Cindy came into the room limping a little, her feet were killing her! This particular pair of evening shoes was wickedly uncomfortable, she really didn’t know why Rex insisted on her wearing them on every possible occasion. She didn’t know why she continued to pander to his wishes in this either. She sank down thankfully on the couch in her bedroom, glad to take the weight off her feet.
Molly was still waiting up, bleary-eyed and moved in closer to help, but Cindy was irritated beyond measure just now by her timidity and subservience, by her toeing the line unquestioning, much as she, Cindy herself, was used to do. That’s all they did, each woman of them, from Cindy down to the last poor female chit in the staff.
“No, leave it,” she said to Molly, rather roughly, as her shoes were taken away, ”Go to bed now. Leave me alone.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Molly looked like a whipped puppy,” Are you sure, ma’am?”
“Yeah, yeah, sure. Go get some sleep, you do look you could use it,” and when the girl still hesitated, ”Don’t stand there gawping, my dear. I’ll be fine. Let’s postpone the fuss till tomorrow morning, shall we?”
“Good night, ma’am.”
God, she was exhausted. And angry with a vague rage. She wiggled her toes, and then folded her legs to tuck her knees under her chin, and massaged her instep with the tips of her fingers. Her feet were still lovely, beautifully shapely and small, though not as narrow as they once were, the long toes with their delicate whorls of fine skin on the knuckled joints still ridiculously pretty. She wished she had asked Molly to run a footbath, a good soaking would do the trick. Splash away her blue funk and get her to sleep easy. She got up and got a basin from the bathroom, filled it with hot water and a dollop of shampoo, she couldn’t find the gel she wanted, who cared what went into the water so long it was hot enough? She brought it back and wriggled out of her dress. Leaving it pooled in a minimalistic mass of silver lace on the floor, she curled back into the couch with her feet immersed in the foamy hot water.
How had she landed up here? How had she landed up at that gala this evening? Wearing those uncomfortable old shoes that sparkled coldly and beautifully, and pinched her now coarsened feet; that Rex was so insistent that she wear everywhere, as though she still needed to prove anything to him or to the world. Why did she go to the gala even? When all she had wanted to do was to spend the evening in with her boys, playing at Scrabble maybe, and then get some vastly greasy, sinfully basic meal eaten together off trays, huddled in the small sitting room while watching inane telly, laughing like maniacs. But no, she had dressed up in that silver lace, it was a very striking number, elegant and austere and mind bogglingly smart.
Rex had come into the room and said in his usual mild voice,” You look your usual beautiful self, my dear. I hope you’re wearing the Timmy Woo shoes? They are just made for that shade of silver grey.” And soured her pleasure in the dress.
But she hadn’t protested. Or to coin a bad pun, hadn’t put her foot down where she wanted to. She had set aside the exquisite grey and emerald suede statement shoes she had had custom made, and worn those cruel old evening slippers again and gone tripping out on his arm and stood and danced and made small talk as though her feet were resting on fleecy clouds. It was beyond stupid. She couldn’t imagine the conversation even in her head. It’s been 15 years, my feet are 15 years older, I have had three babies, life threatening illness, minor and major surgery, chin hair, cellulite, wrinkles. I don’t want to wear Timmy Whoever girly shoes, I’ve evolved beyond them. Jeez, whoever heard of a marriage becoming stifled because of a pair of shoes? It was insane!
Cindy sighed and got up from the couch. Best go to bed, otherwise she would fall asleep here. She changed into a raggedy flannel nightdress, the fabric worn and softened with many washes. She slipped under the covers, but still couldn’t sleep for the wound up thoughts in her head kept going round like clockwork mice. Except for his blind spot about this shoe business, Rex was otherwise such a good egg. He’d been a caring husband and father, within his constraints. He loved her passionately still. She couldn’t imagine her life without him, what trajectory it would have followed had he not sought her out the way he had, had she not been out that evening at that specific dance, or not worn that specific pair of shoes. How tiresomely random it all was; and how tenacious habits became; and how impossible to go on for 15 years wearing the same inflexible shoes grown uncomfortable over time. Old shoes that didn’t wear down to accommodate her ageing feet.
Rex came and climbed into bed just as she was drifting off, but he touched his lips to her forehead and she bobbed up, instantly awake and fully lucid, picking up the threads of her anger from where she had left off.
“Yes, my dear?”
“I hate those shoes! I just hate them, I always have. I am not going to wear them one more time. Not one more time!”
He remained quiet for a long moment before speaking again, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Well, what’s there to tell? It’s bloody crazy to make those shoes in the first place, or hasn’t that occurred to you? My feet were dead sore the first time I wore them too.”
“There’s no need to get excited. Chuck them if you don’t want them. I wouldn’t want you to wear anything you aren’t comfortable with, you know.”
“Really?! You mean that?!”
“Yeah, of course. They’re only shoes, not your wedding vows.”
How strange, it was suddenly done, in the middle of the night, just like that! She had broken the spell of the shoes, though now she was no longer sure that there had been any spell at all. All these years! Putting up with so much discomfort, and all for nothing. She got out of the covers and walked to the closet. The shoes twinkled up at her when she opened the shutters, as dainty as they were on that far off day when she had first slipped her feet into them. She took them out, and holding one in each hand, moved to the window and raised the sash. The summer night was balmy and a million stars twinkled down at her with a glassy blue light. She threw out the shoes one after the other, and each curved a high arc in the air and fell on the paved concrete far below. The musical tinkle of glass shattering into pieces wafted up into the room. Cindy stood for a few moments breathing in the summer fragrances of the night.
“Come to bed now, Cinderella. It’s really late.”
She turned then, and ran across the room and leapt into bed beside him, as light of foot and heart as she had been once upon a time.