The Tangerine Handbag: A Short Story

Michael Ely and his Mum, Sarah, got up as usual that morning.  She boiled two eggs for each of them for their breakfast.  Toasted two slices of brown bread, which they ate with their eggs, and then they finished off with two croissants from the local bakery which Sarah had bought the day before on her way home from work. 

“What’s the matter love?” she said ruffling his hair, knowing full well what the matter was.

“Nothing.  Just usual stuff” he said.  “Another day of being moaned at. Do this, Do that, and when I do it, it’s why did you do it this way, and why did you do it that way.  Just once Mum, I’d like him to say, You know what Michael?  You made a really good job of that.  I’m really proud of you”

“I know love” she said softly.  “I know, but you wanted to learn the wine trade and starting at the bottom is the best way to do it.  Working in a vineyard, watching how wine is made from the grapes and how it’s produced and finally bottled.  I know he’s obnoxious.  He’s rude, he’s difficult, and to be honest, I hate the sight of him, but with no Dad around at least I’m earning and now you are we can afford things like holidays”

“Mum” Michael said softly, not wanting to hurt his Mum because she was his whole world. “Who was my Dad?  I know you don’t like talking about it.  In fact, you’ve never told me.  Was he a bad man or something?  I mean he didn’t exactly hang around did he?”

“No love” Sarah smiled trying to keep the tears that were threatening to run down her face now.  “He didn’t.  He was my boyfriend at the time.  I loved him very much, and like a fool I thought he loved me.  Same old story.  Nothing new.  I told him I was pregnant.  Thought he’d be over the moon.  He took one look at me and dumped me.  Don’t forget I was living in Gloucestershire at the time.  Mum and Dad wanted me have an abortion and I said not a chance, and look at what I got.  My beautiful, gorgeous boy and I’ve never regretted being a single Mum once”

The journey to work took about forty five minutes and as Sarah pulled into the Staff car park she could see that her boss and his wife were alrea tdy in.  Michael went to the usual work station to meet the other wine production staff and Sarah went to her usual office.

“Your’e a few minutes late this morning Sarah” smiled Harold Everton, the owner of the vineyard.  Somehow Sarah always felt that his smile was something of a man who wanted more out of their relationship than just work.

“I’m sorry Mr. Everton” she said “The traffic across the railway line was held up because a train wanted to come through so there was quite a queue.  We didn’t have a choice other than to wait.  Now can I make you a coffee?  And your wife?”

“My wife will not be joining us at present Sarah” he said turning away.  “Only one coffee thank you”

“Not joining us?” thought Sarah.  “So why is her tangerine handbag on her desk as I’ve just passed her office?”

Sarah thought it best not to press her boss any further, made him a large latte, put out a plate of his favourite biscuits and made her way back to her office.  She continued with her work, updated the things she needed to, but for some reason she couldn’t seem to settle, but she couldn’t work out why.  Maybe it would be better just to get on with her day and stop seeing problems where there we’re any. 

The morning carried on as usual.  Mr. Everton came into Sarah’s office twice, saying that his wife had called and said that she would not be in for the rest of the day and, therefore, would Sarah mind, going through the papers on her desk and putting things in order of importance when she did return the next morning. Sarah readily agreed and as soon as Mr. Everton had left her office she went into his wife’s office and was stunned to see that the tangerine handbag had, by now, disappeared.

From then on, she watched every minute on the clock tick by as though it was an hour, until she could talk to Michael, and confirm that her brain had not suddenly gone into overdrive.

“Don’t ask me Mum.  The Production Manager has lost his temper this morning at least three times.  The staff are in turmoil.  No one know’s what’s going on.  Now we’ve all been told that the whole place in being put up for sale and we are all out of a job, starting from the end of the month. They’re all asking why you knew and why you didn’t tell me so that I could tip all of them off that this was coming”

“Putting the place up for sale and putting everyone out of a job?” Sarah gasped.  “I didn’t say anything because I didn’t know that’s why Michael.  Your’e forgetting that this is going to put both of us out of work.  No money at all coming in.  Do you hear me??? Do that lot in there really think that I wouldn’t have told you and them if I’d have known?  Well thank you all!”

“Alright Mum.  I’m sorry and I’ll tell them.  I’m sorry.  Come here and give me a cuddle” Michael said softly”

Sarah went back to work and tried to concentrate as best as she could. She found that she couldn’t hear a word that Mr. Everton said to her.  His words never made any sense.  They all seemed to disappear into a cloud in her head.  All she could concentrate on was what would happen to her and Michael if they both lost their jobs.  Social Security was fine, but they couldn’t both live on the small amount they would get.  What if they lost their house?  They didn’t have family they could depend on.  She would suggest that Michael left home.  Moved away and found work somewhere.  Forgot he ever had a Mother.  That was the best solution.

“Sarah” said Mr. Everton gently.  “It would appear that something is worrying you.  Can I help at all?”

“I’m sorry Mr. Everton” she smiled.  “I’m just worried about something personal.  I’m fine now thank you”

“Take a little time my Dear” he whispered moving closer, and touching her hair gently.  “Perhaps we should both retire to my wife’s office, where we could both relax in each other’s company.  Come this way”

Before Sarah knew it, he was rubbing his hand up and down her back and starting to unbutton the top two buttons on her blouse.

“I said no Mr. Everton and I mean’t it.  You have a wife.  Now if you will excuse me, I have work to do” she snapped sharply.

“Not after today Sarah” Mr Everton snapped just as sharply.  “Recently I have found your work to be less than adequate.  Today, therefore, will be your last day with us.  You have one hour to leave this place and you may take your son with you”

Sarah was stunned.  She could hardly breath, let alone speak.  Michael come out half an hour after, followed by the Production Manager and most of the Wine Production Staff. 

