Nadine isn’t a friend of mine. She keeps to herself and from what I know of her she likes to be left alone. Our children go to school together which is how I met Nadine. Her son was my daughter’s partner for a field trip. Nadine has four children, three boys and a girl. All of them are healthy and active, just like their mother. You can tell that fitness is important to Nadine because she has an amazing body. Her legs are long and toned, Nadine is a runner, she runs around the lake every single day and she has the body to prove it. To me one of the most peaceful things is walking around the lake first thing in the morning but if you drive by the lake just before lunch chances are that you’ll see Nadine running around it.
Nadine is a very intense person. She isn’t an especially warm woman although she has a nice smile. Her teeth are white and even but I never get the feeling that Nadine wants to be talking to me. I was sitting in church on Sunday when I happened to see Nadine. Our children were singing for the service. Nadine’s daughter is younger than my oldest but she’s more solidly built and if it came down to a test of independence, strength and willpower I’m not sure who would win. Nadine has the same purse a lot of women I know have. It was sitting on the floor when I first saw it. Nadine’s leg was moving restlessly. She reached down to grab her purse and that’s when I noticed her red leather dress shoes. Perfectly tanned skin is something I’ll never have so I admire it in others. Nadine’s hands are large, her veins are prominent and I can see the veins in her foot running alongside the instep of her red leather shoe.
A sassy pair of high-heeled shoes is something that I will never own. The ligaments in my left ankle are capricious. I can still remember the day I was holding my youngest daughter and I tripped over a clothesline that my friend was using to tie up her dog. My daughter was almost a year old. I was holding her in my left arm. I went outside to watch the rest of the kids playing, either I tripped and then my ankle gave out or my ankle gave out and then I fell but either way my daughter’s little blonde head bouncing against the asphalt is something I vividly remember.
My ankle has been bad for as long as I can remember. I can never remember a time when it didn’t act up and give out. People laugh when I fall but the pain is so consuming that the laughter hardly registers. The last time I fell I was walking in the rain. After I fell I wasn’t sure I was going to make it back home. That’s the last time I went walking in the rain even though walking in the rain is soothing in a way that walking in the sunshine isn’t. Today I met Nadine in the hall as I was going to pick my daughter up. I smiled at her and even though I was jealous of her shoes they went so perfectly with the rest of her outfit that I had to say something about them. I’m sure Nadine could tell my smile was forced but my comment was genuine. I really did like her shoes. Talking to someone’s shoes isn’t hard when they’re an object you worship and the wearer is someone who intimidates you.
It was easier to stare at the shoes than to look up at Nadine. “I really like your shoes Nadine. I bought one of the girls a pair of red Mary Jane’s just because I wanted them.” People who have met me in real life know that I babble when I’m nervous. It’s easier than suffering through an awkward silence and I have some anxiety issues I’ve never dealt with that makes talking seem like the appropriate thing to do. Nadine was nice to me today. She smiled at me in a way that she never had before. The look on her face was far off, maybe a little whimsical but not condescending. She looked down at her feet and put her arm around her daughter before looking back at me.
“These shoes, you can have them if you want. I never wear them. My husband bought them for me last time we were on vacation. We had to go out to eat with some friends of his and he didn’t like the shoes I was wearing. Every time I wear them I think about skidding across the parking lot because I was wearing high-heeled shoes in the middle of winter. I just about took him down with me when I fell. I wouldn’t have worn them today but we were running late because I forgot the kids had to sing today.”
She smiled at me again but there was a flash of something new in her dark brown eyes. I thought about the way Nadine runs around the lake every single day. I don’t have that kind of discipline and devotion. I don’t have a scrumptious pair of red leather shoes, there are a lot of things I don’t have but as of today I feel as if I have a new friend and all because of Nadine’s red leather shoes.