The purse rested, tucked next to
the arm of the bench, seeking protection. Its aloneness attracted the
woman nearby. Annie cleared her throat, smoothing the wrinkles of the
functional black coat and pulling the belt to hide the patch Mother had
carefully sewn in place. She peered up and down the side corridor of
Ridgeville’s large indoor mall. Mother browsed in the nearby health
food store. Three teenage girls giggled near the kitchen supp,/ply
store. A glimpse farther down the shiny tile floor revealed a group of
young men. No one else.
Annie slid onto the cold bench
seat, opposite the purse. Out of the corner of her eyes, she noted the
straw-like material fronted with summery appliques of butterflies,
flowers, and ladybugs, and long straps twisted and hidden beneath the
handbag. The contents lay hidden as a snake curled on the ground, head
Annie licked her lips and
scooted closer to the bag. Was it a trick? She’d pick up the purse and
mall security would pour from shaded corners—no that was silly. A
reality show would be more likely. Annie could hear the announcer with
a clear voice, What will this drab lady do with this
unguarded purse? Tune in after the commercial to find out.
She shook her head before
inching closer, and tucked her own bag under her arm. Extra money would
be useful. A month until Christmas and nothing purchased. A vision of
Mother’s face taunted Annie.