The Shoes

Don't be fooled by its breezy, almost blase tone. Ruth Crossman's subversive inversion of the Cinderella fairy tale, "The Shoes," is a small-scale tragedy of disturbing power and contemporary relevance.

My feet have always been bigger than hers. Just like she’s always had better hair and less of a weight problem. She gets it all from her mom I guess. That’s what’s funny, I’m the one who looks like our dad — same nose, same frizz to my hair. Not that it does me any good. When he looks at me maybe he sees himself, but when he looks at her, he sees a princess.

She can do no wrong for him, which I guess is why she can do no right as far as my mom is concerned. My mom is a piece of work, I will be the first one to admit that, but when it comes to my stepsister, I don’t blame her that much. How would you deal with a third daughter who looks just like your husband’s ex?

And Cindy is not the easiest person to be around. She’s sweet-natured, definitely, but she’s a bit scattered. She wasn’t the only one with chores to do. I did mine on time and she spent an hour staring at the birds and my mom — like I said, my mom is my mom, she gets angry. She totally lost it, she told Cindy she was grounded, forget about the dance.

Honestly, it didn’t seem like she even wanted to go that badly, she just kind of nodded her head and went back to talking to the birds, or whatever.

I was excited though. I had been dieting all month, I straightened out my hair and put it up, I even had these kitten heels that made me feel so sexy, even though I could barely walk.

I danced with him. I couldn’t believe it. He is just as charming as everyone says. He held my elbow when we walked into the ballroom and put one hand in the middle of my back and the other on my shoulder. I could tell he was just being polite, though. Not like when he danced with her.

That was all I thought about when I noticed she was there. Not how she got out of the house or what my mom was going to do, or even where the dress came from. The way he was looking at her. Like she was a plate of food and he was starving. Like he had just found a $100 bill laying on the ground. She could have told him to turn around and jump out the window and he would have done it, I swear.

I tried to dance with some other boys but I couldn’t focus. I kept looking over at him and every time I did he was with her, standing in the corner with his hand on the wall above her head. I saw her laughing at something he said, and when I looked over again they were reading each other’s palms.

I went home early. I didn’t know anything about what happened until the next day. Mom was being weird. She didn’t yell at Cindy, she didn’t even look mad, she just seemed preoccupied, like she was doing a math problem in her head.

She was the one who told me about the shoe. I know it’s crazy, but the way she explained it to me it made sense. She said it could be my chance with him, if I was just brave enough. Maybe he would be upset at first, but he would see, he would understand later how he’d made the right choice.

She took me into the bathroom. Not the guest bathroom, the one Cindy was supposed to clean, but the master bath, the one she and Dad use.

She put a pile of old towels on the floor and laid out everything we would need. She had the big knife from the kitchen, the one Dad uses to carve up the chicken on Sundays. She said it was sharp, she’d made sure, and that it would be over quickly.

She held my left foot in place, with a cotton ball to keep my pinkie toe separate like when we did pedicures. I screamed so hard I thought I would black out, but it was over already.

She was wrapping up my foot up and telling me to hold still. All I could do was lie there with her arms around me, trying to catch my breath.

“The prince,” she said, stroking my hair. “Just think about your prince.”

When I was ready, she held my hand and walked me downstairs. He was in our kitchen, drinking a cup of coffee and talking with Dad. He looked different in the daylight, irritated maybe. Impatient.

He had the shoe with him on a little velvet pillow, this beautiful white-satin thing with a six-inch heel and diamonds on the ankle strap. He looked me up and down when I walked in and squinted a little. I pulled my stomach in tight and pushed my chest out, holding my shoulders back just like Mom showed me.

He pulled out a chair and I sat. Mom was already reaching for the shoe. She said something to him, a joke maybe, so that he wouldn’t look down while she was putting it on me. A perfect fit! She shouted and he got down on his knees right there on the kitchen floor so he could see.

I stretched my leg out to show him, and when he looked up I saw something in his eyes, a gleam, like he was seeing me somewhere else. Maybe in a sexy dress, or even with no clothes on at all.

I will make you so happy. I thought. I will do anything for you, anything you want.

And then I ruined it. My heart was beating so fast. When my foot started tingling I thought I was just excited, but then I felt something wet oozing out of the shoe and his mouth fell open, like the kitchen was water and he was drowning in it.

I tried to take it off. I thought maybe if he saw that I could be honest with him he would understand it.

But he looked away. He just looked away like I wasn’t there anymore.

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Ruth Crossman

Ruth Crossman

Ruth is a community educator and Pushcart-nominated author. Her work has appeared in publications including sPARKLE&bLINK, MaximumRocknRoll and Litro. Her first chapbook, All the Wrong Places, is forthcoming from Naked Bulb Press. She was born and raised in Berkeley and currently lives in Oakland, California. You can find out more information about her on her website,

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