Dear reader, I had said I’d publish this short story in ONE GO, but it ran away with me, growing into a longish short story – too long for one sitting! So, I’m breaking it up into
3 or 4 as-many-as-it-takes parts, to be published every Sunday (the usual day when I posted The Hotel Unicus series). I’ll be rating it 16+ due to the mature themes, but as is my way there is more mystery in the absence of gory details, which terrify me. Horror/mystery/pretanatural. I hope you like it.
Have you missed Part Eleven?
Just to re-cap…..
All the time I said these true words, I kept my eyes fixed on my grandmother’s face. She was still. And then a tear trickled down her cheek. She said nothing.
“That man who was abusive to you was my grandfather. I pieced it together, the things said over the years, from you, from Mum. All the little pieces I pieced together to finally discover that truth.”
Gran was shaking her head. The colour gone from her cheeks. “I didn’t want to hurt you. You were just a small child when he died. You didn’t need to know that. It was wretched enough for us – me, Mum, Aunt Nicky.”
Lilly could not contain herself. I’d never have a better friend. “But, but, Fran…you told me about Gran’s truth. It doesn’t make sense anymore. If that abusive man was really your grandfather, what was her truth? What set her free?“
~ Part Twelve ~
“Gran, tell us your story. How you got to know the Red Shoes?”
I’d never seen Gran so upset before. It was very unlike her. She who always knew what to say, what to do…instructing others what to do. As I mentioned before, she wasn’t the cuddly affectionate type of grandmother – but that didn’t mean I loved her less.
It hurt me extracting the truth from her.
She blotted her eyes and swigged her tea. “Alright then, I will tell you…exactly how it happened. But, girl, don’t say I didn’t warn you: It’s not pretty.”
I gave a slight nod to urge her on.
She cleared her throat. “I don’t know whether you will ever forgive me either.”
“It began before I married your grandfather and I was still living at home with my parents. I even remember the date because it was the 1st of April and someone had played a harmless prank on him and that had made him very angry… He took it out on me like he would always vent his rage. But, he didn’t hit me back then. Not in those early days.
“He could be vicious with the things he said to me. I won’t repeat the exact words here, it’s ugly and there is little point. And, that night, it was the first time he physically assaulted me – however, at the time, I didn’t think of it that seriously. We were to go out that night to meet up with friends who were recently married. They were newly living together in their own home and had invited us to dinner. It was supposed to be a fun, happy evening. They were really my friends, from school – he never had real friends.
“Of course, he was in a stinky mood because of the harmless prank and he vented his rage at me. We were walking there to the house because it wasn’t far, just a few roads away, and, all of a sudden, he decided we weren’t going. He put my friends down, saying June was scatty and spoilt from her well-off parents – they owned a hotel. That was and is still called the Star Hotel.”
“Where I work, and Fatima does too.” Brian mumbled.
“You do? June’s daughter runs it today.”
“Alright, alright. He said June’s husband, Ken, was a stupid social-climbing gold-digger. He couldn’t understand why I was even friends with them. He said we had each other and we didn’t need anyone else.
“So, he there and then decided we weren’t going to see them that night, and perhaps would never see them again. I was angry with him. I went to go on walking to their house. That was when he grabbed me by the wrists; squeezing them so hard I cried out and leaving bruises the next day. He then grabbed me by the arms and pushed me along the pavement, in the opposite direction. I was crying and telling him to let go and he wouldn’t. He wanted his own way. Like he always wanted his own way. My evening was ruined and my friendship with June and Ken took a blow. Because we never got there in the end and he never wanted us to see them again. But I did, in secret of course. I saw them behind his back.”
Gran poured herself another cup of tea. “He manhandled me all the way back to my parent’s house, right up to the front-door. Then left. My mother was waiting up in the kitchen, drinking hot cocoa. I didn’t have the heart to tell her what had happened but she must have wondered at my tear-stained face…
“I couldn’t sleep that night so I did what I always did when I couldn’t sleep: I went walking. I often walked about in the heart of the city, staring through the windows of the shops, especially the shops with the nice clothes and shoes. I wasn’t afraid of being attacked – we had very low crime in those days, being a country city. There would be hardly anyone about, maybe someone walking their dog or a couple of drunken friends staggering home. I suppose I liked it because the space gave me room to breathe, to think, to consider my future.
“Despite what I’ve just told you – at that moment in time – I still loved your grandfather. I wasn’t a church-goer and wasn’t sure about God then, but I prayed for things to work out for the best and for him to change. To be again the man I first fell for.
“Well, when I got home, there they were on the doorstep. The Red Shoes.”
“Like they followed you home, but somehow got there first. Very strange.” I said.
Gran continued: “I thought I was dreaming. Things like that just don’t happen!
“I had been eyeing a pair of gorgeous shoes in one of the shops. But I wouldn’t have been able to afford them, not even with my job working as a secretary in my father’s sign-writing business. Well, it was like someone nice was giving me a gift.
“The following Saturday I was wearing them for the first time. Your grandfather wanted a photograph taken of the pair of us together, like a proper couple, he said. That’s the very same photo I showed you Fran, do you remember?”
I recalled the black and white photograph with the sullen young man who Gran had previously informed me, wasn’t my grandfather. Except she’d lied.
“The dress was late 1950s and it was 1962. The Red Shoes show up dark of course. Later, that very evening, he proposed to me.” She paused. “I can’t have regrets or I wouldn’t have had your mother and Aunt Nicky; nor have your sister and, well, you.”
I gave her a consolatory smile.
“But there is nothing I regret more than those shoes. I knew they had the devil in them the first time I put them on.”
“How did you get them off?” Lilly asked.
Then there was a splash as my friend’s glasses dropped in her tea.
…………to be continued!
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If so, I’d love to hear from you!
Inspired by: My own red Italian shoes (in another life when my life was more high heels than wheels).
The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen
The Red Shoes, the film, 1948
Copyright Faith McCord 2018
Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide rights.