Story from the unedited archives! (sorry, but I'm working on a bigger piece and it took up all of my writing time this week).
This story came about because it was joked I never wear 'girly' shoes. While I hate the phrasing, it is true that the only pair of heeled shoes I owned was a sensible black pair that had those square heels. I actually walked over a railroad track/bridge in them one holiday. I don't remember what we were going out to the woods for, but I distinctly remember the guys being unsure I could go over the treacherous track. I assured them all shoes I owned were ones you could run in...which, of course, lead to the question of WHY I would need such shoes.
While I'm not anything like Rachel in this story, I highly sympathize with her footwear needs.
Rachel tried on what had to be the 100th pair of shoes. Mindy was running around the store bringing more boxes and exclaiming over each pair. The same as she'd done in the last ten stores they went to.
Rachel had to admit that the current pair she had on, some red strappy number, looked stylish on her. It still wasn't what she was looking for though.
Mindy saw the critical look on Rachel's face.
"Come on!" She said in a voice loud enough to turn the heads of several customers. "Those shoes are hot and will go great with your dress."
Rachel looked at her feet and frowned.
"What's wrong with them?" Mindy pushed Rachel over so she could sit with her on the bench.
Rachel pulled the left shoe off and held it up.
"I can't run in them." Rachel studied the heel, shook her head and removed the other shoe to put them both in a box.
"Ru--?" Mindy couldn't get the word out in her disbelief. "Girly, you're going to an awards banquet, not a marathon. Why in hell would you need to run in them?"
"I never buy a pair of shoes I can't run in." Rachel pulled a pair of black slingback heels out of a box and studied them.
Mindy stared for a moment, unsure if she thought her friend of twelve years had gone crazy or not.
"What do you need to run from?" Mindy asked in what she considered a low voice. A passing shopper paused for a moment before realizing it was rude to eavesdrop, even if the conversation was being broadcast.
"Maybe nothing, but you just never know." Rachel had moved on to another pair of shoes.
"Give me one example of a reason you'd need to run from a banquet hall." Mindy demanded.
"Zombie outbreak." Rachel shrugged as she threw out the possibility.
Mindy stared harder as her eyes widened to their full extent.
"Girl, you have lost it, haven't you?" Mindy nodded her head, agreeing with herself. "You're about to go on a date with one of the hottest and richest guys in town and you went and blew a fuse."
Rachel looked up from the pile of shoes surrounding her.
"No, not crazy." She said. "You wanted an example, I gave you one. You never said it had to be a logical example."
Mindy sighed and stood up. She surveyed the pile around them.
"None of these will get you further than three steps without a broken ankle." Mindy said. "I'll go look again but I think we're going to leave without finding what you want. This is the last shoe store in town, just so you know."
Rachel smiled without apology which irritated Mindy more than she could say. Mindy stomped off, leaving Rachel alone with a pair of silver sandals.
When Mindy returned, Rachel still hadn't settled on any shoes around her. She sighed again at her best friend and dropped three boxes into Rachel's lap.
"None are nearly as hot as the pairs I gave you." Mindy said. "But they won't kill you if your zombie outbreak occurs."
"Why couldn't you just take them off if you needed to run?" Mindy asked as Rachel was looking through the new choices.
"Not the same." Rachel said. "It's hard to run barefoot. You never know the terrain you might have to run over. Could be glass or sharp rocks. It's safer to just get a pair you can run in."
Mindy shook her head.
"Malcolm Trent." She sighed. "About to be Man of the Year. Richer than God and hotter than Satan. For some reason he asked you to go to the awards banquet with him. Does he know how insane you are?"
Rachel smiled, but not at Mindy. She stood up and regarded her shoes in the mirror under the bench. Her smile widened.
"These are perfect." Rachel said. "Zombies won't get me while I'm in these."
Mindy looked down. The chunky heel thigh high black boots wouldn't have been her first choice for a formal affair, but she fully believed Rachel could pull them off. She still thought Rachel was crazy though.
When they left the store, shoes in hand, Mindy's brain was still trying to figure out Rachel. She had always known the 26 year old was odd, had been since they were both in first grade together, but Mindy was still surprised by the way Rachel thought sometimes.
"Should I be worried about zombies tonight?" Mindy asked as they drove back to their hotel.
Rachel smiled and shook her head.
