Stepping Out: Morna Sullivan

Stepping Out: Morna Sullivan

She had first seen them in the window two weeks’ earlier and had stopped to admire them every day since. Amanda loved shoes. Not on the Imelda Marcos scale, but without a doubt, they were her greatest love. Most weekends when she went out for retail therapy she found herself drawn to the window of ‘Stepping Out’.

Occasionally she made a purchase. The brown suede boots and the pistachio coloured mules were among her favourites. She had certainly got her money’s worth out of both purchases. Amanda was often tempted to look at the less practical shoes, and to even try them on. She knew she probably wouldn’t buy them, partly because they were expensive and partly because the heels were so high. Besides she would feel like a giraffe towering above her friends and potential boyfriends. But she loved the feeling of new shoes on her feet. 

That Saturday morning she stopped to look at the gold satin stilettos in the window. They were still on display beside a pair of strappy silver sandals and a pair of purple satin sandals with a diamante trim. All were equally elegant and beautiful but it was the gold pair that seemed to be shouting out to her from the window display. She was hypnotised by their rich, alluring colour.

“They would match my gold accessories perfectly,” she told herself. “Wouldn’t my legs look fabulous in them?”

So far she hadn’t received any invitations to weddings this summer, which would have given her the perfect excuse to buy them and an opportunity to wear them, but there was still time for the invitations to arrive. As she stared at them she knew they weren’t really practical for walking to the office.

Still, she convinced herself to go into the shop to take a closer look and to touch them. Once inside ‘Stepping Out’ with its bags, belts, jewellery and shoes she walked straight over to the window display. They looked even better when she was closer to them. She admired the detail on the bows and the smooth shiny satin stretched over the towering sky-scraper heels.

“How are you? That’s not a bad morning,” said Lorraine.

“I’m grand thanks. Yes, it’s lovely for the time of year.”

“Are you just in for a browse? Feel free to look round.”

“Well, yes and no. I first saw those gold sandals in the window a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been getting off my bus a stop early every day just so I can take another look at them. I think I’m going to have to try them on. That won’t hurt my shoe fund will it?”

“They are beautiful, aren’t they? I can’t promise it won’t hurt your shoe fund if you try them on! I know they will be comfortable. It’s a size 6 you take isn’t it? I think I still have that. Let me check.”

“Well it will satisfy me if they don’t fit or don’t look well on my feet and I’ll not regret it if they’ve sold out.”

A few moments later Lorraine returned with a shoe box.

One step closer to Amanda’s decision.

“You’re in luck!”

Amanda took off her pistachio mules. They had given her good service.

First she tried on the right foot. Then she slipped on the left sandal – the new objects of her affection. They fitted her as perfectly as the glass slipper had fitted Cinderella. She stood up to walk about the shop in the shoes and to look in the mirror. Wow! They looked even better on her feet than they had done in the window. They were amazingly comfortable for a brand new pair of shoes. She pranced up and down the beech floors in the shop admiring herself in the long mirrors.

“They look great on you. How do they feel?” asked Lorraine.

“Amazing! They’re so comfortable and so easy to walk in,” replied Amanda.

“They’re a fabulous shade and you look so elegant in them. That colour really suits you. Are you going somewhere special?” asked Lorraine.

“I love them and I’d really like to have them, but I don’t know when I would wear them. You know, I don’t really need them. How much are they?” she asked.

Lorraine checked the box. “They are quite expensive – £250,” she replied.

“No wonder they fit like gloves!” laughed Amanda.

The shop was starting to get a bit busier.

“Excuse me – I need to see these customers. I’ll leave you to have a think about them.”

Amanda took another walk round the shop. She stopped in front of each mirror lovingly admiring the reflection of her feet in the gold sandals. Then she sat down again. She took the right shoe off to examine it. £125 each, she thought, as she looked at it. Even one shoe on its own was expensive and one shoe wasn’t any use to her so she’d have to buy the pair.

Amanda traced the heel with her fingers – it was almost five and a half inches. She would be towering above everyone in them. She was naturally tall and she loved wearing high heels but these would take her head and shoulders above everyone she knew. She could seriously damage her health in them if she tripped, not to mention wounding her pride. If she were to be invited to a party, she would love wearing them though she might be scared that someone would spill something on them, or stand on them when she was dancing. She was lost in these thoughts when Lorraine returned.

“Well, how are you getting on?” she asked.

“I love them. But they are expensive. I’m trying to justify to myself when I could wear them. So far I’m not doing very well,” replied Amanda. “And I’m not sure that my shoe fund will stretch that far. It doesn’t feel that heavy!”

