Every day for the past week Madeleine had stopped at the shop window to admire the new pair of shoes that had only recently been put on display. She was completely entranced by them , and only had two more days before pay-day when she could rush out of work, into the shop and make them hers.
The shoes were a patent red, and so shiny Madeleine imagined that she could actually see her reflection in them as she gazed through the glass of the show window. They had a slight heel. Madeleine didn’t like anything more than a slight heel. Well she wouldn’t, being quite tall already. She didn’t want to bring any more attention to her height. The heel was glitter covered as were the very edges of the shoes all the way round. Madeleine imagined that she would feel like a queen just putting them on her feet and knew that they would make her the envy of every other girl at the dance club.
“Hey Maddy, what you doing?” Janis sidled up to her. How Madeleine hated the way people reduced her name to two syllables. How she detested the name Maddy. Her name was Madeleine and should never be shortened.Not that she’d tell any of the girls that.
“Oh. Hi Janis, nothing really, just seeing what’s in the shop windows. I love window shopping don’t you?” Madeleine answered non-committally. She didn’t want Janis to know what her real objective was as she was looking in the shoe shop. She didn’t want anyone to know about the shoes until she appeared at the dance-hall on Saturday night with her best friend Teresa, when she would be wearing the most gorgeous shoes anyone could ever imagine her wearing.
“You still going to the Dance on Saturday?” Janis asked, almost as if she had just read Madeleine’s mind.
“Yes, are you?” Madeleine replied.
“Of course, Johnny insisted that I dance with him again. Johnny had been Janis’s off-on boyfriend for the last couple of years. “He thinks we can win the tournament this weekend.”
Madeleine just smiled and started to move away from the shoe shop window. Janis grabbed her arm and tagged along, as if they were the best of friends. Madeleine hated the way people assumed that just because you were friendly with them that they could take advantage and manhandle you. Teresa was her best friend and she’d never presume to grab hold of Madeleine like that. Madeleine did think it would be nice to be held like that by one person though. She suddenly thought of Terry. He often looked at her when they were at the dance hall, and even spoke to her occasionally, but so far he hadn’t asked her to dance. She was hoping that this weekend would be different. She was hoping that with her new shoes she would have a lucky charm and that he would not only ask her to dance but that they would enter the competition together and maybe even win.
Friday eventually came round, Pay-day. Madeleine went to Mr Gruber’s office at just after four o’clock as she always had and signed for her wages. Popping them safely into her handbag she went back to work. For the next hour Madeleine had one eye on her work and kept the other on the clock. At five o’clock sharp she intended to leave as quickly as she could and get to the shoe shop before it closed just half an hour later.
Just before five Madeleine started to tidy her desk and clear her things away. At dead on five she left her desk and grabbed her coat, left the building by way of the staff entrance and headed down the road to the shoe shop. She had only taken a few steps when she heard Janis behind her.
“You’re in a bit of hurry tonight aint’ you Maddy?” Janis shouted after her as she ran to catch up.
“I promised me mum I’d be back early tonight,” Madeline said maintaining her pace along the road. “And I’ve a few errands to run on the way.”
“OK, you don’t have to say no more,” Janis said, “I get the blooming message. I’ll see you tomorrow then at the dance. Make sure you cheer when Johnny and I raise the cup.”
Turning the corner, Madeleine almost bumped into Mrs Webster, her mum’s next-door-neighbour.
“Oh my, watch where you’re going… oh it’s you Maddy, Madeleine. You’re in an awful hurry ain’t yer?” Mrs Webster said in almost one breath.
“I don’t want to be late for tea tonight, ” Madeleine said, “Mum’s doing something special as Uncle Thomas is popping in, and I’ve got to get to the shops before they close, sorry can’t stop,” Madeleine said almost as breathlessly.
“OK, love, I’ll see you later, don’t spend all your money mind.” Mrs Webster laughed at her little joke and she and Madeleine went off in their respective directions. Mrs Webster was headed to the Cake shop. She too had a special errand to run.
As Madeleine turned to go into the shoe shop she quickly glanced in the window. Stopping in her tracks she gasped and felt crestfallen. The shoes were no longer on display. Without further ado she rushed into the shop and straight to the wooden counter. The shop smelled of new shoes, leather and polish. Madeleine had always thought it was a homely and comforting smell.
There was no-one else in the shop. Even Mr Pierce the shop owner didn’t appear to be on the premises. Madeleine knew he sometimes made home deliveries as she’d often found him at home dropping off shoes for her mum,but he wouldn’t have left the shop unlocked.
