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The Girl Who Played with Fire

“I don’t know how this could have happened,” I sighed.

“Strange,” my husband, Brett, agreed.

“A mystery.”

We were holding between us my relatively new, not inexpensive Bottega Veneta pocketbook. A large, neat gash stared back at us. The leather across the handle had apparently ripped, or perhaps been cut. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what had caused this. Had I been walking near scissors? Did I recall being yanked by my pocketbook down the streets of town?

I had only worn it a few times, and already, it would need to be repaired. The bag was bumming me out.

“This is why you shouldn’t buy ridiculous pocketbooks,” Brett said, blaming me for the damage while simultaneously reminding me that I spend too much money on frivolous items, thereby scoring two points for the Husbands of Scarsdale.

I may have given him the finger.

This move only gives us Wives a bonus point if we make it to overtime.

I brought the bag to Bottega and was told that repairs would cost $65 and take about 6 weeks to complete. I returned from my day in the city even deeper in bummage and with some interesting news for Brett. “The repair department at Bottega says that it looks like my pocketbook was burned.”

“Burned?” He asked.

“That’s what I just said.”

We eventually dropped it, moving on to other exciting topics like who was driving to Little League and whether or not the mozzarella had spoiled. (You smell it/I’m not smelling it/let’s have the kids smell it/just toss it.)

At some point during the evening viewing of CNN, Brett snapped his fingers at me. “I’ve got it!”


“The pocketbook. You burned it.”

“I did, huh?”

“Yes!” He said, triumphant.

“Okay, Sherlock, let’s hear it.”

Brett explained his theory. “It happened during your high school reunion.”

I immediately rolled my eyes. Since the event, Brett liked to blame anything and everything on my high school reunion. I’m spending too much time on Facebook – because of the reunion. I talk hypothetically about wanting Botox and Restyalne (and a boob job and a tummy tuck and some lipo) – blame it on the reunion. So, naturally, my Italian woven leather premium designer handbag is burned, and who’s to blame? The Edgemont High School Class of 1988.

“Seriously!” He said.


“From your cigarette.”

Well. He may have had a point there.

In fact, he may have scored two points for the Husbands by simultaneously solving the mystery while making me feel bad for smoking.

It was almost a case closed moment.


But. Just as Brett was about to gloat big time, I stood up and grabbed another pocketbook from the front hall. Throwing it over my right arm, I reconstructed the moment.

“Okay, let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that I was smoking a cigarette that night.”

“And by ‘a’ do you mean four?”

“And that, since I’m right-handed, my bag was perched over my right shoulder and my cigarette was in my right hand. Agreed?”

“Agreed, council.” Brett nodded.

“So, in that case, it is virtually impossible for me to burn my own pocketbook with my own cigarette because I’d have to be going like this –“ I demonstrated the way one would have to stand with elbow bent up over her own shoulder – “and I would never stand like that! It’s unnatural, I tell you, unnatural!”

Brett’s silence proved me right.

He scratched his head and reconsidered. “It was someone smoking near you then, gesturing with a cigarette in hand.”

“Fine,” I conceded. “We can blame Todd Ross, if you’d like.”

“Your first kiss?”


“The guy who crashed his dad’s Porsche into a stone pillar outside the high school?”


“Good. He did it.”

Case closed.


Months went by and my pocketbook was returned to me. The saleswoman at Bottega apologized; the leather repair guru, who has been in the business for 40 plus years, had never seen anything like this and had only been able to do So Much to help.

Damn you, Todd Ross, I chanted.

Now my authentic bag, with a huge patch of stiff leather on the handle, looked like a fake. I went home and hung it on a doorknob in my kitchen, studying it in the light, wondering if I’d ever feel the same way about it again.

A few weeks later, my kids and I came home from school and smelled something funny in the kitchen and office. Like gas, like oil, like fire.

It was a familiar odor, one that had plagued me about a year before, on another warm day like this one. Back then, I had immediately evacuated the house and called the fire department.

Two trucks had showed up while my kids jumped up and down in a combination of fear and excitement that can only come about when you are 8 and 5 and your house probably won’t blow up, although maybe it will.

The firemen had been very patient and thorough, listening to me describe the smells and symptoms that they could not detect at all with either their noses or their gadgets.

“Right here,” I kept saying, “between the kitchen and the office door. There is an oily smell trapped right here.”

“Sorry, ma’am,” they kept saying, “your house is just fine.”

Not that they were sorry that my house was fine. You know what I mean.

So, this time, with the same stench filling my nostrils, I wasn’t going to panic. I took the kids to their afternoon activities and decided that, should the smell still be there when we returned, I’d call the fire department immediately.

When we returned, the smell was gone.

That night, I debriefed with Brett over dinner in the kitchen.

“The smell was right here?” He asked, moving towards the door to the office.

“Yes.” I nodded. “And it’s the same smell that had me calling the fire department last summer.”

“Right here, where your pocketbook is hanging, you mean?” He asked. “In the heat of the day?”

“Yes, right where my pocketbook —“ I said.

Dear reader, do I need to finish this sentence? Do I need to tell you that, in order to be fashionable, we had installed clear glass doorknobs throughout the house, and that, when light hits those doorknobs it will create a burning lens that will concentrate the sun’s rays onto any flammable object in it’s path – let’s just say a fine, Italian leather pocketbook strap – thus resulting in the conflagration of that object, like a leaf under a magnifying glass?

In other words, my Bottega was on fire.


Well, it wasn’t anymore.

Brett lifted the pocketbook and we inspected it together. Sure enough, there was a new tear, in the same exact spot as the old one, just like a burn mark one might get from a cigarette, only much bigger.

“I’m not sure how long this will take to fix, or how much repairs will cost,” the young saleswoman at the counter of the Bottega store said.

“That’s okay, I do.” I said. “You want to hear a funny story? Twice?”

I hope this tale brings some sort of meaning to your life, as it did mine. Should you be on the verge of buying an expensive accessory, you may stop and reconsider. Should your husband be on the verge of blaming you for something you did at your high school reunion, he may stop and reconsider. And last, but certainly not least, please stop and reconsider my lovely Bottega the next time you see me in town. It is a damaged old bag, carrying stories of pain and redemption, but really, aren’t we all?

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