Light Up Shoes
On her knees against the orange department store carpet, Krista had finally found them. She pulled the black shoe box from the shelf and brushed the dust off the top. The lid flapped open and revealed the size eight shoes that she’d been searching for.
There were ruby gems embedded in the heels and there were pink striped lapping at the tongue. Stars, rainbows and sunlight danced along the sides. These images were the solemn promise of Velcroed possibilities. Yes, you can jump higher, faster, longer, greater, better than all of these things here. These shoes are made of magic. You are magic. These shoes will make you more magic.
Krista unzipped her windbreaker, tossing it aside and slipped her foot into the shoes.
The lights in the heels flickered as she stood. She wiggled her toes. There was room to grow and room to run. It would require a test, of course. Before she took them home, there was only one way to know their true power.
The fresh rubber squeaked, leaving a black mark where she ground her toe into the white tile for good luck. Heels to the block, knees to the ground, elastic in her veins— she took off.
Pumping her arms as the shoe lights flashed along the whites of the floor. Reflecting through eternity in the long store wall mirror. She saw a glimpse of herself, a blur of lights and a white shirt. Her hair billowing behind her. Her legs strong and quick.
She ran down the walkways and the aisles. She skirted around registers. She darted around strollers and jumped through clothing displays. She spun through jewelry racks and sashayed across the escalator track.
She didn’t see the ruby-lipped, ice-haired girls stepping off the elevator. The shoes were fast, they only knew two speeds: fast and faster. They did not know how to stop once started but she tried.
Krista locked her knees, the ice queens watched, wide-eyed and jagged, but it was too late. They entered the realm of confusion together, slamming into each other with a force greater than each of their lives. Blackness reigned. Terror threatened. Voices cried out. The ceiling was the floor. The floor was the ceiling.
Krista bravely jumped first to her feet. Her lungs sore, her knees scraped but her pride intact. “Sorry,” she said, wanting to run away but school yard lessons keeping her locked in place.
The less blonde girl helped the other girl up from the floor. “Jesus Christ, watch where you’re going, kid.” They bent and gathered the impossibly tiny hangers that held the impossibly tiny clothes.
“Are those for your dolls?” Krista asked.
The girls held up the hangers and and looked at each other. “They’re bras kid. Haven’t you ever seen one before?”
“God, the dumb kid has never seen a bra before. How old is she you think? ”
Krista didn’t understand.
The girls looked down at Krista. “Hey kid,” the blonder girl said. “You’re giving the boys a free show, you know.”
The lights on the shoes stopped flickering. And then there was the worst sound of all—shattered, piercing laughter.
“Oh my god, I just saw. She’s wearing light up shoes!”
“They still have the price tag on them!”
“Are you shopping with mommy today? Maybe if you’re good, she’ll buy you a pretzel.”
“I think I was five the last time I wore those.”
“I know, right? What a baby.”
Krista looked down, surprised by her own feet. The lights flickered as she moved.
“See ya later, kid,” the girls said and Krista watched the big, bold words they left behind float towards her as the girls swung their hips away. She reached and touched each of these words. They were words that she never before thought about. Boys. Too old. Free show. Bra.
But there were also other words that had snuck in somehow. Krista looked around, surprised to realize that she hadn’t seen them the first time. Embarrassed. Naked. Underdressed. Unable and undeserving.
Krista crossed her arms across her chest. She didn’t understand why, but she wanted her jacket. She wanted her mother and she wanted to go home. The lights on the shoes were now a dim glow of their shadowy past.
She passed the tall mirror again and watched herself walk past. Slowly now, a distinct shape took form. Yellow hair that frizzed out into a triangle. A stomach that rounded the edges of her jeans and something, two somethings up top that she hadn’t noticed before.
“There you are,” mother said. “I turn for one minute and you run off. I’ve been looking everywhere.”
Krista stared at the shoe box on the ground, its lid turned open like the soft pages of a book.
“Take those off,” mother said pointing at her feet and pulling out her cellphone as it rang. “Yes, I’m still here. Just shopping with Krista. She’s being impossible.” Mother pointed at Krista’s feet. “I’m serious. Take those off. You’re way too old for those. Yes, yes we’ll be home soon. I just need to get her a bra and then we’ll be done. No, her teacher said something. She said the boys in the class…”
Krista didn’t hear the rest, she didn’t need to know. She pulled the shoes off one by one and slowly closed the box on her childhood. The lights from the shoes flickered as she stuffed the box on the shelf. She didn’t bother looking back to know when they stopped.