women. writers.

Fiction: Would You Do It For Shoes? by Heather Legg

As she began her drive home that night, only one thought trumped all others in her head. Why me? Allison Adams couldn’t get the woe is me feeling to leave as she sunk deeper and deeper into that dark place, letting her self pity lead her down like a weight pulling her to the dark ocean depths. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be, she thought over and over. It’s just not.

She had left work thirty minutes earlier, her space tidy as always, the briefs well prepared for the lawyers she worked for, her Gemini coffee mug washed, dried and ready to fill tomorrow. But inside she was a mess. She hated the fake friendly goodnights and see ya tomorrows laced with condescending undertones. The way the partners barely looked her way when she walked by them. Why couldn’t she be sitting there with them, her feet snug in Prada heels, making plans to go out for a $30 cocktail or a weekend in Napa? Instead she mumbled her own good nights as she rummaged through her knock off LV bag for the keys to her six year old mini van, complete with stale french fries lost between the car seats and dirty socks on the floorboards.

Allison wanted to listen to NPR on the drive to her far flung suburbs, but she just didn’t get it. She knew it was what she should be listening to, that’s what the intellects, the high brows all tuned in to, but instead she couldn’t stay away from the Love Songs station, her private passion. That’s where she belonged, the cheesy, sappy, shallow music that she could sing along to and think back to her high school days, when she had her life ahead of her. But all the love songs station did to her tonight was make her think again, Why me? Why wasn’t the man calling her husband? The one telling his story with the gentle voice and a song dedication to the lady of his life, the one who makes his world complete, the one who inspires him every day to be his best? The most she could hope for in reality was that her husband, Mike, had unloaded the dishwasher before she got home to start dinner. 

As she stopped at the red light a few miles from home, her mind began to wander for just a minute, and went to that place of what ifs....what if when she got home the chaos was absent. Instead of clutter and noise consuming the small house, the sweet smell of roses greeted her, soothing her as soft music and candlelight played with her other senses. What if Mike had lost those fifteen pounds and was wearing Lucky jeans instead of the same Old Navy ones he’d had for the past twelve years. Maybe he’d tell her they had reservations at one of the restaurants the partners talked about, and the sitter who he’d taken the initiative to book had taken the kids out for ice cream so the two of them could slowly get ready for an evening out, just the two of them. He’d take her bag from her and hand her a glass of wine instead of popping open another beer for himself, and they would head to the bedroom, tidied up with the bed freshly made bed. They would slowly and playfully enjoy each other before she leisurely showered and dressed in the size 4, black Herve Leger mini dress that showed off her fantasy legs, no cellulite, no bulges.

But no, her antagonist, reality, would prevent that from ever happening in her house. Reality also pulled her mind back from its fantasy world. She knew when she got home, before she could even change out of her clearance rack, last season, poorly fitting pants and sweater that the three kids would be “Mommy, Mommy-ing” her, the cat would be meowing to be fed, the dogs would be jumping and Mike would be in his studio writing, getting to do what he loved but what made them no money, while she pulled up the slack. That’s why though she couldn’t wait to leave work every day, she was never in a hurry to arrive home.

From the radio, the soothing voice of the love songs DJ filled the car, and Allison tried to take some deep breaths and send some of her resentment out the window while she waited for the light to turn green. Where is my glamour? she thought as she looked at the woman next to her, perfectly manicured nails tapping the steering wheel of her sharp Mercedes. What did this lady get when she got home - a meticulously clean house, well put together kids with homework done already, perhaps dinner prepared, warm and waiting? 

And then it all happened at once...

Allison reached to turn up the volume because she loved the song Open Arms, and she heard a car honking behind her. She thought it was at her, so she automatically pressed the gas. “Shit!” she screamed as she realized the light was still red, but before she saw the car coming at her through the intersection. She swerved, the other car swerved, tires screeched, her lipstick and phone flew out of her fake bag and hit the floorboard. And all was silent. 

