The Shoes

It’s Saturday. I am in the charity shop again. The woman with glasses is working again today. She looked at me when I came in. She knows me. She knows why I am here. She suspects. Although I am not sure what she suspects.

There are 5 charity shops in my town. I know who volunteers in each of them. I could probably write the rota out if I had to. I jangle the change in my pocket. Last week I bought shoes. From her, in this shop.

Men’s shoes. I am a woman. I said they were for my father. He was going to a wedding and had lost a shoe. He just wanted a cheap replacement pair. He is old. He’s going to die soon and doesn’t want to spend money on new shoes. I should have left off the last bit. It sounded callous. It wasn’t true.

I don’t think she believed me. I have used that excuse before. She knew I had-somehow.  I have a very good memory. I had not used that excuse with her before. She said nothing. But she suspects.

Perhaps today I should go to another shop.

But there are always lots of shoes in this charity shop. There are some shiny patent deep red ones, some green sling backs, a pair of lovely grey velvet boots. Today I want something with sparkle.

I see them. New stock, someone must have donated them this week. Strappy sandals with a big diamante configuration on the front. I must have those. I look at the price. £4.50-bargain-I have enough. I pick them up. I go to the counter.

She looks at me. She suspects something. Something odd. I am not odd. I want to say it but I don’t.

‘Don’t you want to try them on?’ I try not to panic. The haughty voice. Her glasses sliding down her nose. The look –as if to say-what is it you do with all these shoes?

I know what she is doing. She is trying to make me confess. She wants to know why I am always in here buying shoes. Why I don’t care about the size.

‘They’re for a friend,’ I whisper. I whisper so she can only just hear. Out of fear. What does she think? I don’t know what she thinks. She thinks something about me that I don’t know. I try not to panic. I really want these shoes. I hand over the money. I can see she doesn’t approve. She doesn’t understand. This is the 30th pair of shoes I have bought in this shop this year.

It’s only April.

Later, when I am home. When its gone 7pm. I pull the curtains.

I dim the lights.

I put on music.

I pour a glass of wine.

I get out all the shoes.

I set out all my shoes, first in pairs. Then in little groups, as if real people are wearing  them. I move the furniture so there is room to dance. In my living room. All the shoes set out as if there are lots of people at a party. In my living room.  Talking at a party, my party, in little groups. In my living room. Don’t say it. Don’t ask the question.

I leave the shoes to settle in. I put on my own ritzy expensive sequin shoes, my dress and I slink out  into the party. I pick up my wine and I mingle among my guests. I try not to look at the shoes. There is Emma in her green pumps, Jane in her leopard print kitten heels, Elvis in the blue suede. I mingle. I chat. I talk. I am fabulous. I make a special effort to talk to the new person in the diamante sandals. Her name is Emmeline. She is so interesting, so fabulous.

The next morning. I take all the shoes and I put them away. Because all those people have gone home from the party now.  They slipped away in the night. Leaving shoes, like Cinderella. It was nice to have someone new at the party.  People deal with loneliness differently. No one knows. No one sees. No one understands.

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