"T here isn't a shoulder in this world that it would fit better," said the shopkeeper. "This bag was crafted especially for a body like yours. As a matter of fact, Ropiere designs his bags with your body shape and size in mind. For anyone else to wear his art would be a crime...an insult to Ropiere," said the shopkeeper twirling the "r" with gusto.
Azure smiled as if she already knew this. She admired the way the bag hung artfully from her shoulder snug between the inside of her bicep and ribcage on her slim figure as if it belonged there.
"Each bag is unique you won't find another like it anywhere in the world. If you look inside you'll see Ropiere's original signature. He only signs his one of a kind items," said the shopkeeper with eyebrows raised.
Azure didn't look inside the bag. She was transfixed by the reflection of her and the oblong, deep red, leather purse and how handsome it looked on her shoulder in the tall mirror.
"The bag is perfect," she said. "I'll take it."
The shopkeeper lightly clapped his hands delighted as he stepped toward the cash box eager to finalize the expensive sale. He said, "It pleases me to sell this special bag to you as I have a very good feeling that you will carry on the good name of Ropiere. Would you like to wear it now or for me to put it in a sack for later?"
"I'll wear it now of course," said Azure.
"Of course," said the shopkeeper. Unwinding the string tied tag from the thin leather strap the shopkeeper handed it to Azure who provided several crisp bills in exchange. He didn't bother counting the money. Instead, he prepared a hand written receipt that sealed the transaction. Then, the shopkeeper gave Azure a Ropiere sack into which she retired her old handbag.
Azure brushed her long lustrous hair over her shoulder with her hand and glanced at her image in the mirror once more. Her new purse clung to her from its delicate handle. Embodying Azure's beauty and sense of fashion it was a flawless match. She took the receipt from the shopkeeper's outstretched hand, opened the new shoulder bag and dropped it inside. Snapping it shut with two elongated, freshly painted, bright red fingertips she gave the shopkeeper a saintly smile and turned towards the door.
"Thank you Miss," said the shopkeeper with a smile that widened his already round pudgy face. The curvature of his lips was so expansive that it squeezed his eyes into arched slits. Azure strode to the entrance and out onto the street.
As she glided down the sidewalk, fully conscious of the eyes that grazed her bag, she stepped with new purpose and meaning that only a purchase such as this inspires. The bag drew the attention she knew a Ropiere would draw and she soaked in the desires of each passing person adding them to her own confidence like droplets on a sponge. Ropiere's bags were a well-known treasure in her village. His craftsmanship and name extended beyond the narrow cobbled streets to other villages and beyond. To own a Ropiere was to own a da Vinci.
Azure was not new to this world of coveted objects. Her father, an olive oil magnate, allowed her any extravagance that she wished. From bags, to jewels to clothes, Azure had everything and now she had a wonderful bag that others wanted too, but could never obtain. Visions of matching the bag with other outfits in her wardrobe came together in her mind like a homemade movie.
She passed a group of women her age, her carriage as erect as a ballerinas and each step as gracefully planted as the next. The eyes of the girls followed the bag and Azure down the street. They knew it was a Ropiere and that they couldn't afford it. But, they continued to admire how nicely it hung off of Azures imperial shoulder and felt an aching desire to have one.
Azure stopped at an open-air coffee shop where she found an empty table amidst all of the full ones. She took the napkin from the cutlery and placed it on the table and the Ropiere on top of it. The attendant approached her.
"Just one today?" she asked.
"Yes," said Azure.
"What a beautiful bag," said the attendant.
"It's a Ropiere," said Azure. She did not fail to notice the sideways glances of the customers sitting near her at the moment the name rolled off her perfectly glossed lips. The name Ropiere made everyone's head turn.
"Ah I figured it must be." The attendant grinned and handed Azure a menu. She said, "I'll be back in just a few moments."
Azure swept her hand across the patent leather surface of the Ropiere. She picked it up released the gold latch, unzipped the interior pocket below the signature and placed the receipt inside. She returned the zipper to its former spot and deeply inhaled the fresh leather scent of the interior. Azure didn't need a lunch companion today she had Ropiere. Gently shutting the bag again she replaced it on the napkin and perused the menu.
After a simple lunch befitting a person of Azure's small frame and fragile constitution, she grasped the Ropiere, pulled it up her arm and over her shoulder. Paying undue attention to each detail of her personage from her arm swing to the tilt of her head to each footstep, she waded through the crowd of envious stares. As it was already half past eight in the evening Azure strolled home.
In her bedroom, she wiped the purse with a clean downy soft, white cloth until she was satisfied that every speck of dirt and foreign particle had been removed. For the many wonderful things that Azure had, she ironically never took them for granted, but treated each article of clothing and thing as if it were a national treasure. She wore each top, each gem, each pair of shoes with pride-proud to adorn the label of famous designers and artisans. She esteemed herself to be their muse.