Time had seemed to stop. Allison was shaking as she looked up to see a Hummer just inches from her minivan. Inches from her door. Inches from her. A thin, handsome but somewhat dangerous looking man in a sleek, dark suit climbed out, still holding his iPhone, “Did you not see that? Your light was red!”

“I...I...I’m sorry,” Allison stammered as she took in his pompous stature, his overpowering look. “Are you alright?” she asked.

“Yes, yes, I’m fine,” he said, his expression changing, fazing into something different, but she wasn’t sure how. He looked at her older van, shook his head and then as an afterthought asked, “And you…Are you okay?” She noticed his calm composure even though they’d both just experienced a very close near miss.

“Sure, I’m okay. I really am sorry,” she said, and she felt the sting of tears in her eyes. 

“Be careful, then, and watch where you’re going. There are others on the road here,” he said and turned back to his opulent vehicle. “Have a good evening,” he added automatically before he shut the door. Before he drove away, though, he put his window down and gave her one last, long good look, his emerald green eyes boring into hers, so deeply she felt as if he’d seen her naked. 

Just then, the skies darkened and opened up; rain began to fall. Big heavy drops, mimicking the way Allison felt. She took a deep breath and turned the car back on. As she started to drive again, her hand automatically went from turning on the wipers to the radio buttons (you’d think she would have learned her lesson), and she pressed the key nearest the left. Ahhhh, much better, she sighed, as classical violin music filled her van.

The route she took was different than her usual one, leading her to a high end subdivision, enclosed by a stone wall and manned by a guard trying to stay dry in the tiny building. He leaned out only to wave her in, though he did take a second, confused glance at her van. Allison drove past the million plus dollar homes framed by flawlessly manicured lawns, the rain making everything look penciled in instead of lit with water color light, but it only added a more refined look. Her hand again moved as if it had a mind of its own, like her minivan, and when she reached a massive brick home complete with Corinthian columns and three garages, she pressed the garage door opener and the third door opened. 

The door to this house, my house.

Allison was confused, but not scared, and her body willed her mind along, so she simply let herself go into this beautiful designer home where she was greeted by a middle aged, plump woman in the kitchen, cooking something in a big blue pot that gave off such a luscious aroma of garlic and rosemary that Allison’s mouth began to water. 

“How was your day, Mrs. Adams?” the woman said with some sort of South American accent. When she looked up from the counter, she took a second glance at Allison, like the guard had done. “Are you alright? You look shaken. Why don’t you go up and shower, change your, ummm, clothes? The kids have eaten. Mr. Adams will be late if home at all; I’ll just put yours in the warmer and you can have it when you feel better.”

“Uhhh, okay. I think that’s probably a good idea,” Allison answered, wondering how she’d find the bathroom in this giant house where she’d never been, but apparently lived. Again, her body took over and she dropped her worn purse on the gleaming, granite counter and followed her feet up a grand staircase, down a hall much longer and much plusher than the one she was used to, and she entered a master suite straight from the pages of Traditional Home. A heavy wooden bed was covered in a silk spread of serene robin’s eggs blues and sand colored taupes and accented with crisp, tailored throw pillows. The furniture gleamed with polish, and not a Barbie doll or pair of boxers littered the floor. She shut and locked the heavy door, leaning her back against it, trying to make sense of this very odd evening.

After a moment and a deep breath, she mindlessly began to undress, stepping out of her shoes, leaving them as refuse on the pristine floor. The gleam of the bathroom’s marble led her like a beacon, and she turned the faucet on of the stand-alone soaking tub, devoid of rubber ducks and old shampoo bottles. An expensive looking etched glass bottle of fragrant bath salts stood on the small table next to the tub with only a single candle and monogrammed box of matches to keep it company. Allison lit the candle as the water filled the deep tub, breathing in the sweet salts and the floral scent of the candle. She knew this place, oddly enough in the very far reaches of her mind, though she didn’t know how, maybe like a long ago dream lost to waking too fast.