"The dead will be safe in their graves tonight." Rachel said. "I wouldn't worry about it. Call the shoe thing a cute quirk."
Once at the hotel where Mindy and Rachel were staying, the two split up to their separate rooms in the same suite. Both were attending an awards banquet at the governor's mansion honoring many of Louisiana's most successful and influential people. The Man of Year was Malcolm Trent, a man who not only owned a Fortune 500 company, but also used his money to start several philanthropic projects.
Trent had grown up in the same town as Rachel, Mindy and Sean, Mindy's husband. When he had come back to his old hang out to donate enough money to build a new high school, park and hospital wing, he had run into Rachel in her capacity as the Mayor's administrative assistant.
Even though there were plenty of reasons for him to stay out of the small town of Maudit, Louisiana, he seemed to spend more and more time there. He went there for Rachel, something Mindy found entirely romantic and Rachel seemed a bit too cool about for Mindy's liking. When Trent came to town again to invite his old gang to his awards banquet, all expenses paid, only Rachel seemed hesitant to go. It was Mindy who talked her into it.
Now they were in Baton Rouge, staying at the most expensive hotel Trent could find. The four of them shared a two bedroom suite.
"Something's up with Rachel tonight." Mindy told her husband Sean as he helped zip her into her dress.
"Must be pretty big for you to comment on it." Sean said. "She's always been weird."
Mindy made a small adjustment to her knee length black strapless dress and looked at herself critically in the mirror. She made a mental note to start exercising and dieting as soon as they got home. Mindy always made those mental notes but seemed to forget them as soon as she did get home.
"What's so wrong with her?" Sean asked to take her mind off of the bulges he knew she was seeing that he didn't.
"I'm not sure." Mindy turned away from the mirror and sat on the edge of the bed. "Just something about her tone today. She was weirdly happy, but kept talking about shoes she can run in."
Sean cleared his throat and stood up quickly. He moved towards the mirror to avoid Mindy's gaze.
"What?" Mindy knew her husband too well. Married straight out of high school after four years of on again, off again dating, she could always read him.
Mindy stood up and glared at Sean's reflection.
"What do you know?" Her tone was dangerous.
Sean knew his wife as well as she knew him. He knew that tone and knew he had no choice but to spill his secret.
"I just thought that maybe she knew about tonight." Sean's ears turned a slight shade of red as he divulged the secret Malcolm Trent had told him one night over beers.
"What about tonight?" Mindy was still glaring at Sean's reflection. He turned around to face the glare head on.
Sean cleared his throat again and looked down at the floor.
"Malcolm's going to...well, I'm not supposed to tell but if she already knows, then I guess..." Sean stuttered.
"Oh my God!" Mindy's face lit up and she squealed. "He's going to propose tonight, isn't he? He's going to propose to Rachel at the banquet tonight! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!"
Mindy started jumping, her dress making parts of her bouncing anatomy cause Sean to stare distractedly.
"You can't tell though." Sean said as soon as he could get his focus back. "I'm not sure if she knows or not, but let's assume she doesn't."
Mindy squealed a bit lower and nodded her head.
"I swear I won't tell!" Mindy said. "Oh my God she's going to be so surprised!"
Sean tried shushing Mindy as much as possible and had gotten to volume to an acceptable level as he hurried her to put on her shoes.
"Is everyone ready?" A jovial voice called from the living room. "The limo is here and we really should get going. Fashionably late is one thing, but we don't want to get there as everyone else is leaving."
Mindy squealed again and looked at Sean. He sighed. This was going to be a difficult night, he felt it.
Sean managed to get out of the bedroom door before Mindy, but she pushed past him and ran over to Trent. Mindy gave the man an unexpected hug.
Trent looked over at Sean who could only shrug. Trent just smiled and shook his head.
All heads turned when Rachel came in the room. Trent put up a finger to calm Mindy before she said or did anything to let out the secret. It was clear she was bursting to say something.
"You look gorgeous." Trent smiled and walked over to Rachel.
In her floor length satin maroon dress, Rachel looked stunning. She had naturally black hair, creamy, unblemished skin and dark green eyes. Not for the first time, Mindy with her dishwater blonde hair, uneven complexion and plain brown eyes, envied her friend at a near murderous level.
