“Because I just can’t take anymore.”
“Don’t be so dramatic.”
“I’m not being dramatic, we’ve walked round this shopping mall ten times, we’ve been in every shoe shop there is.”
“Well it’s not my fault if nowhere has a black patent slip on with a two inch heel, is it?”
“Does it have to be patent? I’m sure we saw a black suede pair that were just what you’re looking for.”
“Suede doesn’t last, you know this, one drop of rain and it’s ruined.”
“Well, I’ve had enough.”
When she’d gone, when I’d seen the red flap of her trench coat disappear around the corner of Marks and Spencer, I felt bad. I mean, not that bad, I didn’t run after her or anything. I was exhausted, I needed to take five, but I did feel a little bit bad. She had her heart set on this particular pair of shoes, she’d imagined them in her head before we came here and it was so frustrating to find they didn’t actually exist in stores. And it wasn’t as if she was looking for anything crazy. Plain black shoes. How hard could it be?
But every damn shop, some more than once, man this was tiring.
I sat down. The mall had a reaching glass roof that was a grid for the sky, each pane of glass measuring where the clouds moved. Artificial light from each store vied hopelessly with the sun, and the sound of the beat everyone shopped to filled every space. I was sitting on a lacquered wooden bench with troughs of shrubs to my right.
I texted her.
“I’m sorry, I jus got tired. I’m sitting by the plant things when you’re ready.”
I looked around. So many people. What were they all doing?
“Ok, I’ve just got one more place to try then I’ll come and find you.”
And two beats later.
I thought about our first date. The way the sun had touched her hair lightly, knowing how lucky it was to have the chance. The way her smile flashed when she spoke and every other person around us marvelled at its brilliance. The way her skin felt when she kissed me on the cheek when we said goodbye. And I knew even then I was never gonna let her go.
I realised at that moment I had my hand in the trough to my right. I’d no idea I’d done it, but I was slowly stroking the curly little green leaves on the potted plant. I could feel the life in them. I could literally feel that the thing was alive, the sun from the glass roof bathing it, water poured in by a mall employee feeding it. That’s what she was to me. She kept me alive.
“What are you doing?”
She was standing in front of me. I pulled my hand away from the plant quickly.
“Ok, come on weirdo, I can see you really have had enough of this place.”
“Nah, they just aren’t here, I’ll have to forget it.”
I got up, and the clouds moved in their glass roof grid above us and the sun touched her hair again, still aware of how lucky it was.
“You know,” I said. “I’m sure I saw another shoe shop down there we haven’t tried yet.”
Samantha Priestley is the author of the Folded Word short-fiction chapbooks Dreamers (2014) and Orange Balloon (2016). She’s a novelist, playwright, and essayist who spins words into gold from her home in Sheffield, UK.
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