three red shoes
There was a pair of shiny red shoes with tan soles and slender heels. They’d been unearthed from Cinda’s grandmother’s things. When the idea of travelling and performing had come to fruition, Sylvia Blackfeather Wyatt’s two sons and one daughter faced a small hallway closet packed to the limit with costuming and things. They tried to contain their search to only the costuming, avoiding the tower of crates with show bills, love letters, cards, sheet music, news sheets, photographs, and a singular pair of red shoes.
“Should we take the records with us?” Elise whispered. The three looked over at the crates of records in one synchronized turn. Each had been in this cramped space before–without either of the other two. They’d revisited it after it had been closed up and declared off limits by their father; each returned for their own individual reasons.
“May as well. We can decide what to keep and sell the others,” Cinda’s father suggested.
He turned back to small horde of shoes, most of which needed good polish and re-soling. Fox was in charge of sorting through the hats. “And the red shoes?” Elise whispered.
“They seemed to frighten your Aunt, and perhaps with good reason.”
“What good raisin?” Cinda asked her Uncle Fox as she trotted around in the red shoes. Her small feet fit flat in the front part so she was delightfully agile as she clunked about.
“Mother had worried after Elise. So she gave her her favorite pair of shoes.”
“Were they bad luck?” Celeste asked, giving the shoes a worried look. She had tried them on just before Cinda had, and had actually been secretly clunking around in them awkwardly for a time now.
“They’re made for dancing,” Willow Anrep, her previous instructor, had told her once, spying her in them, “but you should mind the fit and your ankles.”
Both Cinda and Fox paused to look at Celeste with a frown. Fox said, “To some I guess they’d give a bad turn, but Mother thought it a good gift. She worried after her only daughter.”
Celeste’s mother would never give her only daughter shoes like that.
If they hadn’t been an important part of a costume in one of their more controversial plays, Celeste would have kept them near her bunk or in her dormitory at school, to gaze at them the same as she did with all those playbills and illustrations pinned in straight and organized lines on the walls. As it was, Cinda still had access to those shoes, which she delightedly paired with her hand-me down emerald peacoat.
After her fourth birthday, however, Cinda was not to be seen in those shoes. Seeing her in her peacoat and dull brown boots, her Father had to ask. “No Sylvia Shoes?”
Cinda had come to know this important thing about red shoes: She was going to receive a scar–on her back– while wearing red shoes. “Now Cinda! What’s this?”
“I know things,” she explained. And then she cried.
Father held her. He hadn’t known what to say and so he didn’t. Cinda was just glad he looked so worried and serious and that he combed the hair back from her face and held his big white cloth square to her nose. For a fleeting moment she thought maybe she should get this scar business done while her father was looking this way; while he was still around.
But Cinda knew about scars. Remmy had them on his face from when his whole family had died. He saw them in the small round pits like constellations whenever he looked in the mirror. It made him cry. Rose had a scar on her face, too; a knife fight, she claimed. “Didn’t realize it right away. It’s best to not get distracted by a little bit of blood in a knife fight,” she’d told Cinda’s brother Simon. She’d been given Cinda a haircut at the time, and Cinda was sure to remain extra still. George had been in a fire. He’d woken all aflame and to this day he avoided the campfire or anything bigger than a candle’s winking. He didn’t want to scare anyone, the cousins whispered, that was why he kept his legs and arms covered, even in the hottest weathers. But Cinda had seen him without his shirt with Rose once and he was scary, and so were those noises.
Cinda didn’t want a scar.
“A bite can scar, you scratch at it ‘nough. Or a scratch picked at.” Rafe listed the least painful ways of scarring. “A quick touch of a hot iron, or match, or somethin’ and it’d be sore sure.” He had a few small scars: mishandling a knife gutting fish when he was green, catching his leg on wire climbing a fence, a game of darts gone awry with a whistling past his ear before catching the edge of it.
In the end, it was easier for Cinda to avoid wearing red shoes. It wasn’t as if the shoemakers only offered her size in red. And it wasn’t as if she had that kind of mother to worry after her.
by Leslie Darnell
proceed to “a return“