Once in the bath, her body slipped under the water and she laid her head back, shutting her eyes. Only a tiny piece of her brain screamed at her, “What the hell are you doing????” but it screamed too tiny and the rest of her mind muscled it out of the picture. 

“It’s my life,” she said to the voice, “It’s my life and my house...” 

These words kept playing in her head as she finished her bath, found a nightgown with a Saks Fifth Avenue label inside to put on, and climbed under the covers made of a material she’d never even touched before.

She woke the next day and had a moment of panic that she’d overslept while dreaming of wealth, comfort and quiet. She’d be late for work, the kids had to get to school and daycare. As she got her bearings, she realized she hadn’t left the dream in her slumber; she ran her hands down the silky nightgown she had slept in instead of an old t-shirt, in this ornate room and massive bed, alone. No husband, no cat, no random kid, no alarm clock. She noticed the sun splashing across the floor as she walked to the closet and found a leopard print robe, tied it on, and walked downstairs to the kitchen. The tiny voice still kept trying to speak, but the others in her head, the stronger ones, kept shushing it.

“Good Morning, Mrs. Adams. Are you feeling better? Get some rest?” the same woman asked her.

“Yes, I am. Thank you,” she answered in a voice that didn’t sound as confused as she felt.

Allison accepted the coffee she was handed, only slightly wondering how this woman knew exactly how she took it, cream and lots of sugar, and stared at the three kids at the table. The two older ones (were they teenagers?), had earphones in their ears linked to iPhones while the younger one (not so young as her own two year old) sat absorbed by some sort of video game. They barely acknowledged her, maybe a nod and a grunt, but Allison didn’t mind at all. Good, they’re entertained, she thought. But in the back of her mind she noticed curiously that they looked an awful lot like her own children, or how they’d look in a few years.

An older man swooped through the kitchen, well dressed, classic tie and supple leather briefcase, but old. He grabbed his own a cup of coffee (black, just like Mike drank it), gave Allison a cool, formal kiss on the cheek and said, “See you all Friday.”

“Have a good trip, Mr. Adams,” the housekeeper said, but Allison had no words. The man looked and acted nothing like Mike, he had to be at least 20 years older, yet they shared a last name. 

“Thank you, Edna.” And he was gone.

This is my family, she thought. Those kids, those detached kids, they’re mine. And that old guy. I’m married to him? What about my Mike? Well at least this one’s usually not around, obviously, he didn’t even sleep in our room. And look at this house. May be worth it…

As she headed back up to the sanctuary of the decadent master suite, she tried to figure some of this out. How was she here? Was she married to the sharp, but old and wrinkled guy? Where was he last night? Did she ever sleep with him? She felt her skin crawl a little at the thought, and pushed away the shiver that draped her being. What about those kids? How would they get to school, the tiny voice asked. Were they supposed to be hers, those distant, entitled children plugged in, but far away?  We’ll see, she told herself, I can’t do anything about it anyway. Edna would tell her what she needed to. 

Wouldn’t she?

Allison tried to go about the day, piddling about the house, going through her closet of outrageously expensive and abundant clothes. She thought about calling work, but didn’t – what would she say after all. The kids came home at some point, but all headed somewhere else. She figured they were pretty self-sufficient and left them alone; after all, they did murmur some “Hi Mom"s when she saw them, and Edna seemed to be taking them wherever it was they were going. 

The day soon turned into a week that culminated with two important occurrences. One being the realization that she didn’t have to go to work and that no one in this family needed her, the other consisted of the credit cards she found in her dresser drawer along with the car keys to the Jaguar in the garage. The second one led to the voices in her head finally bullying the tiny one to the very recesses of her mind when she braved using a credit card on a $700 pair of Jimmy Choo ballet flats, and it wasn’t denied. Allison had never spent more than 50 bucks on a pair of shoes. And, damn, these looked good.

