There’s something seductive about charity shops: a teasing suggestion that there, among the ugly vases, speckled mirrors and lumpy sofas, is hidden some priceless treasure whose eventual sale at Sotheby’s will make us rich beyond measure.
Marion wasn’t planning to buy a dress when she stepped into Oxfam that morning. She enjoyed browsing in charity shops but not for clothes. No, it was the little nicknacks that appealed to her: useless trinkets with quirky appeal that she collected and that Mark swore were tasteless junk.
She spotted the dress by chance and couldn’t believe her eyes. A Paola Visconti original in pristine condition. Paola Visconti, fashion icon, here in her local Oxfam shop and, astonishingly, in Marion’s own dress size.
“You’re really lucky,” the assistant told her as she wrapped the dress up. “This just came in yesterday and it’s been dry-cleaned too.” Perfect, thought Marion, I’ll wear it to the Morgan’s tonight.
Marion and Mark were invited to dine at the home of Mark’s boss, Clive Morgan, and she was determined to make a good first impression. Many a good career had floundered because ‘the wife’ didn’t fit in.
They arrived at The Orchard promptly at seven and were ushered in by Clive, who served cocktails then left Marion with Sonja, his wife, while he gave Mark a tour of the extensive gardens. Sonja was perhaps ten years older than Marion: mid-forties, lively, attractive. About Marion’s height though slightly overweight. Sipping her cocktail, she showed Marion the downstairs rooms, while Marion admired the numerous art works that had clearly cost a fortune. “We’ve collected most of these on our travels,” Sonja remarked. “I do so love beautiful things!
That dress you’re wearing, for example; it’s a Paola Visconti isn’t it? I used to have one just like it but I put on so much weight I simply couldn’t wear it any more. It broke my heart to part with it. Where did you buy yours, my dear?”