I’m revisiting an old story I wrote in college. This is Sophie’s story. She’s been bugging me a lot lately to tell her whole story. Now the A-Z Blogging Challenge has converged with Camp NaNoWriMo and my new venture with Friday Fiction Friends, so I think the time has come.
Sophie’s New Shoes, Or the Day Sophie Lost Her Mind
Did you know that a great pair of shoes can make all the difference in the world? Sophie knew. She knew that no matter how horrible things seemed, a new pair of shoes could make everything all better. At least, that’s what she was thinking as she was hurrying along 5th Avenue, in a belated attempt to get to work on time. That’s when she saw them.
They were beautiful black stilettos with five-inch aluminum heels, the toe was slightly open, with marabou trim, and a beaded blossom accent. Best of all, attached to the heel back, there was a delicate ankle strap with a jeweled buckle. They were so sexy, and Sophie had always wanted a pair of sexy heels. She’d always been the “good girl” but that was just because it was expected. She really just wanted to cut loose.
What the heck, she thought. I’m already late for work. She went into the boutique and asked for the heels in the window, “Size 8, please.”
The clerk came back several minutes later. “I’m sorry, we only have 7 ½ and 9.”
Sophie had to have those shoes. “I’ll take the nines,” she said.
The clerk rang up Sophie’s purchase, and insipidly announced, “That will be two ninety eight thirty two.”
Sophie’s lungs quit working; she tried, but just could not take a breath. She started to feel dizzy. That’s a week’s pay! I didn’t even look at the price! The clerk looked bored, and avoided looking at Sophie. A resolve settled into the pit of her stomach. She had to have those shoes. Sophie glanced in her check register, saw that it was good, and wrote the check.
“I think I’ll wear them now,” Sophie said in her Most Important Voice. Then she sat down and put on her new beautiful black stilettos. They were gorgeous. Suddenly, Sophie was sophisticated and glamorous and…her skirt was much too long. Inspired, Sophie hiked up her demure a-line until it was just above mid thigh. Wow! I’ve really got great legs! Critiquing her look, Sophie decided that her blouse was too conservative so she unbuttoned it almost down to her bra. Tucking her old shoes into the boutique’s bag Sophie sashayed out the door.
Sophie strutted down the sidewalk, one foot in front of the other: today, she was a fashion model on the catwalk. She stuck her nose up in the air, assumed a haughty air, and peeked out of the corners of her eyes to check people’s reaction. Heads turned, men gaped and women glared. Sophie really was a pretty girl. She had long brunette hair, pinned up in a chaste bun, green eyes, and very fair skin with a smattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks. She was tall to begin with, but the stilettos put her over 6 feet. Sophie was on top of the world.
Sophie was a good girl. She did as she was told, and expected to do, never used harsh words or unpleasant tones, she went to church every Sunday, she helped her mother clean house every Monday afternoon even though Sophie had moved out on her own, a single act of defiance in twenty-two years of life. Sophie had gone to secretarial school at her mother’s request, very Tennessee Williams Sophie always thought, but figured it would be an alright career, especially if she worked her way up to Executive Secretary for someone in a big company. Sophie only had one fault—she was always late for work.
“I’m sorry Mr. Zimmerman,” Sophie started apologizing the minute she walked through the door.
“Who was it this time, Sophie?” Mr. Zimmerman asked, his back turned as he poured a cup of coffee, “What man kept you running late today, uh? Steinbeck? Hemmingway? Shakespeare?
Usually, Sophie had her nose buried so far into a book that she didn’t notice the time, hence the reason she was always, always late for work. Still busy with his coffee, Mr. Zimmerman, an accountant, had yet to see Sophie’s new look.
“One of these days I’m going to fire your tardy butt, and then where will you be, uh?”
Sophie used in her Most Important Voice again, “First of all Mr. Zimmerman, it’s Sophia, and second, we both know that you couldn’t possible fire me. You wouldn’t be able to survive Mrs. Zimmerman’s nagging.” Mrs. Zimmerman and Sophie’s mother were the best of friends since grade school and they got together every Tuesday to gossip, drink mimosas, and give each other manicures.
“So, who was it? I deserve to know the name of the man you’re cheating on me with,” he said playfully.
“It was a woman actually,” Sophie said coquettishly.
Mr. Zimmerman turned around. He blushed deep crimson as his eyes unwillingly traveled Sophie’s long lean body up and down, drinking in her décolletage, pausing at her cleavage, tracing her slim waist, hugging the graceful curve of her hips, savoring her long, long legs and stopping, finally, at Sophie’s new shoes.
“Oh, I see you have a new pair of shoes then, eh Sophie.” Mr. Zimmerman was sweating, and Sophie took a perverse pleasure in his discomfiture.
“Do you like them?” Sophie asked coyly, looking at him sideways and through her eyelashes. “My new shoes, I mean?”
“Yes, ah, very nice,” clearing his throat added, “I’m not sure your mother would approve.”