“Hello?” Madeleine called over the counter, wondering if Mr Pierce was in the stockroom at the back of the shop. There was no answer. “Hello? Mr Pierce?” Madeleine called again. “Are you there? Is everything alright?”
For a moment she thought she heard something behind the curtain that separated the shop from the stockroom. Holding her breath she listened carefully. She was sure she could hear her mum’s voice whispering something, and then she thought she heard Mr Pierce whispering something back. ‘How strange’ she thought
Madeleine moved around the counter and stopped in front of the curtain. She hoped everything was alright. Just as she was about to pull the curtain back Mr Pierce did the very same from the other side, appearing before Madeleine a little flustered and red-faced. At the same time as Mr Pierce appeared Madeleine was sure she heard the back door to the shop close with a bang.
She didn’t want to pry into what had been going on on the other side of the curtain but felt impelled to check Mr Pierce was well. “Are you OK, Mr Pierce?” She asked. “I did call a couple of times but got no answer. I’m sorry if I disturbed you.”
“No, no, Don’t worry Madeleine dear, I just had a bit of Friday afternoon business to deal with.” Mr Pierce smoothed down the hair on either side of his head and twirled the ends of his moustache. He still appeared slightly flustered and red-faced, but Madeleine thought no more of it, after all, she thought, it was his business and not hers.
“Mr Pierce I’ve had my eyes on a beautiful pair of shoes that have been in your shop window for the last ten days. Today I came in to buy them and they are no longer there.” Madeleine explained to Mr Pierce.
“Ah, you must mean the red Sonia Anderson’s. Designer quality at its best,” Mr Pierce told Madeleine.
“If they were the one’s in the centre of the display that have now been replaced by the grey and blue pumps, yes that’s exactly the ones I mean.” Madeleine was looking around the shop to see if they were anywhere on display inside. “I even noticed that they were my size.” She added.
“Oh, Madeleine, I am so sorry. I sold them just this very afternoon.” Mr Pierce said picking up a box from the floor. “But maybe these would be just as nice?” he said showing Madeline the contents of the box he had just picked up.
“Oh, Mr Pierce, I’d had heart set on those all week. I so wanted them. I really thought they would be mine. I’m sorry, but no they were the only ones I wanted.” Madeleine was almost heartbroken.She was so disappointed. Thanking Mr Pierce for his time she turned and left the shop. She was fighting back the tears that were threatening to spill over as she closed the shop door behind her.
On the short walk home all Madeleine could think about was how unlucky she had been to miss out on the shoes. Would Terry ask her to dance now? Or would he give her his usual glance and stay with his mates. She considered not going to the dance the next day, but knew her best friend Teresa would be annoyed with her if she pulled out now.
Within twenty minutes she was at her front door. “I’m home, mum,” she called slightly dejectedly as she pushed through the door and hung her coat up on the coat-stand.
“Hello, love. Come on in here,” her mum called back, “Your Uncle Thomas is here, and I’ve made a special tea.”
The day didn’t feel quite so special now, but Madeleine didn’t want to upset her mum, or Uncle Thomas, she knew they would have made a bit of an effort. She Gently pushed the living room door open pasting a smile on her face as she did so.
“Surprise”, came a load shout from a range of voices inside the living room. Looking up and round the room Madeleine saw her mum and Uncle Thomas in the middle of the room surrounded by a selection of their family and friends. She hadn’t told anyone at work, or anywhere else for that matter, that it was her birthday, yet here they all were smiling and holding up glasses to toast her. Even Janis was there, and right at the back Mr Pierce with a beaming smile. She was indeed surprised.
Uncle Thomas handed her a glass of Pomagne, telling her that she could drink it legally now, while her mum came forward with a carefully wrapped present.
“Here you go, love. I hope you like them.” Her mum beamed at her, and leaning forward gave her a quick kiss.
“Thanks, Mum,” Madeleine took the present and carefully unwrapped it. Inside she was delighted to find the Sonia Anderson shoes that she had had her eyes on all week. Her eyes filled with tears all over again, but this time tears of happiness.
“Well try them on then,” Mr Pierce had moved forward and was smiling at her as he held her mum’s elbow.
Madeleine sat down and slipping off her work shoes she put the new ones on. She stood up and with a smile as wide as her face announced “A perfect fit.”
Behind her came another voice, “With those you’ll win the dance competition tomorrow night. Of course if you’ll do me the honour of being my dance partner.”
Madeleine recognised the voice at once . It was Terry, and he was asking her to be his dance partner. It looked like the shoes were indeed going to be a good luck charm. Turning round Madeleine was unable to hide her delight and accepted Terry’s offer without hesitation.
“What a turn up for the books,” Madeleine said as she took another sip from her glass of Pomagne.