“What’s happened?” The Manager screamed.  “What have that pair done to you both?”

Sarah just smiled at them.

“You really want the truth?  Sacked me because I wouldn’t have sex with him in the office.  Sacked Michael because he’s my son.  No other reason and there’s something not right.  He’s wife’s disappeared.  He won’t say why or where, but a tangerine handbag keeps appearing in her office and then re-appearing”

“Oh Sarah” said the Wine Production Manager. “What will you both do now?  You depended on those jobs.  Look lovely you know you can come to us for help any time you want.  Your Michael is a good lad and I’ll give him a glowing reference any day of the week”.

As Sarah drove home, Michael looked at her.

“Don’t cry for him Mum.  We’ll be alright.  I’ll make sure we don’t starve.  I promise.  You did the right thing, because no one can say my mum had to be a prostitute to feed us”.

“No but she was a whore wasn’t she Michael who got pregnant by a man who didn’t even love her and them dumped her.  Was just a stupid kid wasn’t she?”

“Show me the man who says that and I swear I’ll flatten him” smiled Michael trying not to choke on his own tears.

They got out of the car as they pulled up at home, and Sarah picked up her box of her own things that she’d bought home from her office.  As she looked in the top, there it was again.  The tangerine handbag.  It was as though it was following her everywhere she went.

“What?” she almost said out loud. “You again?  What is it with you?  You scruffy looking….I don’t need a cast off handbag thank you very much and tangerine is a revolting colour.  Anyway I might as well have a look inside.  With no job and the fact that Michael and I are about you starve I might find a half eaten bar of chocolate that we’ll be grateful for”.

“Come on Mum” Michael smiled.  “Fish and chips from the shop for dinner.  One last treat.  I’m paying.  Go on.  Cod for me and scampi for you”

He dug her playfully in the ribs and smiled his usual cheeky smile.

“Only if you let me treat us both to a pickled onion” she said “Before it’s toast and jam for dinner at night.

After their meal, they both decided on an early night, but sleep didn’t come for either of them.  Michael decided to walk the streets the next door looking for work, but Sarah was going to go through that Tangerine handbag until it gave up the secret it held and wanted her to know.

Inside she found the answers.  Although she had always known who Michael’s Father was she had always refused to tell him or anyone else.  There were other papers.  The marriage lines of Mr and Mrs. Everton.  The Birth Certificate of Mr. Everton.  The prison record of Mr. Everton.  The Birth Certificate of her son which named his Father.  It was all there.  The proof.  All in that Tangerine Handbag.  Michael’s Father had been called Clifford Regan or Cliffie for short.  The Birth Certificate of Mr. Everton as he now called himself showed his birth name as Clifford Regan. The Prison Record of Clifford Regan who had served four years for Grievous Bodily Harm.  Then the final proof. The photographs of her and Clifford Regan, together and happy before she told him she was pregnant. Mr. Everton was Clifford Regan.  The Father of her son,  Why hadn’t she seen it? Noticed it?  The only reason she could think of was because she hadn’t wanted to.  Simple as that.

At 7am the next morning, the doorbell rang as though it would never stop and Michael found two Police Officers on the doorstep. They were very polite and asked if they could come in and when they had sat down, they explained that there had been an accident the night before and Mr. and Mrs. Everton, the owners of the Wine Producation Company where she had been Secretary had both been killed outright, and would she be good enough to return to the Office to help their Solicitors with the legal paperwork.

“I would be delighted” Sarah smiled.  “Michael, get dressed please Dear.  We have to talk to the Solicitors.  They will wish to speak with you”

“Me?” he said looking at the Police Officers

“Do as you are told for once” Sarah shouted as Michael shot up the stairs and tripping over the top one. Was

When Sarah and Michael arrived she walked firmly into Mr Everton’s office and sat in his chair, and invited Michael to sit down.

“Now” started Mr. Overton the Everton’s Solicitor. “As I understand it, you were Mr. Everton’s Secretary, so we shall require your help in all matters.  Mr and Mrs. Everton had no offspring, so it must be decided who will inherit everything, which judging by what we see will be something of a problem”

“Let me correct you Mr. Overton” smiled Sarah gently but firmly.  “Mr Everton’s biological son will inherit everything.  Mr. Everton was not his real name, but a name he invented.  His birth name was Clifford Regan.  He had a criminal record. He was the love of my life when I was young.  He got me pregnant and dumped me.  My son, sitting here, is the result of that affair if you wish to call it that.  Before you ask me if I have any proof, yes I do.  It’s all here and no you are not getting it without someone else being present so that you can Doctor it or conveniently lose it which he will have instructed you to do because I know exactly how Clifford Regan would work. My son is his son.  Do all your tests.  Just make sure that his and my son inherits what his Father left”

“Mr Everton was an upstanding man to the very least Madam” shouted Mr. Overton banging his hand on the desk now. be

“Of course he was” shouted Michael. “So upstanding that he sacked my Mum because she wouldn’t have sex in the Office with him”

Tests were done, and it was finally proved that the illegitimate son of Sarah Ely and Clifford Regan, also known as, Mr. Everton was the rightful heir to the Wine Production Company that he had built.

Six months later, Michael sacked Sarah, on the grounds that she had worked for long enough and anyway, who wanted ‘their Mum’ as their Secretary, and the Wine Producation Company went on to flourish.  All thanks to a tangerine handbag.

                                               The End.

By carolanneyeomanson

I am an Indie Author. My books are published on Amazon Kindle and Kobo. I am a Moderator of a School for Students in Pakistan, and am also a successful Racehorse owner living in the United Kingdon.

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