“Well, what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.” Sophie huffed. Turning on the charm again, Sophie sidled up closer and added, “It can be our little secret.”
With that, Sophie did her runway walk to her desk, and sat down trying to look as long-legged and sexy as she could. Mr. Zimmerman did an about face and went into his office, slamming the door. Sophie was ashamed and embarrassed, yet, at the same time, she felt powerful and exhilarated.
Sophie decided to examine the damage done to her bank account. The rent was paid, the utilities were paid, and she had a few groceries. She would survive until the next paycheck! Her stomach rumbled, and she regretted skipping breakfast. Sophie hoped she would survive until dinner, because with a whopping $11.11 in her checking account, there would be no bagel and fruit cup at Maurice’s for lunch. She rummaged through her purse and desk and was pleased to find enough change for a honey bun from the vending machine. If she couldn’t last until dinner on a honey bun, Sophie knew she had bigger problems than blowing her check on shoes.
The day dragged as Sophie paced back and forth across the foyer in front of her desk, her green eyes searching for something interesting to look at. She had to take her new shoes off, as her feet were sliding around a bit in them and she was starting to get a blister on her little toe. Mr. Zimmerman had yet to venture out of his office since he’d disappeared several hours before.
Lunch time finally arrived and Mr. Zimmerman walked out of his office, past Sophie, who was sitting on her desk barefooted, legs swinging and skirt inched up indecently high. Without looking at Sophie, he said, “You can take lunch now,” and he marched out of the office.
Sophie couldn’t wait to strut her stuff some more so she grabbed her 65 cents in nickels and dimes and headed for the vending machine downstairs. As she was navigating her way down the stairs through the lunch hour traffic, her right foot slid a little in her beautiful black stiletto and sent her tumbling long legs over décolletage down the stairs taking at least three other people down with her.
Mumbling apologies and helping people to their feet and returning scattered belongings, Sophie, with stockings torn, scavenged enough change for the crackers, and limped to the vending machine. Pride wounded, feelings hurt, right ankle throbbing, tummy rumbling and bank account begging for alms, Sophie bent over to retrieve her crackers. It was in this rather awkward position, had she been thinking clearly Sophie most definitely would have bent at the knees, that she was caught by the very handsome Jeffery O’Connor.
“Nice shoes,” he said unabashedly eyeing up her rear end, which, since its hitching, was no longer adequately covered by her skirt.
Standing up too quickly, Sophie got a bit lightheaded and stumbled. Jeffery, still grinning, caught her arm. Always polite in the hallways, Jeffery’s smile seemed a bit shark-like to Sophie. Maybe it’s the headrush, she thought to herself. All teeth, Jeffrey asked Sophie out to lunch.
“Better than crackers,” Sophie said, using her Sophisticated and Worldly Voice, trying to ignore the throbbing in her ankle and hoping he wouldn’t catch on to her act or notice the hole in her hose before she had a chance to change them. “I just need to run upstairs and grab something.”
“I’ll come with, now that I’ve got you pegged for a date I don’t want to let you out of my sight.” He said, looking beady-eyed now.
Stop it! This is the first time you’ve been asked out outside of church since high school. Thank you shoes! Sophie headed up the stairs with the beady-eyed shark-toothed Jeffrey O’Connor hot on her heals. As soon as they stepped in the office, his hands were all over Sophie, grabbing and pulling as he smashed his shark-toothed mouth into hers.
“Stop it!” Sophie squeaked, so scared she couldn’t get enough air to scream. She felt like she was in a nightmare and every move she made was as effective as trying to swing a ball bat through molasses.
“Oh, come on, hottie. You know you want it or you wouldn’t have dressed like such a slut.”
Aluminum-heeled courage shored her up, and finding her voice and her arm Sophie screeched, “Scumbag!” as loud as she could as she landed a pretty fair uppercut on Jeffrey’s chin.
“Bitch!” he screamed and lunged at her just as Mr. Zimmerman flung open the door with half of the floor standing behind him.
“I think you need to leave.” Mr. Zimmerman said, trembling slightly.
Jeffrey rubbed his chin and looked from Mr. Zimmerman to Sophie to the crowd forming behind the accountant, said “bitch” again and pushed his way through the throng.
“Oh, my God, Mr. Zimmerman, I am so sorry” Sophie said, sobbing.
“Sophie, really, I didn’t know you had such a potty mouth.” Mr. Zimmerman tried to redirect, he wasn’t very adept at handling uncomfortable situations.
Sophie hiccupped a small chuckle and blew her nose. “Well, I’d better finish up that report you asked me to take care of.”
“Right! Right.” Mr. Zimmerman was relieved to be free of any more niceties.
Sophie and Mr. Zimmerman tried to wait each other out, each wanting to leave last, but at seven o’clock they gave up and headed downstairs together, Sophie in new stockings and Mr. Zimmerman still not looking at her. Sophie had hiked her skirt up another half-an-inch, unbuttoned her blouse another button, and unpinned her hair.
“See you tomorrow, Mr. Zimmerman,” Sophie said without looking at him. They were getting good at speaking without looking at each other.
