Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Yesterday's Shoes


Robin nearly tripped over the shoes when she stepped out of the front door.

They hadn’t been there when she got home the night before. A pair of plain black shoes sat on her doormat, facing inwards. They didn’t look like the kind of shoes to be abandoned. They looked like they’d been polished to within an inch of their leather lives. But what were they doing there? Why would somebody leave a perfectly good…

She didn’t have time to think about it. She was going to be late and Robin was not a person who would allow herself to be late. She stepped over the unwelcome shoes and hurried off down the front path to work.
Her day was a busy one and she didn’t have a lot of time to think about what the shoes were doing there. 

Every now and again, however, she would find herself with a quiet moment to herself and she felt that there was something oddly familiar about those shoes. Which was ridiculous, of course. What could be familiar about a pair of plain black shoes?

How old are you now?

They were still there when she got back. Sitting on the front doorstep. Toes pointed towards the door. 

Whoever had left them there had not returned, which Robin thought was rather inconsiderate. Perhaps they were meant to be a gift. Perhaps one of her neighbours had left them for her. Maybe they thought she had a boyfriend, they were men’s shoes after all. Maybe she should ask. That’s what she would do.

The neighbours had not left them as a gift. In fact they seemed to find the notion that they would consider leaving her a gift quite bizarre in itself. Mrs Gleeson on the left explained a little too forcefully that she had no idea what Robin was talking about and that she certainly had no interest in any male visitors that she might have. Mr Kritz on the right apologised for no reason but hadn’t left the shoes there either and used the stewhe was cooking as a reason to close the door on her.

She didn’t need the shoes. She could take them to a charity shop, she supposed, but she didn’t have the time, not this week. After some consideration she moved the shoes down to the end of the path, by the front gate. Somebody would take them, a good pair of shoes like that. Whoever had left them might conceivably want them back and she would rather the gift-giver go no further than the gate. Although she supposed they must have done before.

Robin prepared a small supper for herself which she ate at the dining room table as she always did. Vegetable soup. She’d stopped buying meat a few years ago; she found that she’d simply lost the taste for it.

As she ate, the sound of her slurping accompanied only by the ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece, she found her mind wandering back to the shoes. You heard about people being knocked out of their shoes, didn’t you? People who were hit by a lorry, although she knew that didn’t make sense. The man could have been struck by lightning and reduced to a pillar of dust, swept away by the wind. Maybe it was a Jehovah’s Witness who had been raptured. She giggled into her spoon and spatter minestrone on the tablecloth.

As she mopped up the mess she’d made she felt a chill. She thought she had better check the door. No reason, just to check.

The shoes were there. Toes pointed inwards. She peered out at the night. No one. She picked up the shoes and marched over the bin. It was rubbish collection day tomorrow. Let the bin men take the shoes and let whoever was bothering her stop it, just stop it. Time for bed now, Robin, work in the morning.

Bed time.

Mum was different that morning. She was trying hard to smile but Robin could tell she’d been crying. There was the smell of bacon frying. Mum never cooked bacon. When Robin came in she wiped her eyes and put a dirty yellow cloth on the table. A black shoe sat in her lap.

“Morning, sweetheart. Do you want some breakfast?”

“Watch that, you’re getting polish on the tablecloth!” The voice was cold and flat. Quiet, but she could tell he was angry.

Robin didn’t know who the man who had just told her mum off was but she knew she didn’t like him. He was looking at her, like he was trying to guess how much she weighed.

“Is this her, then?”

Mum nodded and kept that smile on her face. “That’s her. That’s Robin.”

“Hello, Robin,” said the man, and bent down to be face to face. His hair was slicked back over his skull and his eyes were dark like an animal’s. His breath smelt like old coffee.

“How old are you now?” he asked.

“She’s eleven, Alfie,” said Mum. She sounded scared. Robin knew why. The man had been here before. When he’d gone away things had got better. She’d stopped being scared at night.

“I don’t like you,” said Robin. Because it was true.

The man’s hand went back.

Robin woke up with the alarm. She had sweated profusely in the night and hurried into the shower. She hadn’t had a dream like that for years.

She went through her morning routine on autopilot. The kettle was boiled and she ate…something. She dressed and opened the front door.

She choked back a sob as she saw the shoes on her front door step. She looked out at the street, not sure what she was looking for. She picked up the shoes and hurled them into the road, ignoring the Mrs Gleeson’s twitching curtain.

The day went slowly. She didn’t speak to anyone in the office. On her lunch break she called her mum. The receptionist at the home put her through and Mum sounded surprised to hear from her. Robin tried to explain what was happening but didn’t know what to say. Finally she just asked.

“Mum…he’s dead, isn’t he?”

“Who’s dead, dear?”

“Dad. Dad’s dead, isn’t he?”

There was a pause. Long enough for Robin to think that maybe her mother was going to tell her no. But instead there was a deep sigh. “Of course he is, dear. You know he is. What’s this about?”

Robin hung up. When five o’clock came she practically ran out of the office. She stood by the doors on the bus ride home, and jumped off at her stop.

The shoes were there. Same exact spot. Same exact shine. She picked them up and walked back down the street. She walked all the way to the big supermarket with the skip round the back and she buried those shoes under the reeking, bulging black bags. She waited there while it got dark until one of the shop’s employees came outside and piled more bags on top. Then she left.

She could barely bring herself to walk up the garden path. She couldn’t take it if they were back. She thought that she would die. She nearly ran to the front door in the end, casting a look down as she slid the key into the lock.

Nothing. They were gone.

Of course they were. Just get inside.

She closed the front door behind her and let her coat drop to the floor. She shook her shoes off at the bottom of the stairs. She just needed calm. She just needed to relax. She filled a water glass and turned off the light. She slid under the duvet fully clothed and closed her eyes.

There was smoke. And there was shouting. And that was all she remembered.

She opened her eyes. There was someone else in the room. Somewhere behind her. She couldn’t bring herself to turn over. She was frozen on her side by the edge of the bed.

Then she saw them. Next to her water glass on the floor. Two black shoes. Polished to within an inch of their leather lives. She gasped as she felt warm breath on the back of her neck.

“I…I don’t…I don’t like…I don’t like…I don’t like you…I don’t”

“How old are you now?”

-----------------

Hello there.

I hope you enjoyed the story, it took me a while to figure out how I wanted it to be. It was going to be more of a ghost story originally but I quite liked the idea of just focusing on Robin becoming increasingly distraught. I didn't want to make it any longer so I kept the explanations very vague, which I hope works. I wanted to imply what had happened rather than just come out and say it. I think it's a bit more grim as a result! Many thanks to @nolanzebra3 for the title. 

I think the next story will be The Night My Heart Exploded (title by @davidhayes4), which will be a return for Elsie the ghost, who I wrote about in She Wore Stripes

Thanks for reading.


3 comments:

  1. It turns out shoes have soles... I'll get my coat.

    I actually enjoyed this one a lot (for a change ;P) - I think it helped the creepiness of the story that you never really explained what was going on, at least not out loud. And I've always had a soft spot on my spine for waking up with a ghoulish intruder in the room.

    D.

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