Mindy noted that you truly couldn't see the boots under the dress. She briefly wondered if the dress was something Rachel could run in, though she was certain Rachel wouldn't want to be running anywhere after tonight.
"Are we going?" Rachel said with the coolness that seemed to reach all areas of her life. She seemed completely oblivious to the tension in the room.
Trent offered his arm to Rachel who took it without notice of Mindy's excitement. Sean wrangled Mindy and followed the handsome couple in front of them.
In the limo, Mindy spoke in a high, flustered tone for the entire ride. Sean and Malcolm tried again and again to steer the conversation to some topic that wouldn't cause Mindy to slip up. It was a long drive for all of them except Rachel. Rachel simply stared out of the window, the strange smile still on her face and a faraway look in her eyes.
Sean nearly dragged Mindy out of the limo when they finally arrived at the Governor's mansion. Rachel and Trent followed at a slower pace. It was Sean's idea to keep Mindy as far away from Rachel as possible until Trent had his moment.
The four walked into the mansion and Sean realized he had nothing to worry about. This was probably the most prestigious event he and Mindy had ever been to. From the price of her dress and jewelry for the evening, Sean was hoping that this was the last such event they attended. Mindy was, for once in her life, speechless.
Everything in the mansion seemed to glitter, especially the women. The room was filled with bigwigs that neither Sean nor Mindy knew. Trent seemed right at home in the high society and Rachel just seemed to float in her own bubble. Rachel never really fit in anywhere because she always seemed just above everything. Even here the women were looking at the small town mayoral assistant with extreme jealousy. It's hard to not feel inferior when a woman seems to be in complete control of herself. One who clearly didn't have a self-conscious thought and didn't need constant reassurances about her worth.
For nearly an hour, Trent introduced Rachel, Mindy and Sean to every living legend Louisiana had ever produced. It was hard for Sean and Mindy not to feel star struck. Rachel simply greeted everyone as equals. In fact, though they didn't know her, many of the state celebrities seemed star struck by her. Trent was clearly pleased by his intended's effect on the crowd. He knew men in his position were judged by everything they own and do. It helped that the woman he loved also happened to be a political catch.
He had to admit that he was nervous about the night. Not his honor or the people around him, but his plans to propose to Rachel. They had a wonderful year long relationship. A great sex life, great conversation, great times together. Everything was great, but he was still nervous. Rachel was someone you couldn't read. He had no idea if she would actually say yes to him and that was not something he was used to. Malcolm Trent always got what he wanted, but there was no way to buy or bargain to get Rachel. All he could do was bare his soul and hope for the best
To make matters worse, Rachel seemed a bit off to him tonight. She was more out of touch than usual. Something was on his mind, but he couldn't come out and ask. A small part of him didn't want to know what it was.
A voice on a stage called the guests to their tables, stating the night's festivities would soon begin. Trent took Rachel's arm and led her to their table. In addition to Mindy and Sean, they were seated with four other people. A leading heart surgeon who had pioneered a new heart transplant technique was there with his partner and a bestselling novelist and her husband
The conversation was kept light, mostly since no one at the table really knew each other except by reputation. They didn't have much time for introductions before the master of ceremonies called everyone to attention again.
Food and drinks were served while the opening niceties were gone through. The governor gave a wonderful welcome speech that the novelist at the table informed the group was written by a friend of hers. Apparently all of the governor's speeches since he first ran for the office.
Dinners of perfectly cooked steak or chicken were eaten and cleared while they watched a video put together just for the occasion. When the lights brightened again, the true awards began.
It took a long time, but eventually the Man and Woman of the Year were announced. When Malcolm Trent's name was called, he smiled and walked towards the stage with a humble smile that charmed those who didn't already love him.
"Thank you so much for this award." Trent began as he took his place behind the podium. "I have tried my best over the years to do my part in easing the lives of others."
Trent looked down for a moment to let his words sink in.
"I know many of you know me for my business side." Trent continued. "However, my work is only a means to fund my true passions."
Trent talked on about his pet projects, throwing in the information for those who'd wish to donate to his causes. Of course this was expected. What was not expected was how he decided to end his speech.
"I hope no one minds, but while I have the stage, I would like to abuse the privilege." Trent smiled and pulled a small black box from his suit pocket, making Mindy whimper and look at Rachel. "I want to use this time to further my own gains. I want to ask the love of my life, Rachel Kitchner, to marry me."
