It’s the week before Valentine’s Day, and I wanted to show my readers some love!
I’ve decided to share a comic short story I wrote a number of years ago. “Glass Slipper 101” was originally published by the now defunct Chick Lit Review back in 2007. It’s also up on my website…but who has time to go digging around on my website to read things. So I am sharing it right here, on NOT EVEN JOKING for your reading pleasure.
If you scroll down to the bottom you’ll see that there’s also a GIVEAWAY! I am giving away one ebook copy of SWIMMING ALONE this week to one lucky reader.
Be sure to check back this Wednesday. Thriller writer Darden North, MD will be joining me, and you’ll have a chance to win his latest audio book release.
So without further adieu, here’s my comic love story, GLASS SLIPPER 101.
Glass Slipper 101
By Nina Mansfield
“You can always tell by their shoes.” Her mother’s raspy, Camel coated voice echoed over and over again through Allison’s mind as she glanced down sideways at Henry’s dusty, grey loafer, over stuffed with white sock, the navy Nike emblem creeping out from under the cuff of his tan slacks. Her mother’s words distracted her from the black velvet box she had seen Henry fumbling with earlier, and erased the visions of Vera Wang gowns that had been parading through the candlelight and into her risotto just moments before. If only he had presented the box, and the ring that it undoubtedly contained, before dinner, she would have leapt into his arms without hesitation. Now she sat dreading the question. If only the loafer had not come into view.
Again, the maternal words of wisdom rang out in her mind, despite the low hum of conversation and the violin music that filled the slightly over-the-top Tribeca bistro. “Trust me, the shoes are the shoes of the soul. That’s what my mother always told me, and I should have listened.” Allison could clearly picture her late mother Delores’ bronzed face and highlighted hair in her plate- her lip-lined mouth speaking the words that now permeated her mind.
It was only when Henry moved his foot to make way for the maître’d, that Allison awoke from her auditory hallucination.
“Happy Birthday.” Henry raised his glass and flashed his flawless smile. He then arched his thick eyebrows. “Is everything OK?”
There it was again, her thirtieth birthday staring her in the face. She hesitated slightly after his question; to hide the doubt that lurked in her mind, she smiled and reached for his hand, knocking over her fork onto the plush red carpet. She reached down to pick it up, only to be met with the unfriendly face of those loafers that screamed, “If he does ask- Just Say No!”
Were shoes really that important? Allison thought back to Delores’s first failed marriage. She barely remembered her father, or his snakeskin moccasins, as he had left them both when she was barely out of diapers to follow The Dead with a Ukrainian stripper. “The term ‘stripper’ is a euphemism,” Delores would grumble after one too many. But Allison had seen the photographs, and the shoes were indeed atrocious. A monument to all that was heinous in early 70s footwear. Her mother’s second failed marriage was to a pair of Hushpuppies, who proved too timid for her tastes. She eventually left the Hushpuppies for a pair of Armani loafers who ended up dead before she could fully prove her theory. (Incidentally, he had slipped on a patch of ice and cracked his skull. The Armanis apparently weren’t for all-weather wear.)
Not long after the Armanis had taken flight, Delores delved into a leather-soled hedonism, maxing out her Bloomingdale’s card on silver stiletto’s and killer clogs, falling into debt from a pair of gold Gucci platform sandals that would be worn once, surrendering herself to a diet of canned tuna and boiled eggs to support a pair of thigh high Helmut Langs- a limited edition design worn to the Oscars by some forgotten Finnish starlet during her fifteen minutes. Only when the Amex bill went over-due and the Saks card was declined did Delores abandon her Imelda-like existence for the quick comfort of Turkish gold, and the steady sympathy of a dry one, stirred. Within a year she found herself beside the Armanis, and had undoubtedly rolled over multiple times due to the Payless pumps that escorted her into the afterlife. The rest of her collection had been auctioned off to pay for the casket.
Was that the life Allison was destined to live? A series of unhappy unions followed by an eternity shod in plastic? She wriggled her toes in her roomy Easy Spirit espadrilles, as she downed the last drop of Prosecco. Before she could set the glass back down on the table, a tuxedoed waiter was at her side, ready for the refill.
Henry was prattling on about his polenta. He might pop the question at any moment! thought Allison. She tried to keep breathing and smiled, keeping her gaze far from the floor. Sipping slowly from the crystal flute, Allison wondered how she could have ever been duped by a man who did not own a shoehorn.
But of course! They had met at the beach. Well, sort of. A Hamptons barbeque to be exact. They’d both been barefoot. She had noticed how cute his toes were. He complemented her on her toenail polish. After they both discovered their penchant for sunburns, and distaste for the pretentious hors d’oeuvre, they planted themselves under a conveniently out of the way weeping willow with a cooler full of Amstel Lights and a bag of Cape Cod chips, where they shared sunburn stories and onion dip.
“My most memorable sunburn?” She had asked coyly and divulged the tale of her scorched senior week feet, and the flip-flops she’d worn to her college graduation. “My mother was mortified,” she laughed, “But they were burnt to crisp. I was so careful about applying lotion, and somehow I just forgot the tops of my feet.”
“I wore flip-flops to my college graduation too- but you know, ‘cause I thought it was cool.”
