Saturday 16 March 2024

Saturday Sample: Glit-er-ary, Liz Cox, A Little Bit of Sparkle,


A Little Bit of Sparkle

Elizabeth Cox


Ruth pulled her summer jacket tightly around her and zipped it up. Even though it was still August, it had been raining earlier and the sky was overcast. She hurried to the pay station to get a ticket for her car, as she was running late. Her friends would think she had stood them up. Hunger was eating away at her; she was eager for her coffee and scone. Without looking where she was going, she was scrabbling in her bag to find loose pound coins in the voluminous interior, when she stumbled. As she steadied herself on the wet metal pole, there on the floor she saw a pair of child’s trainers, silver and covered with sequins. Neatly placed side by side, as if left there on purpose. They were filled with rain water.

She looked around her, thinking that someone had just put them down while on a similar mission to herself and had simply forgotten to pick them up. But there was no one to be seen. She reasoned that they must have been left there some time ago to be so full of dirty water. She didn’t know what to do. Should she tip the water out? She might save the shoes from becoming soaked through, but looking at them it appeared to be too late for that. Should she pick them up? No, someone might remember where they left them and come looking. It would be unfair for her to take them away. No, she would leave them. She expected they would have been retrieved by the time she left the café.

As Ruth crossed the road to meet her friends her thoughts were occupied by the shoes to such an extent that she almost walked under a black car, only brought out of her daydream by the angry honking of a car horn. Smiling a vague apology, she raised her hand to the irate driver and continued towards the café.

She met her friends here each week for coffee and a chat. It got her out of the house, but she never felt completely at home there. As she pushed on the chrome handle of the smoked glass door, it opened silently in her path. The clacking of her heels across the grey tiled floor of the entrance, caused all eyes to be raised and glance in her direction. The room was full this afternoon and smelled of wet coats and coffee. Black and chrome chairs were scraped across the light beech floor of the dining area, as people turned back to their conversations. As she moved across the floor, she pretended to look at the abstract art from local artists which adorned the grey walls; the only bright spot in a dreary room. Her friends were waiting, coffee cooling, as she approached.

‘Hello everyone, I’m sorry I’m late, I was distracted by the strangest thing.’ The waiting women looked at each other and raised their eyebrows.

‘Go on, do tell,’ her best friend Janet encouraged, as she summoned the waitress with an imperious wave of her bony hand. A young girl with a row of piercings along her ear lobe sauntered over, shuffling her feet across the scuffed floor.

‘Yes,’ she sniffed.

‘Four coffees please and take these dirty cups away.’ The girl turned away, leaving the cups behind.

Ruth smiled apologetically at the tattooed girl, ‘Leave her alone, Janet, she’s only a child.’

‘Tell me what distracted you.’ Janet’s acerbic voice brought Ruth back to reality.

‘Well’, said Ruth not knowing where to start. ‘When I was leaving the car park, at the bottom pay station, there was a pair of child’s silver trainers, covered in pretty sequins.’

‘What’s so special about that?’ Janet’s interest had waned, as she was expecting something more salacious.

‘They were placed neatly, side by side, which seemed oddly deliberate to me. And they were filled with rain water.’

‘Some careless child left them there I expect. Nothing unusual about that. Careless little blighters, children.’ Janet, who didn’t suffer fools gladly, was bored with the subject now and was stacking the dirty cups, as the waitress reappeared with the coffees, slopping the contents into their saucers. Ruth looked as if she had been slapped across the face, but smoothed her skirt down and said nothing. The others glanced at each other. Janet could be so insensitive sometimes.

The subject of the shoes was soon forgotten in the general conversation that followed, but not by Ruth. Round and round in her mind a picture of the shoes turned like a kaleidoscope, sequins flashing blue and red and purple.

‘I’ve got to go,’ Ruth pushed her chair back with a scrape, grabbed her paisley scarf and large leather handbag and fled. Her friends stared in amazement.

‘What’s wrong with Ruth this afternoon?’ Pauline drawled, flicking back her blonde fringe. ‘She’s not a creature of impulse normally.’

‘She did seem a bit odd, something to do with those shoes I expect,’ said Annabel, a petite brunette wearing a thick sweater and old jeans. ‘You can never tell with Ruth.’ 

The others looked to Janet for her opinion on this unusual situation.

‘Who knows,’ shrugged Janet, sipping her coffee and negotiating a cream slice.