That week turned into more weeks, the little voice stayed quiet, locked way in the back of her mind, and she was falling into this life, though on certain nights she would cry herself to sleep missing her messy house, her babies and her husband. Allison did miss them, and had tried to go home, she had. Oddly enough, on the two times she did try, she couldn’t get to her street. It was like she had the directions, the address, but home had disappeared. She drove around from street to street, feeling like a lost child in the mall who couldn’t find her mom because they both kept going in circles. She’d tried to call a time or two, but no one ever answered, not even voice mail, the phone just rang and rang. Maybe she should try again, or try harder, she wondered. 

One morning she was watching the news (something she never used to do) while sipping coffee in her sitting room, when her heart jumped into her mouth and her coffee sloshed from her china cup. Mike, her Mike, not the old one, was pleading for her, Please Allison, come home. If you have her, let her go. We’ll do anything, he was saying in front of the cameras, but please, let her come home to her family. He looked disheveled, tired, but he had lost some weight, she noticed with approval. And their house was in the back ground, needing paint. One of the kid’s trikes lay abandoned haphazardly in the driveway; the lawn looked a little too long. 

Allison turned off the TV, put her coffee down and went back to bed, shutting the drapes, locking the door. No one bothered her; no one checked on her. Not once. No one ever did, except Edna with an occasional cup of tea.

Allison emerged a day later, hair done perfectly, the new highlights creating an opulent touch and makeup on, just like the Bobbie Brown expert had shown her, her new Jimmy Choos gracing her newly pedicured feet. The jaguar was not a stranger to her anymore; as she put the key in the ignition, she felt like she’d been driving it for years. She wasn’t sure where she was going now; she had nowhere to be. But after a purposeless errand or two, she found herself coming to the same intersection where the Hummer had nearly hit her more than a month ago. Odd to be here when she couldn’t even get to her old home, she thought, as that tiny voice tried to be heard. Traffic was sparse this midmorning, and she didn’t notice the light changing; she went right through it. A honk caught her attention and she slammed on the brakes, squeezing her eyes shut and clenching the wheel. 
When she had come to a full stop without hearing the crunch of metal, she slowly opened her eyes. A slight drizzle wet the windshield, and the darker sky made it harder to see. But not so hard that Allison didn’t gasp out loud.

Inches away she saw the Hummer. 

The same well dressed man stepped from the car, but he was much more polite this time around, seeming to never even recognize her. “I’m so sorry, my dear” he said, “I don’t know what happened. Are you all right? Can I do anything?”

“I’m f...f...fine,” she stammered, certainly more confused than anything else. How could this be the same man, the same near miss? What the hell was happening?

“Are you sure I can’t do anything for you?” he asked again, his emerald eyes becoming eerily lit from within as they stared into hers. “Anything, anything at all?” his eyes asked so much more, told so much more. All of a sudden, everything was clear. The past month, the house, the family.

“No really, I’m fine,” Allison answered, with a little more conviction in her voice. “I’m absolutely fine. I just need to go...home.”

When she got back to the house, she put her purse down but held onto the packages from her shopping errands. She just wanted to be alone once again.

Edna looked up from folding laundry, taking in Allison with a raised eyebrow and asked, “Mrs. Adams, is everything alright? You look a bit shaken.”

“Yes, everything is all right, Edna, perfectly fine. I’m fine, just very glad to be home,” Allison answered, just a touch of haughtiness lacing her tone and her chin held a bit higher than before. “Could I have some tea please, I’ll take it in my room. Ask the children not to bother me when they get home from school.”

And before she lay down on the silken bed to rest, she lovingly put her newest pair of Christian Louboutin heels in her closet.
1 comment on "Fiction: Would You Do It For Shoes? by Heather Legg"
  1. Wow! This is terrific. Chilling. Fascinating. I love the surprising twists and turns, the way ordinary life without warning turns into a kind of dream. I want to know more! When's the next story coming out?