“See you tomorrow, Sophie,” he sighed, glad to be rid of her for the day and wishing he had met his wife in kindergarten instead of high school because then he could claim her true allegiance, instead of Sophie’s mother who foisted upon him her dreamy, chronically late daughter who now appeared to be going mad.
Sophie waited until Mr. Zimmerman’s car turned the corner to begin her long walk home, because not only was there no money for lunch, there was no money for a cab home. It was a warm evening, and Sophie took her jacket off and put it in the boutique bag. She was not looking forward to the long walk, but perversely she was looking for attention, and she started her runway model impression again.
About ten blocks down the road, Sophie got propositioned by an older man in a Lincoln Towncar. Really propositioned, as in “How much?” propositioned. Sophie gave the man her best “I’m a supermodel, not a prostitute” look and sauntered off. Then it happened again, and again. It’s just because I’m alone. Sophie told herself.
Hungry, tired, feet sore, ankle throbbing Sophie stopped for a rest on a bench under a tree. What I wouldn’t give for a nice screwdriver, she thought giggling a little. Sophie stood up to continue her trek and realized she was in front of a liquor store. Good girls don’t drink. I was only kidding about the screwdriver. Then again, good girls don’t blow a paycheck on a pair of beautiful black stilettos, humiliate their bosses, get groped during their lunch hour, and get propositioned on an evening stroll.
Fifteen minutes later, Sophie walked out of the liquor store with a bottle of cheap vodka, two 20oz Fantas, a pack of Virginia Slims, a free pack of matches and seven cents to her name. Sophie dumped a good portion out of each Fanta and replaced it with vodka. She took a long drink out of one and was instantly in like with vodka. Grinning, she figured out how to open the cigarettes and managed to get one lit, given how fast the liquor was hitting her unaccustomed and sugar-hungry system. Sophie tried to take a drag, but ended up coughing so hard she nearly puked up the Fanta screwdriver so she threw away the lit cigarette, satisfied with the experiment but figured for $3.95 she ought to at least give it another try another time.
It only took Sophie about five blocks of stumbling along in her buzz and beautiful black stilettos to guzzle both of her drinks. It was starting to get dark and the streetlamps were coming on. Sophie got propositioned again, this time by a balding middle-aged guy in a shiny SUV.
“I am not a hooker,” drunken Sophie screamed at him, throwing her empty Fanta bottle at him, and hitting him square in the face.
“Fucking bitch!” He screamed back and peeled out, leaving angry black snakes of rubber and smoke behind him.
Sophie was determined not to lose. She had no idea what the game was, she only knew she was playing something, and she refused to lose. She turned toward home, “forward stagger,” she slurred.
Two more blocks down the road a tall man stepped out of a drycleaner’s, nearly knocking down the incredibly drunk yet still stunning Sophie, carrying an armful of plastic covered clothes. Sophie fell down anyway, reacting a little too late to the danger that had already passed.
“Sophie Kelly?” The man asked, helping Sophie to her feet.
Swaying a bit Sophie took a breath and caught it in her cheeks, then let it out with a loud, “p” sound. “Yep, that’s me.” She eyed the man, trying to place him.
“Are you drunk?”
“I think so,” Sophie slurred, grabbing the man’s arm for balance. “Do I know you?”
“A long time ago. We were in Kennedy Elementary together, third grade, Mrs. Peterman’s class?”
After several long seconds of silence, Sophie remembered, “Saaaaaaaaaam! Sam, it’s good to see you. I see you are no longer a runt. Isn’t that what we used to call you?”
“You never did, Sophie, but yes, that’s what they called me. And as I recall, you were picked on for always wearing those shiny black Mary Jane’s, right?”
Sophie thought back to third grade. She remembered Sam, she remembered the teasing, but she didn’t remember the shoes.
“What was it you used to say? There’s nothing like a pair of shoes…”
“No,” Sophie said, not wanting to remember, but unable to stop, “A great pair of shoes can make all the difference in the world. That’s what my father told me when he gave me those shoes.”
“Yeah! That’s it. You know I had the biggest crush on you in third grade. You were the only person who didn’t torment me for being little,” Sam said. “You look like you could use a lift home. Can I take you? You shouldn’t be wandering around out here in the dark, especially not in those heels, those are not walking shoes. You never know what kind of creeps you might run into.” Sam looked at the beautiful black stilettos a bit closer, “Great shoes, by the way. Is it true, what your dad said?”
“Yeah.” Sophie said quietly, really looking at Sam, “You know, you were the only person who didn’t make fun of my shoes.”
“Didn’t your dad die?” Sam asked. Sophie’s eyes overflowed and she collapsed into Sam’s arms.
“Yeah, he did,” Sophie said. “The day after he gave me those shoes, actually. I hated them. That was the last thing I ever said to him. He got hit by a car trying to return the stupid things. We got the shoes back along with his personal effects. Mom tried to throw the shoes away, but I wouldn’t let her. Said I was going to wear them until Daddy came home.”