emporium,” She uttered, nodding to the swaying sign of the old shop overhead. It was a favorite haunt of hers these days. More well worn with good use items cluttered the shelves than any other store within walking distance. Amelia never rode. The exercise was good for the body and she saved traveling expenses.
The shambling steps of the proprietor stopped short. “It isn’t Saturday, Amelia. What are you doing here? Is it some kind of emergency?” A weathered gray parchment of a man with halo head of white motioned her further inside.
“It is I, Merryweather, not some poppycock of a tourist come to make fun of you. Stop that trembling in your voice and do me service.” The dead purse waved wildly in the air overhead announcing it’s reincarnation as a simple rag.
“You can’t say you want to sell or trade that wretched thing.” Merryweather spouted needlessly. He pointed to a barrel full of such fluff once holding higher rank as part of a ripped up towel, T-shirt, or less tangible earthly force.
Amelia cried the words out as if they stung her throat. “My purse wore out. I have need of another. I’m good for it. I know you have one hidden and waiting just for me. Where is it?”
Merryweather had something of a sharp gleam that pierced his eye. “Just. Follow me.”
In the secret, dark recesses of his shop, he paused, bowed, and flourished a hand. “Have you seen the like?”
Out of the blackness, Amelia’s clawing hand retrieved such a treasure as made her gasp. “Eighteenth century. Pure ivory beads. How much?”
The answer left her voiceless. “There is no other like you, Amelia. It costs a single dollar. You are less a customer than a presence from the past you haunt. It befits you.”
She cared not for the reason why. Her coin carefully shielded from his view slid quickly into the open mouth of her new possession. In feverish haste, she made a quick glance and sniff for another likely victim she might trap and own. None appeased her enough for a second such look.
“I don’t know what brought me here today, Sir. I never get my days mixed. It must have been fate.” Amelia Everworthy bid her adieu without offering to pay.
Merryweather’s gleam of eye now shivered across the smile flashing across his teeth. He closed the door behind the woman. The sound of contented humming stirred a black cat’s yawn before the curled up body purred a moment in reply then went back to sleep.
At home, Amelia couldn’t seem to keep her eyes off her antique purse. It was in such a pure state of perfection no four thousand-year-old Egyptian mummy could have been done better.
For a week she broke habit, remaining at home, refusing visitor whether lost stranger or unlikely sales person hunting at her door.
“We will go out, you and I.”
It was deja vu happening on a different street with a different purse. Rather than ripping the fabric of reality and releasing her coin to scatter free the purse opened itself.
Money tumbled out, this time escaping for good into the clutches of street urchins. Swing her purse has fast and hard as she might not one head was caught nor fleeing felon slowed. Her money and her day opened up into complete tragedy. “Stolen gain will steal your souls, you little swine.”
Weak with spent emotion Amelia sat down right there on the lonely curb, opened her purse, and saw something wink where no coin remained. “A key? To what?”
She pushed aside stray hair in her way, chewed reflectively on the side of her lip and pulled it out. “A skeleton key? With an inscription?”
The day’s sun blinked behind clouds sending wavering shadows across her raised hand. “Twist me in time and time will be yours.” Fingertips polished the faint silvery words to make them more clear.
The shadows crept around Amelia to keep her cold company. A strangeness was in the air making it seem to hover and shiver along with the shadows at her side. “What can it mean?”
She twisted the key for a better view, read the words aloud, and heard the sound of an unlocking door. The smell of old dusty things stirred as she gathered her feet under her. “Where am I?”
“On holiday.” Merryweather guided her hand up into his. “You of all my visitors have been chosen by the purse. Use the key wisely, my dear. Enjoy your vacation.”
Amelia stepped down a mist filled stairway as Merryweather faded from sight. A park with 4th of July banners floated before her. The sound of an 18th-century carousel made music to her ears.
“How do I get back?”
But holidays are not meant for knowing things like that. They are meant for timeless enjoyment.
word count 989