Brenda Townsend Hall
There's no harm
in window shopping Doreen thought, as she turned down the side street
that was the chic address for all the exclusive, and therefore expensive,
shops. As she paused in front of a little boutique she remembered with
pleasure that in French it was called 'window licking' and she glimpsed
her smile in her own reflection in the glass.
Her image startled her because of its all too noticeable contrast with
the skinny tailor's dummy modelling a skimpy designer number. She hardly
recognised the bulky figure with unkempt hair as herself. She was forced
to admit she would struggle to fit into a size fourteen now, let alone
the size eight on the mannequin. Mind you, she could fix her hair with
a good cut and by touching up the grey roots. And she would try to cut
down on the chocolate biscuits. She felt like one of those multi-layered
Russian dolls. Somewhere under it all she was still that slim twenty
year-old. But what was it that Stanley saw when he looked at her? Perhaps
he couldn't see who she was inside.
To cheer herself up, she continued to her favourite of all the shops,
The Italian Shoe Box. The banners across the door proclaimed that the
summer sale was on its last day. Well, there's no harm in looking inside
she thought as she opened the door. Two twig-like sales assistants who
staggered jerkily about on five-inch platform soles looked at her with
indifference as she headed for the 'bumper bargains' bin. She foraged
around in sheer delight among the strappy sandals and impossibly high-heeled
evening shoes. She did well in shoe sales because her size four feet
were less common than fives or sixes and so there were often plenty
in her size left over at the end of the season.
From the bottom of the bin she fished out a divine shoe: soft sea-green
leather with a wedge heel and ankle straps that crossed in front and
fastened at the back. Even in the sale these were way above her price
range but there was no harm in trying them on. One of the assistants
staggered towards her as if on stilts.
"Oh, they are lovely. Shall I get you the other one?"
She returned in a trice and Doreen, slipping them on with ease, admired
the view of her small feet and still slender ankles in the little mirror.
She turned to ask the assistant a question but the girl had disappeared
into the back of the shop. The other one was engrossed with a gaggle
of customers of her own age. No harm in seeing the colour in daylight,
she thought as she went to the door. The sunlight rendered the shoes
a shade darker, a shade more entrancing. Doreen looked back into the
shop. No sign of her assistant and the other one was bending down to
help a girl squeeze her foot into a clumpy trainer.
Without any conscious decision, almost as if the shoes were in charge,
she turned left and sauntered up the street, past the china and glass
shop and into the department store on the corner. It too was in the
throes of a sale. She headed for the make-up department. Good make-up
could do marvels for you. That's all I really need, she thought, a lick
of paint, and I'll be good as new.
She picked up two lipsticks. One she slipped into her sleeve, the other
she held up to attract the saleswoman's attention,
"Have you got a tester for this colour?"
The saleswoman looked as if her makeup had been sprayed on and was obviously
unable to smile in case it cracked. She smeared the tester disdainfully
on Doreen's wrist.
"No, I think it's too dark after all."
Doreen put the lipstick in her hand back on the counter and transferred
the other one from her sleeve to her pocket. She took the lift to the
powder room. Once inside a cubicle she took the lipstick out of its
wrappers, put the box in a sanitary towel bag and then in the bin and
placed the tube of lipstick in her make-up bag. Outside the powder room
she glanced around to see if anyone was watching her. There was nobody
about. She left the shop and took the bus home.
She stowed the shoes in the back of the wardrobe. It was getting crowded
in there now. She couldn't risk wearing them just in case Stanley actually
did notice and wondered how she had been able to afford them. Ever since
her redundancy from the computer-parts assembly line, Stanley had resented
her spending his 'hard-earned' cash on clothes for herself. How was
she supposed to keep herself attractive if she couldn't buy nice things
to wear from time to time?
That evening they ate dinner in silence as usual. Then he disappeared
behind the newspaper while she made coffee. As she slopped it down in
front of him he glanced up,
"Done anything interesting today?"
"Just a bit of window-shopping, dear," she replied, knowing
that he wouldn't notice her new lipstick.
"Well, there's no harm in that," said Stanley and he returned
to the sports pages.
© Brenda Townsend Hall
Brenda is a writer/editor working in Exeter and France. This is a
first piece for Hackwriters.
Brenda Townsend Hall firstname.lastname@example.org
See more fiction in DREAMSCAPES
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