Tuesday, 21 May 2013


This shop had never been for the faint of heart. It was for the thrill seeker, the bargain hunter and the adventurer of fashion. Clothing was displayed upon scores of racks proclaiming themselves to be organised, although a raincoat may easily be found in the formal wear section, a pair of shorts in the t-shirts area and the occasional evening dress masqueraded as an accessory. Beyond that, they were organised roughly by size – were you a size 6, you could guarantee you might fit into something on the left hand side of the rack, a size 22 might be on the right hand side, and everything else somewhere in the middle, occasionally huddled together in small groups of similar size as if herding for protection from marauding shoppers.

Louise was looking for a hat. It was to be a holiday hat – something to shade her from the sun on the beach, the wind when walking around and, in a worst case scenario, the rain. She had braved these rails many times before and more commonly than not she had emerged triumphant and so she felt no trepidation as she followed the shop worker’s directions to the area known only as the hat rack.

She turned the final corner; laid out before her was a scene of carnage. Elsewhere the shop had clear rules which they regularly attempted to enforce upon the clothes. They had lost that fight here and a millinery war was underway. Fascinators were strangling berets by means of beads on string, trilbies had rammed themselves upon sunhats four times larger and any loose knit hat had been impaled upon the rack with no concern or consideration for the on-going well being of the other hats that were made witness to such torture. Was it any wonder they were in revolt?

For Louise there was only one available maneuver. Mentally rolling up her sleeve, she plunged in. She intended to focus on the sunhats and only extract others if they would make a sunhat available, but as she reached out her hand a delicate fluttering of feathers and ribbon brought a fascinator to her attention. The battle had not yet harmed it, merely left it exhausted, and the bright red feather sprouting from the black net and beading seemed to cry out for rescue. She gently disentangled it, freeing two trilbies and a cap in the process, and then placed it on her head as a triumphant warrior.

The eyes of her reflection flirted coquettishly with her from beneath the net, but failed to convince her to purchase it. She placed it tenderly on the left side of the racks, stacked the other three neatly on the right, and returned to her search for the perfect holiday hat.

Releasing each hat from its bondage took time and, with each success, she placed it tenderly upon her head and sought the opinion of the lady in the mirror. By this method she tried on every available hat type – beret, beanie, trilby, cap, fascinator and of course, sun hats.

It was as she reached for a particularly masculine trilby that the hand reached past her face and snagged the most frivolous of the available fascinators. A white and pink confection, with a full complement of beads, sequins, net and feather, it seemed to be a warning against playing with glue in a marabou factory. Her eyes captured, she followed the motion of the hand as it carried the item past her face and up until it perched delicately among black curls.

“That’s a good look for you” she informed the heavily bearded behemoth stood beside her. He grinned and whether it was his twinkling eye or the delicate pink feather bobbing alongside she didn’t know, but she was immediately interested.

Plucking the trilby from the rack she placed it upon her own head.

“This hat may make me look good,” he drawled in a gravelly tone, “but you make that one look great.”

Louise was not the simpering type, but at that point she was tempted to try it. Both parties having declared their interest, the courting ritual began in earnest. He suggested she try the mother of the bride monstrosity which had finally tunneled out from the bottom of the heap. Having done so, she immediately condemned it to return and hopefully never again see the light of day. After bonding over their mutual hatred of the worst of the hats, she explained why she was there and they fell to discussing her holiday.

He seemed disappointed that she wouldn't be around for a few weeks due to holiday preparations and restarting her life when she got back, but managed to arrange a meeting on her first full weekend back. After chatting for about ten minutes, he grabbed a wide brimmed straw affair with thee bright floppy flowers attached to the ribbon encircling the head. Dropping it onto her, he suggested she first purchase that one, then join him for coffee downstairs. She agreed on condition they had cake. He countered that if they had coffee and cake now, their next date would need to be cocktails and dessert. She acquiesced and hurried to the counter to pay.

When she met him downstairs he had a bag in his hand too.

“I see you bought your fascinator!” She meant it as a joke and was stunned when he nodded.

He reached for her and caught her by the hand; “It brought me luck,” he said then bent down and touched his lips gently and swiftly to hers.

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