She blew out the flame from the antique oil lamp at her bedside table and drifted away into a contented slumber saved for those who have just eaten an entire delicious cake after a six-month fast from everything sweet.
Amongst Azure's friends, of which there were three, all were bred from equally wealthy families. They deemed Azure to have the best taste amongst them and admired her knack for quality aspiring towards the same themselves. They all had an obsession with fashion and wearing nothing less than the best of each designer and their latest line of clothing. To aspire toward anything less was associated with the commoners and disrespectful of their superior lineage and upbringing. They looked upon those less fortunate girls who dressed dowdily in unrecognizable brands, with a sanctimonious air. They pitied the girls whose station in life prevented them from accessing superior things. At the same time it was a relief as these were the same accoutrements that gave them their identity. To share them with others of less repute would bring disgrace to their name.
The following day Azure organized a tea at her father's mansion and invited each of her friends from the village. This was no ordinary affair, but one designed for the girls to flaunt their latest possessions. Azure's personal chef catered the event and had the vestibule and day room decorated in preparation of their arrival.
One by one the young women arrived adorning perfectly tailored Belani pants and Antonio Fanatti shoes, Visconi jackets and Renatto diamond chains, Sardoni blouses and Poloni handbags. Their hair was expertly coiffed and makeup had the perfection of oil on canvass. They greeted each other and complemented one another's attire, "Those diamonds sparkle in ways that must make the gods jealous," said one, or "Are those Franchi stems? I'm so jealous I've been trying to get a pair. They look much better on your feet than they would on mine." "Oh, but your Fanatti's are perfect for your feminine toes, they look marvelous," said the third. The conversations peppered with flattery and adulation from one high priced item to another rose upwards into the rafters of the mansion and wafted out through the cathedral style window into the cloudless blue sky.
Then, Azure entered. They all stopped and gasped as she walked towards them. All of the long-lashed eyes in the room were on her handbag. With her handbag scintillating like a ruby on her shoulder, she greeted her guests.
"Azure it's the most amazing piece I've ever seen," said the first friend.
"Azure you've surpassed us all with your exquisite taste," said the second friend.
"Azure, I've never looked upon a bag as becoming as the one on your shoulder right now," said the third friend.
They gathered around her touching the silky surface of the bag and running their fingers along the strap. Azure smiled with pleasure her spirit floating on a pillow cloud. The elation she felt at that moment exceeded anything she had ever experienced. Overwhelmed by the warmth that filled her from head to toe, she wanted it to last forever and never release the energy their palatable words and sensuous touches gave her.
”Thank you,” she said once. “Thank you,” she said twice. “Thank you,” she said a third time and "Poof." She vanished. The bag fell to the white marble floor with a thump right where Azure had been standing in the middle of the three girls. It wobbled left to right, right to left, wiggled for a second, and then lay still on its rounded bottom. Azure was gone. A look of horror transformed each of the girl's polished faces. Their practiced smiles turned into gaping maws as they stared at the bag in disbelief.
One girl pushed the bag with her toe then recoiled in disgust. The second ran out of the vestibule screaming with her arms flailing in the air. The third crouched down before the bag placed her hands upon it and unhitched the polished latch. A fresh scent wafted into her face, a familiar scent. She thought the empty interior strange. Then, she fixed her eyes on the Ropiere signature and the zipper below. Slowly, the girl pulled open the zipper. The other was overcome by such terror that her friend should even touch the bag let alone open the side pocket that she fled wailing like the first girl, clenching her freshly blown head with moisturized hands. Everything she carried fell to the ground her sunglasses, her handbag and even her earrings as she lost all of her composure and raced out of the long winding driveway.
The remaining girl pulled the receipt from the satin lined pocket that the shopkeeper had given Azure. She read, "One Azure shoulder bag priceless." Her stomach fled to her throat and she threw the Azure bag to the floor with a switch of her wrist. The girl leapt up and took the same route as the friend before her leaving a littered path of all that adorned her.
A silence filled the entryway where the bag remained open in the center of the marble floor. But, the bag was not there for long. Shortly after the girls ran out, a man stealthily entered the home and picked it up off the floor. He snapped it shut and the bag shook like a chill had run through it. With a grin on his face, he walked out of the mansion and neither the bag or Azure were ever seen again.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anna is a highly inquisitive and observant individual who loves a challenging hike and can sit for hours in an airport watching people. She hails from Seattle and enjoys writing essays, short film scripts and fiction and is currently developing her first book. Anna works in New York as a business writer in an advertising agency, and although the city provides a fountain of ideas for writing, has found that she is most prolific when she's not actually sitting in the middle of it.