About Us

Contact Us





First Chapters
September Issue
October Issue

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.

email Brenda Townsend Hall 

See more fiction in DREAMSCAPES

< Back to Index
< Reply to this Article