By Jane Spirit
raspberry-ripple ice-cream soda
Yvonne knew that Louise wasn’t to blame for leaving the ballerina style shoes propped up by the front door during her regular Saturday visit. Louise had just collected them from a friend who had said she could borrow them for a work do. She had planned to wear them in a little whilst she sat and chatted with Yvonne, but then it had slipped her mind to put them on. It had been such a warm day for April, and they had taken their coffees out to the little patio table, talking whilst they admired the camellia’s bursting buds. As usually happened, Louise had lost track of time, until she had glanced at her phone and jumped up. She had given Yvonne a quick hug and hot footed it out to her car through the side gate, closing it firmly behind her. Only after she had eaten her sandwich for lunch did Yvonne spot the shoes in the hall. Pink had always been her favourite colour and it made the temptation to try them on almost irresistible.
Once she had slipped them on to her feet it was the work of a moment to pick up her little navy bag and rain jacket and step out into the front garden. The shoes were a perfect fit. It was truly like walking on air and she had to glance down to make sure that she really did have shoes on as she opened the metal gate. She was a little breathless with her daring as she regarded their blush pinkness and their soft shape; her joy was only slightly clouded by guilt.
She turned automatically to the right and could feel herself growing younger with every step. The colour rose to her cheeks as she dared once again to look down. She thought of how, on this sunny day, the shoes gave just the right hint of pink on a white satin. They were the exact shade of the ballet shoes that she had treasured in her kit bag as a young girl setting out to walk just the few minutes from her childhood home to the hall where her ballet classes had been held.
Yvonne walked on past the park railings, listening to the children calling out to each other as they played. She remembered again her own childhood in a seaside town. Even on cold days her parents had insisted on taking their family out with a picnic. She could still picture the garish bubble gum pink stripes of the wind shield that her parents had struggled to carry on to the sands before proudly unfurling it like some ancient heraldic emblem to claim their territory on the beach. On especially lucky summer days they would be allowed to play on until tongues of orange-pink sunset flames had begun to lick the greying edges of the sea. For Yvonne the scene had taken on Biblical proportions. It was in keeping with the painting in the church to which her mother sometimes took her with its masses of white-robed angels. Their wings were tinged salmon-pink by the fiery beams falling from a heaven revealed above them.
Thinking about it all and carried along by the comfort of the slip-on shoes, Yvonne had quickened her usual pace. Now she found that thinking about the angels’ feathery wings whirling upward into a celestial orbit had made her feel a little off balance herself. She was close to the little café where she often ended her afternoon walk these days and decided to pause there. Sitting upright in her chair whilst she drank her cup of tea, she smiled at her dainty little feet as they peeped out at her in all their pinkness. She was content just to think that, had the tea shop listed raspberry-ripple ice-cream sodas on its menu, she would have ordered one and asked for some extra raspberry sauce to be squirted on top to form a synthetic cerise crown.
Of course, Yvonne knew that the past she had been enjoying on her walk had not really been all that it seemed, just as she had to admit that the shoes were not quite as comfortable as she had first thought. Her memories were a sugar frosted version of the mundane adult world that she had been bound to inherit. When her feet had grown too big for the beautiful ballet shoes her parents had not been able to afford to buy her new ones and the ballet lessons had come to an end soon after that. The days at the beach had been a way of taking her parents’ minds off the exigencies and difficulties of their life together. The differences between them were never really resolved, however much her mother went to pray.
The shoes were beginning to rub her feet a little as she concluded her walk home from the café, but she was still reluctant to relinquish them. The thought of the sherbet-pink embroidered bed jacket that Louise had bought her for her birthday still troubled her. She knew that it had been meant kindly and yes it was a lovely colour, but its wholesomeness had somehow marked for Yvonne the beginning of an inevitable decline into frailty that she would rather not acknowledge. She knew that she must resist predictability. She would buy herself some new shoes that could not in any sense be described as sensible. Having made that promise to herself she turned the key in the lock, grateful in the end to be home. As the door opened, her phone started to ring. It would almost certainly be Louise arranging to pop round for what she had forgotten. Yvonne braced herself to answer the call and looked down at her feet for one last time in fond farewell. She took off her shoes at the door.
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