A Woman’s Right to Shoes….

This is a story written by Marian Keyes, which I finished for a BBC competition….. Nick poked me, and motioned me to turn around with a very peculiar look on his face. Maybe he was just pissed again. I turned. Looking at me was a tall, dark thin man, with a vague accent that spoke of somewhere other than Stoke Newington. Mind you, most peoples’ accents in Stoke Newington spoke of somewhere other than Stoke Newington. Steven and I had moved there because it was the only place that was cheap and-convenient-for-the-city-,as he glibly put it. We seemed in fact to belong there as much as anybody else did, and after he had waltzed off with Cinderella-Hayley, the queen of the equal feet, and possessor of shoes in pairs, I had moved around the corner onto Foulden Road. Yet this man’s voice didn’t belong, it didn’t belong at all…….. “I think you have my shoe.” I was startled out of my trailing train of thought. “How can you be sure?” I snapped back. As I did so however, my eyes automatically traveled down his shantung-suited legs, and came to rest on the most exquisite periwinkle blue suede shoes. Then I knew. Only someone capable of these shoes was capable of those shoes, they had the same soft, enchanted, glowing qualities. And I was sure that his socks would be knitted black silk. With no holes in the toes. Idly I wondered how he had got through Dalston alive in order to arrive here. It wasn’t only his voice that didn’t fit, the rest of him obviously didn’t arrive here on the 149 bus either. And his departure point was more likely to have been Samarcand than Edmonton. “Because a kind shoe fairy left me clues” My shoes! I knew they would come in useful for something, if not my feet, their intended targets. My orphan shoes, leading the glamorous stranger across murky London and into my pub…..Nick was trying to catch my eye in a ‘wink wink nudge nudge told you so’ kind of way. I ignored him pointedly and concentrated, despite the alcohol, on sophisticated and mysterious. Hard to achieve when you’re five feet two, covered with green paint after a hard day with thirty seven-year olds, and more cuddly than curvaceous, but I tried. “Forgive me,” he said “I did not introduce myself.” I held my breath. And tried not to hug the pashmina’d shoe in a demented sort of way. Please, dear Lord, please don’t let him be called Brian Higginbottom…. “My name is Cyrian Merlotti, and I really do believe that is my shoe.. Miss….” Yes! My feeble shoe-addled brain sprang back to life, as usual, I began burbling incoherently. But that was also aided by the copious quantities of gin and tonic within. “Alice- Alice Sackerthwaite……( now you see why not Higginbottom…. I had a brainwave, maiden name- yes!!!!}- Alice Sackerthwaite Long” I thought that if I left it at that I at least couldn’t be accused of talking rubbish. Yet. “Miss Sackerthwaite Long,” he enunciated, I mean enunciated, who else could make the hated Sackerthwaite sound sexy, it was worth divorcing Steven just to lose that, though I must admit that custody of half my footwear had not featured in the decree nisi- in place of alimony perhaps pedimony? “Please may I please have my shoe back.” I looked up into his eyes, which were a very long way up, and the same glowing blue-violet as his shoes, as he looked down at my oddly-shoed feet and I grimaced inside. “Or perhaps you are a lady in need of shoes?” and he smiled. “Although with such beautiful feet I think it is a great pity for them to be covered, yes?” I was dumbfounded. Who could find my uneven and bizarrely-shod feet beautiful? Why? Was he mad? Was he some kind of kinky eurotrash-footfetishist, of the kind beloved by Antoine de Caulnes and Jean-Paul Gaultier? Would I see myself on next week’s programme? Worse, had Steven and Hayley maybe sent him to convince me that I was mad, foot-obsessed, and indeed harassing them? “You could say so…..yes, indeed” I faltered, wondering what on earth I was leading myself into. My grandmother always said that one drink too many and you would end up a white slave in Shanghai……..Shanghai! Maybe he was into foot binding!!! Or worse! Mind you, there was little that I could say, I must have looked stupendous sitting on a bar-stool cuddling his shoe in my pashmina, a very normal thing for a thirty six-year old woman to do in Bar Lorca on a wet Tuesday night……..and I was sure I could feel my mascara slowly descending my cheekbones. “Allow me to present you with my card then, and maybe you would allow me to buy you a drink to celebrate the fortuitous reuniting of my shoes.” I looked at the card. “Cyrian Merlotti, chaussures exquises faites mains, exquisite hand-made shoes London – Paris There was an almighty crash as the pub doors slammed back on their hinges, revealing a rain-drenched and somewhat the worse for wear Hayley. She’d obviously been at the babycham again. This was descending into an episode of Eastenders. “Alice!” she screamed. “You can have him back, he’s a complete bastard and I never want to see him again!” She stumbled, and fell splayed on the floor, with her feet sticking out like a rag doll, heaving with sobs. Then her right shoe fell off, or maybe I should say my right shoe, and she began wailing again, comforted by a now very agitated Nick. Five minutes ago I would have had the uncharitable thought that that was because it was her right foot that was still a size four .But not now. Cyrian put his hand on my shoulder. “And what do you say, Miss Alice my Wonderland?” he purred. The moment should have been broken. But the wailing Hayley only caused me to compare Cyrian’s honey-soft voice to Steven’s nasal scouse twang, his periwinkle blue shoes to Steven’s BHS loafers…remembered his meanness, he had even moaned about the shoes I had had made for our wedding, and I realized I didn’t care anymore. “You were made for each other.” I said to Hayley “Shall we go, then?” said Cyrian I smiled up at him. I had died and gone to heaven. The shoe-fairy had descended upon darkest Stoke Newington in full Jimmy Choo glory. “Yes please” I said. The doors swung shut behind us, as he carried me out into the softly drizzling night.

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