Ruth ran to the carpark. What if the shoes were no longer there? What would she do if they had gone? As she reached the pay station, she could see the shoes gleaming in the sun, the sequins turning orange and red now. They were still sitting side by side on the tarmac. No one had come for them. They were hers. She skipped the last few steps across the road, despite her aching hip. Picking up the shoes, she carefully tipped the water out onto the floor and caressed the shoes dry with her paisley scarf, the one Alan had bought her for her last birthday. There, they were lovely and dry now, look at how the sequins were shining.  She flicked a damp leaf from the toe of the right shoe, buffed them once again with her scarf and placed them neatly together in her bag.  She patted the bag and turned towards her car. Tilly would love them.

She laid the bag carefully on the passenger seat, so as not to upset the shoes onto the floor of the car which was rather grubby, and draped her scarf carefully over the bag to shield its contents. All the way home she sang along with the car radio; Eddie Cochran, Cliff Richard, Ed Sheeran, Rod Stewart, Katy Perry, tapping her chewed finger nails on the steering wheel in time to the music. This was a good day.

When she arrived home, Alan was already there. His golf match must have finished early, and he was in the kitchen putting the kettle on. She had to tell him.

‘Guess what I’ve got for Tilly?’ she blurted out unable to contain her excitement.

‘Now, love,’ said Alan, ‘come and have a nice cup of tea. It’s ready and I’ve put some chocolate digestives out as well.’ He placed the mugs on the pine table, then turned to get the teapot.

‘Alan, you have to see, they’re so lovely, Tilly will be thrilled.’

Alan sighed and turned to look at her, the plate of biscuits still in his hand.

‘What have you brought?’ Alan was tall and spare with thick grey hair which he wore closely cropped. His face was tanned yet etched with lines.

‘Look here they are,’ Ruth exclaimed, unwrapping the shoes from her scarf with a flourish. She placed them neatly side by side on the table, then ran her fingers through her curly red hair, streaked with grey at the temples. ‘This is how I found them, but they’re a bit wet inside. They were filled with rainwater. I’ll have to dry them out properly, before I give them to Tilly.’ The shoes twinkled at her, as if delighted to be in her company.

‘But Tilly can’t wear them my love, you know that.’ Alan spoke patiently but Ruth, distraught, grabbed the shoes from the table and turned for the stairs.

‘You don’t understand. Yes she can, of course she can! She’ll love them.’ Ruth ran up the stairs clutching the sequinned trainers in her hand, her hoarse voice trailing in her wake. She tripped up the last step and reached for the second door on the landing grabbing the handle. A plaque on the door said ‘Tilly’s Room’ picked out in gold letters on the cream painted wood. She turned the handle and entered the room. Illuminated by fairy lights which she kept on all the time, the room glowed with pink; flowery curtains and pale pink walls contributed to the womb like feeling of the space. She smiled and closed the door quietly behind her, inhaling the scent of the roses that she always kept there. Her soft whisper filled  the empty space.

‘Here you are, Tilly, just for you, I know you’ll love them’

Ruth closed her eyes, imagining Tilly slipping her feet into the glittering shoes. She watched her tie the silver laces in a big bow, then grin up at her mother, her childish eyes, shining, as she twirled her feet around under the fairy lights to make the sequins gleam. Happiness engulfed her.

Alan followed Ruth up the stairs wearily, his hand gripping the pine bannister, his knuckles white. He turned the door handle, entering the room behind her just as she was placing the shoes side by side on the narrow bed, smoothing the flowery bedspread, as she did so. His face crumpled with sadness. Turning to Alan, Ruth whispered, her face alight,

‘There, when she comes home from school, they’ll be ready for her.’

‘But Ruth,’ said Alan, taking hold of his wife tightly, ‘you know she won’t be coming home from school.’ For an instant Ruth was defiant, but then her shoulders slumped. Her knees buckled, as he held her. She laid her head on his shoulder, her eyes glittering, reflecting the sequins on the lost shoes.

Find your copy here. 

About the author 

Born in Yorkshire and now residing in Anglesey, Elizabeth spends her time working at the ‘day job’ and writing short stories, poetry and attempting to finish a novel. She had her first short story, Winking at Angels, published in the Baubles anthology in 2016. When inspiration dries up, she gazes at the wonderful Snowdon mountain range from her window until it returns.

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