Amanda shook a pink piggy bank in her shopping bag as gold £2 coins rattled inside it.

Lorraine had got to know Amanda quite well over the last two years since ‘Stepping Out’ had opened. She knew through their retail therapy chats that the last six months had not been easy for Amanda. Her sister had been seriously ill and she’d had difficulties in work with a colleague. On top of that she’d broken up with Mickey, her tall, good-looking boyfriend, which had been a shock to everyone who’d thought they were so well-suited. Lorraine knew that sometimes Amanda came into the shop for a chat as much as to look at the shoes.

“I’ll be back shortly.”

She left Amanda again for a few moments to attend to her other customer and returned a few minutes later with a pair of caramel coloured leather mules in her hand.

“Those are nice,” said Amanda noticing the mules.

“Yes, they’re new in. That other customer was trying them on, but she didn’t really like them,” said Lorraine.

“You’re not having a good day are you?” asked Amanda. “Do you have them in my size?”

Lorraine looked at them.

“These are your size,” she replied.

“Can I try them on?” asked Amanda

“Sure,” said Lorraine as she offered them to Amanda.

Amanda took the caramel mules and tried them on, not really sure what she was doing. She got up and walked round the shop in them, looking in the long mirrors. She was back down to earth again in a flat pair of comfortable shoes which felt good. She walked round the shop once more and then back to her seat. She sat down and took them off to look at them.

“I’ll take them,” she told Lorraine.

“Which ones?” she asked.

“The mules. How much are they?” asked Amanda

“OK, let’s see, £45,” replied Lorraine.

“Is that all? A much healthier price! There’ll definitely be sufficient funds in the piggy bank! Thanks for letting me try them on. I think they’re a much better option than the gold stilettos,” said Amanda.

“Well, both pairs are quite different. I suppose it depends on what you’re looking for,” said Lorraine.

“Yes. You know, shoes are a bit like men,” said Amanda.

Lorraine laughed. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Well, you don’t really know what will suit you until you see all the options. You know that Mickey and I broke up earlier this year and since then I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or not it was the right decision. I’ve now reached my conclusion. The stilettos are the most beautiful, elegant, expensive, impractical shoes I have ever seen. I love them. It was love at first sight but there aren’t going to be too many occasions when I could wear them. It was a bit like going out with Mickey. I fell for him at first sight too – a handsome man who wasn’t very practical or reliable. I’d really love the gold shoes but I don’t need them. I could afford to buy them and I’m sure I could have a lot of fun in them, but they could seriously damage my health. I think I’ll be better off in more ways than one with a sensible pair of shoes! I think they’ll never be off my feet. You’ve helped me in more ways than you realise, Lorraine. Those gorgeous stilettos are so like Mickey – I didn’t need him either. If we had stayed together I would have had to have made sacrifices but I can still admire his strengths and look back at our time together with fond memories” said Amanda.

Lorraine paused for a moment.

“Yes, I see what you mean, but you don’t have to buy anything today,” she said.

“Yes, I know that you weren’t trying to get a sale but I like these sensible shoes. I’ll take them,” said Amanda.

“Ok. If you’re sure. I’ll get them wrapped up.”

Lorraine took the new favourite shoes over to the cash desk, wrapped them in tissue paper, put them in the shoe box and into a pink and white striped carrier bag.

Meanwhile, Amanda started emptying the contents of her pink piggy bank on to the counter and counted out the £2 coins.

“There, plenty as I thought and still some left in the shoe fund for the next time.”

“Thank you. I hope you enjoy wearing them. Do call in again – even if it’s just for a chat.”

“I know I’m not going to regret buying them,” said Amanda.

“There’s just one thing I’m not clear about. If the gold stilettos represent Mickey, who exactly are the caramel mules?”

“Let’s just see where they take me,” replied Amanda.

About the author

Short Stories ‘A Date with Paprika’ - ‘The Incubator’ 2016 ‘The Proof of the Pudding’ - Scottish Book Trust 2017 Children’s ‘Hungry Haggis’ – ‘The Launchpad’ 2015 ‘What does a big coo do?’ ‘The Launchpad’ 2016 ‘Left Footed Lionel’ - 2nd prize - Society Public & Civil Service Writers competition 2016. Poetry ‘Cherished Friend’ - Divine poetry prizewinner 2013 ‘The Man about our House’ ‘The Launchpad’ 2016 ‘Now and Then’; ‘Back Then’ - shortlisted - 2016 Bangor Poetry competition. Haiku - longlisted ‘Haikus for NHS’ 2017 ‘Are We Nearly There?’ - shortlisted - 2017 Bangor Poetry competition.

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