Thursday 1 February 2024

The Cursed Handbag by Liz Cox, a Bloody Mary

 Christina had to get out before she exploded. Jim was being obtuse, and she really couldn’t stand any more of his idiocy. He’d just decided that her wardrobe needed to be cleared out – again. Who would even suggest that to a woman!

‘You’ve got far too many clothes and handbags' he roared. ‘I’ll go get some bin bags from the corner shop.’ His face was puce.

‘No, you won’t and no, I haven’t,’ Christina retorted. ‘I need everything in there.’ She turned her back to him and bit her lip. Taking a deep breath, she turned around to face him, but he was gone. After returning all the handbags to the wardrobe, hanging up her dresses which he’d discarded on the bed and stuffing her underwear and t-shirts into the drawers, she took a deep breath.

Before he could return, she grabbed her coat, pink Hermes scarf and her best Chanel handbag and ran out of the door slamming it behind her. She marched down the street to the bus stop. If she didn’t take the car, he would think she was still at home. She paced, looking up the street for the oncoming bus and glancing behind her to see if Jim was following. Once on the bus she heaved a great sigh of relief and gave a little cheer, causing her fellow passengers to look over at her. She didn’t care, she was out. She would show him.

The bus arrived at the Marketplace, and she alighted. She rubbed her hands together. There were lots of lovely shops here. Jim was always criticising her, saying she had too many clothes, etc. He was becoming hard to live with. Although she did have twenty designer handbags, two drawers of Hermes scarves and rails of couture dresses and Manolo Blahniks, it’s not as if she had more than any other woman. Did she?


Maison Flora was the name above the store. It was an antique shop, and someone had decorated the window with elegant vintage clothes and glittering artifacts. Christina stopped. Her eyes lit up. So much beauty, so much grace, so much class. Right in the centre of the window, resting on a dark blue satin pillow and surrounded by fairy lights, was a sparkling silver chain mail handbag. She stared and stared. It was so pretty and winked at her in the spotlight. She thought for less than a minute, pushed open the door and a bell tinkled somewhere in the back. She gave a little shiver.

A moment later, a young woman sidled out of the stockroom and smiled.

‘Can I help you?’ Her voice had the timbre of a woman who smoked too much.

‘You most certainly can,’ Christina replied. 'There’s a silver bag in the window can I see it please?’

‘Of course,’ the woman replied and went to get the bag. ‘It’s a very special bag.’

‘Special? How?’ Christina hopped up and down and reached for the bag.

‘It belonged to a duchess, and she used it when she went to balls in the 1920s – to carry her dance card and cigarettes.’ She paused. ‘It also has a secret.’ 

‘A secret? What’s the secret?’

Before the assistant could answer, Christina had the bag in her hands and was clasping and unclasping the fastening. It gave a satisfying click. She stroked the beautiful silver chain work and ran her fingers over the initials outlined on a silver cartouche, CM. ‘Oh look,’ she cried, ‘they’re my initials; it’s meant to be.’ She examined the scarlet silk lining, which was worn and smelt a bit funny, metallic and fusty, but not too much to deter her.

‘I’ll take it. How much is it?’

The assistant smirked, ‘it’s seventy-five pounds and you get a bonus with it.’

‘What’s the bonus?’ cried Christina.

‘You’re only allowed to keep it for one year and then it must be returned to the shop, otherwise the curse will become active.’

‘Don’t be silly,’ Christina retorted, ‘there’s no such thing as a curse. Is there?’ She felt the wrinkle above her nose deepen and she slid the bag onto the counter as if it were red-hot. Was it worth the risk? ‘Why is there a curse?’

‘Ah,’ said the girl, ‘I forgot to tell you, but the duchess used the bag to conceal her silver knife after she had murdered her husband. The lining then had to be dyed red as they couldn’t eradicate the blood stain.’

Christina felt her heart beating against the silk of her blouse as if it were going to leave her body. ‘Perfect,’ she said. ‘Please could you wrap it.’ She gave the bag one last stroke. ‘That was seventy-five pounds you said? It’ll be worth every penny.’ The assistant nodded. 

‘What’s your name?’ Christina asked.

‘It’s Flora,’ the girl smiled. ‘The bag belonged to my great-aunt.’ Christina raised her eyebrows.

While Flora wrapped her bag, Christina continued to explore the shop, turning over all the stock, ferreting in all the corners and boxes of miscellaneous junk. Flora walked over to her.

‘Your parcel has been wrapped, madam. When you’re ready to pay, I’ll be at the till.’ From her vantage point behind the counter, she watched Christina as she opened all the boxes. ‘Is there something else you were looking for in particular, madam?’

‘Ah yes! I wondered if you had any silver knives in your stock,’ she said, rifling through a box of cutlery, ‘just to match the bag of course


About the author

 Liz writes short stories and poetry and is just finishing her first novel. She lives in North Yorkshire and at the time of writing is looking at the darkness outside her window.

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