Allison should have recognized the sign, but she’d been too busy swatting at mosquitoes while simultaneously inching her way toward Henry on the grass to be in prime lip-locking position.
On their second date, if you count the weeping willow as the first, Henry had suggested bowling. Oh, he sure was a sneaky one, thought Allison. She hadn’t had enough sense to check out which shoes he wore before the black and white rentals went on. After twenty-two gutter balls, a strike and a spare, she was smitten.
Third date: white water rafting. He’d managed to conceal his true nature until after he had won her heart with his amazing display of outdoor sportsmanship.
The plates were cleared, and Allison was presented with a dessert menu. “I think I’ll just have coffee. Black.”
“I’ll have the same,” Henry handed the menu back to the waiter with a wink.
The violinist began a moving rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Again, the voice of Allison’s dead mother came back to haunt her.
Allison was transported back exactly fourteen years, to the day of her sixteenth birthday. Delores was throwing her a lavish Sweet Sixteen at the club, and Allison was planning to wear her first high-high heels- magnificent patent leather pumps with bows tacked onto the heels to match her dress. “They’ll make your legs look fabulous,” her mother had declared, as Allison wobbled around their Westchester condo, rehearsing for the main event. After hours of practice, her feet were covered with bloody blisters, and she had not completely found her balance. That evening, after a thorough foot soak, and a visit to the hair salon, Allison slipped into the floral strapless that had been hanging on her closet door for weeks. First high-high heels, first strapless dress, first pair of seamed pantyhose. And first real date, with Billy Gritts (who in a year would wear high-tops to the prom and dump her for a cheerleader with a rack. But that’s neither here nor there.)
Allison waited until the last possible moment to squeeze into her shoes. Her feet were swollen and numb, but her mother was right. They did make her legs look fabulous. The doorbell rang, and she heard Delores’s voice sing out that Billy had arrived. Allison reapplied a coat of red lipstick, and sprayed her hair into place one last time before inching her way down the dark hallway, holding onto the wall. She pulled up her dress, adjusting her small cleavage, and made her grand appearance at the top of the staircase. Billy stood below wearing a tie and jacket, holding a corsage. Allison began to inch her way down the staircase. One step. She felt like Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind. Two steps. Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. Three steps. Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface. And that’s when her heel caught on the stair and down she flew. Dolores, light on her feet in a pair of Pradas, sprung into action, and broke her airborne daughter’s fall, mid-flight. Allison came too momentarily, mangled in the banister, dress down to her waist, displaying her virgin breasts to the speechless Billy, who would never lay eyes on them again, despite his many efforts.
Her embarrassment was allayed only by the physical shock. Allison spent her Sweet Sixteen shivering near the buffet table, entranced by the shear multitude of purple helium balloons that surrounded her.
“You know, you really should get up and dance. You don’t want your date to think you’re a dud!” Allison could do nothing but look up into Delores’s blue-lined gaze with disdain. “Oh honey, I just want you to have fun. Besides, you’ve passed middle age. Once you hit thirty, it’s all over.”
Once you hit thirty it’s all over. Once you hit thirty, it’s all over. Once you hit thirty it’s all over.
Out of the blue, Allison and Henry were descended upon by seven tuxedoed waiters belting out a bastardized version of the birthday classic.
“Happy happy Bir-irthday, Happy happy Bi-irthday…”
They surrounded the table, holding a chocolate mousse cake, over-flowing with fire.
“Happy Happy Bir-irthday, Happy happy Bi-irthday…”
Henry, who had been fumbling through his jacket pockets just moments before suddenly swooped down onto one knee, clutched Allison’s hand adoringly, and presented her with a dazzling solitaire. The waiters stopped vocalizing and Henry became the center of attention.
“Will you…” He paused. The silence was deafening. Allison could not help but stare at the garish whiteness of his socks.
Allison looked back up at Henry, but his eyes appeared troubled. The waiters stood speechless. The candles on the cake continued to burn.
Gradually, Henry’s gaze turned downwards, and gawked at her own Easy Spirit espadrilles with horror. More appropriate for a soccer mom than fine dining, the canvas shoes were scuffed from wear and hardly matched her pale pink sheath and tasteful pearls. She would never have gotten away with such inappropriate footwear while Delores was alive, but Allison insisted on comfort, and had refused to don a pair of heels since her tumble into toplessness.
The silence grew unbearable. All eyes were on the espadrilles. Allison knew what had to be done.
Without a moment more of hesitation, Allison broke the silence with a resounding “Yes,” crossing her feet at the ankle, and snatching the ring from the box. A collective sigh of relief rang out among the waiters, who placed the cake, a veritable inferno, onto the table.
Even Henry was awoken from his momentary shock, and made his way back to his chair. “Think of a wish honey, before we burn the place down.”
But Allison had no trouble deciding what she wanted. She closed her eyes tightly, and heaved all the air out of her lungs, extinguishing thirty candles in one fell swoop.
Gradually, her eyelids peeled open, and she cautiously looked down. The loafer was still in plain view. Alas, her wish had not come true.
Copyright © 2007 by Nina Mansfield
Thanks for reading! And don’t forget to enter the giveaway below!