shoe shopping with my mother – fragments


This is the shop where they buy the school shoes.

This is the mother who will pay for the school shoes.

This is the rocking horse which the children get to ride, but only after the shoes have been paid for.

And this is the daughter, body hunched into a seat which is too small, staring down at her feet which are far too big for her and for this shop.

This is the assistant, hair pulled back into a neat pony tail, smile just beginning to fracture as she carefully unpacks the 3 pairs of shoes from the startrite boxes.

And these are the shoes, sensible, well made brown lace up school shoes.

The daughter cannot even bring herself to look at them, if she looks at them, acknowledges them in any way, then she will have to try them on and if she does that, her mother will make a choice and then she will actually have to wear these shoes every single day and if that happens then she might, really might die.

The mother is wearing her best social smile, wishing that the assistant was older, a  mother, so that they could both raise their eyebrows, smile at each other rather than into some hideous middle distance and most importantly, she wishes that the assistant was old enough to simply bully her daughter into actually trying on the shoes , so that this can finish and they can leave.

The daughter has curled her feet under the chair, her feet, she is making it clear her feet  are not going to be involved in this and are not going to be cooperative.

These feet have been encased in Dunlop green flash tennis shoes since school broke up. The plimsols are now greying, the laces frayed and the big toe on her right foot has begun to poke through the fabric, a flash of badly chipped red nail varnish, the remnants of early holiday optimism.

This is a nice shoe shop, where nice children from the schools which most certainly do not have names that include the words secondary modern in them, come to buy their nice school shoes once they have bought their nice new uniform from the dept store that sells the uniforms for the better schools.

And there, piled up next to the mother are the bags from that department store, the shoe shop assistant can see the corner of a green blazer poking out from the largest bag.

The assistant is silent now, her smile gone, she is simply waiting, wondering which of them, the mother or the daughter, which of them will break first.

The silence seems to go on for ever, the assistant looks at the shoes, the mother looks at the daughter, the daughter looks down at her nails, only just visible from underneath the fraying cuffs of her brother’s 4th best cricket sweater.

Finally, the mother cracks

“We will take them in a seven please”

The daughter winces, can’t help herself, nobody, nobody in the world, no other girl aged 13 has size 7 feet, secretly, she is terrified that they will keep on growing forever, that eventually she will end up with a pair of feet so huge that they will dwarf the rest of her body, that she will be almost completely feet.

The assistant knows that this is all wrong, she knows that she should go get the special xray foot machine, she knows that both she and the mother should take turns to press down on the toes within the shoes to access growing room, she knows that the child should walk up and down on the carpeted floor to gauge comfort, but, instead she simply takes the box to the cash desk.

The mother, removing her purse from her handbag, follows her, takes care not to look back at the daughter.

And the daughter, the daughter stands, moves towards the rocking horse and then checks herself and walks instead to the shop door and stands, one hand on the door handle head bowed, waiting to leave.

 

About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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