82 year old Annie sat quietly at her small kitchen table looking down at the old shoes that lay haphazardly on the floor.
Looks like I waited too long, doesn’t it, sis Annie thought. Soon she was lost in her memories.
Her older sister Susie had been sunshine personified. There wasn’t a room she didn’t light up, there wasn’t a stranger she didn’t get to know. A cynic didn’t stand a chance. Suzie brought about a new hope for the human species.
Annie remembered when Susie was able to finally buy the open-toed slings that now lay on the floor in front of her. Back then you didn’t waste hard earned money on fancy shoes. There was a war going on and money was tighter than tight. You were expected to do without for the war effort.
And Susie did her part just like everyone else in those hard times. But when she saw these particular shoes in the window of Viter’s Shoes and Boots, she became obsessed. She had to have them for the final dance of high school. It was her last hoorah as a young lady. After the dance, she was expected to take her place in the adult world and get married. She would be expected to wear sensible shoes and practical clothing, to become a serious and responsible adult. Susie was willing to do that… but after the dance. Until then, these beautiful shoes represented the existence of possibilities.
Her sister worked hard to earn the money for the shoes. She put in extra hours on her part time job at the drug store whenever she had the chance. She became a popular babysitter who was liked by the children as well as the parents. Susie even hired out as housecleaner a few times, but she wasn’t a good one. She tried, but housework wasn’t something she took to naturally. No one minded, though, because she was such excellent company on boring afternoons.
Susie was finally able to buy the shoes in time for the “Big Dance.” She looked beautiful and the fancy shoes were perfect. They were sophisticated yet fun. They made her feel glamorous. Susie and her boyfriend Teddy Spencer were the hit of the dance. It couldn’t have been any other way.
It was a week later when Teddy was drafted. It wasn’t a surprise. All the young men were being drafted.
The other shoe had finally dropped, so to speak. There was a tearful goodbye but Susie held up well. Once Teddy left for boot camp, Susie put up her fancy open toed shoes. “I’ll wear you again to dance, but not until the war is over and Teddy is safely back home.” And she put them up on the closet shelf.
And not to worry, because Susie was able to dance in her fancy shoes again. Teddy made it back home and all in one piece. He had emotional issues that typically accompany war, but he seemed to be adjusting as well as could be expected. It wasn’t long before Teddy and Susie had set the date for their wedding, but for efficiency sake they ended up eloping. Most people secretly felt a sense of relief. It was less stressful and certainly less expensive.
In the mean time, Annie’s boyfriend Billy Johansson had been drafted and still remained over seas somewhere secret. It was assumed that they, too, would marry when he returned. It’s what was expected of you.
One day when Annie was visiting Susie she did something she thought she would never have done. She stole something. She stole something from Susie. Annie had noticed the shoebox sitting in the back of the closet on the shelf and she took Susie’s fancy shoes. In her childishness, Annie wanted to have the shoes to wear when her boyfriend returned from the war like Teddy did.
“I’ll wear you when I dance with Billy after the war is over” Annie made the same promise to the shoes. “Please just bring him back safe and sound.”
But Billy never returned. He was killed in action. The news was hard to take. Everyone in the small town grieved for him as they did for all the servicemen like him. It was hard on Annie too, of course. The promise made to the fancy shoes hadn’t worked to keep Billy safe like it had Teddy. The shoes were forgotten in the grief.
Life has a habit of moving along even if you’re not looking. Each sister went through the same ups and downs as everyone else; there were marriages, divorces, children, grandchildren, good health/poor health. Throughout the years, each time Annie would pack to move she would come across Susie’s fancy shoes and make herself a promise to return them. And each time, because life can be so hectic, she would forget. Now it was too late. Susie was the first sister to die.
“I waited too long, didn’t I. I’m sorry” Annie said to the room. “I’m going to ask that I be buried wearing your fancy shoes. I hope you don’t mind, Susie.”
Annie stood up and started to put on the shoes so she could dance in them, but stopped midway. Oh no I don’t. I have better sense than that! I’m not going to put these on so I can fall and break a hip. Annie had always been the practical one.
As she picked up the shoes again and shuffled out of the kitchen Annie began to sing to herself.
“He makes the company jump when he plays reveille….
He’s the boogie-woogie bugle boy of Company B…
A-toot a-toot diddle-ee-ada-toot…
He blows it eight to the bar……. “
(Check out Magpie Tales for more entries in Willow's weekly writing challenge.)