The New Hat
Miranda pulled her threadbare cloak closer, shivering in the cold autumn wind. The sun was setting as she hurried to the market. Not much would be left at this hour, but whatever she found would be less expensive.
Everything started out well enough when they wed four years ago. John was a junior clerk at the bank with a promising future. Both were ecstatic when she announced she was with child. Then all seemed to go wrong. He blamed her for the miscarriage and began to denigrate her appearance, cooking and housekeeping. He gave her a new broom, sarcastically suggesting that it might improve her abilities. He became belligerent at work and was passed over for promotion. After work he went directly to the pub, staggering home late, criticising the meal and Miranda. When she suggested he might stop wasting money on drink and increase the budget, she was rewarded with a slap.
Frightened but determined, Miranda formed a plan to leave. She saved a few coins from the meagre household allowance every week. She rationed everything, ignored John’s complaints and silently bore his abuse.
Miranda arrived so late most of the market stalls were shut. She chose carefully, purchasing only a few vegetables and a small chicken. As she turned to head home, she noticed a new shop at the end of the lane. An array of colourful hats were displayed in the window. It had been so long since she had a new hat. ‘It will cost nothing to look’, she thought.
The shop door opened. Stepping inside Miranda was overcome with a sense of well-being. The proprietor, an elderly lady with long white hair wearing an old-fashioned gown of blue velvet smiled. “I have just the hat for you.” Miranda hesitated; she had no money for luxuries. “Do not concern yourself with cost. This hat has already been paid for.” Miranda thanked the woman again and again before rushing home.
Miranda set her market basket in the kitchen. And then carefully unwrapped the hat in the parlour. As soon as she put it on she felt light and free. She peered at herself in the mirror. From the corner of her eye she spied the broom leaning against the settee. She did not remember leaving it there, taking a step backward as the broom began to glow and advance toward her. Suddenly, Miranda had a grand idea!
John trudged home, drunk as usual, cursing as he entered the dark and cold house. No fire had been lit and no dinner awaited. He angrily called for Miranda but received no answer. Neither Miranda nor the broom were ever seen again.