Surprised whispers went around the room and all eyes turned towards Rachel. Her cool smile betrayed nothing.
"Rachel?" Trent was on one knee on stage, box opened to reveal a very large diamond ring.
Rachel stood and walked towards the stage. She still hadn't said anything but the crowd had taken her movement towards Trent as a yes. Everyone began applauding.
Rachel stopped near Trent and stuck out her left hand. The strange smile that had been on her lips all night was back in full force.
As Trent went to put the ring on Rachel's finger, the lights in the mansion went out. Screams and gasps gave from everywhere at once.
"Everyone please stay where you are!" A voice called out in the darkened room. "We will get the power back on but for safety purposes we ask you stay seated until we get this worked out."
More screams echoed from around the room. Mindy gasped when a tug on her throat tightened the gold and diamond necklace around her neck. The tension left but the damage was done. The necklace fell into Mindy's lap.
When the lights came back on, many women were standing up and clutching throats and wrists or searching for purses. One woman, who Mindy remembered being introduced to her as the mayor of New Orlean's wife, was holding her hand to her right ear. Mindy could see blood dripping down the woman's hand and onto the pristine white tablecloth below her.
More than a few men were staring at torn shirt cuffs or searching for wallets that had magically disappeared.
In front of her, Mindy could see the novelist staring at a torn patch on her dress. Mindy knew there had been an emerald brooch there before the lights had gone out.
Trent stared around, trying to get a grip on what had happened. The engagement ring he had been about to put on Rachel's finger was gone. He had felt a tug on it in the dark the ring was taken. Not knowing what was happening, he hadn't known to keep a firm grip on it.
Rachel stood before him, seeming unfazed by what had just happened. She looked around calmly, surveying the hysteria that was going through the crowd.
Trent watched her watching the others. Her smile was gone but Trent thought he saw a small line of perspiration above her upper lip and watched her chest rise and fall a bit faster than it had been. Rachel turned towards Trent. Her green eyes gave nothing away.
"Are you frightened?" Trent walked towards Rachel and held her tight. Rachel's heartbeat was fast, but she didn't resist Trent's embrace.
"I suppose our engagement is postponed until I get you a new ring." Trent tried to joke, wanting to calm Rachel down. He was calmed by the idea that Rachel was actually affected by something. "Luckily it was insured."
Sean and Mindy joined Rachel and Trent near the stage. Mindy was clasping her broken necklace and looking worriedly around her.
"A robbery!" Mindy declared. "In the governor's mansion! How is that possible?"
Trent continued to hold Rachel close.
"Someone has been planning this." He said. "The police will sort it out once they get here. Whoever did this couldn't have gone too far."
Sean looked around the room at the angry, the sobbing and the shocked people.
"It had to be a team." He said. "I can't see how one person could have done it. Hell, I can't see how any number of people could have done it."
"It's possible." She said, pulling away from Trent. "You'd just need proper planning, a good memory, and quick reflexes."
Mindy's eyes narrowed as she looked at her best friend's cool face.
"How much do you think they got away with?" Sean asked.
Trent wrapped his arms around Rachel again and pulled her close.
"No telling." He answered after he kissed Rachel's damp forehead. "But they didn't lose anything."
Sean looked at Trent for clarification.
"It was all insured." Rachel said. "Every piece will be reimbursed. The truly rich always insure their possessions"
Mindy looked down at her own necklace. The clasp was broken, but the necklace was basically undamaged. Her necklace cost more than Sean had wanted to spend. It was bought specifically for the governor's ball. Sean had told her if she really wanted it, it would have to be her Christmas and birthday present. Mindy had agreed eagerly.
Sean looked down at the necklace in Mindy's hand. They shared a look, both having the same thought. Her necklace hadn't been insured. If it had been stolen, they couldn't have filed a claim. It would have just been gone.
Mindy looked back at Rachel, who apparently had been watching the silent exchange between husband and wife. She smiled at Mindy in the same way she had been smiling all day.
Though her mouth opened, Mindy was once again speechless. She lowered her eyes to look at the hem of Rachel's dress. The edge came up, giving Mindy a glimpse of the boots Rachel had finally settled on.
Shoes you could run in, was what Rachel had told her she needed. Mindy risked another look at her best friend's face. Rachel smiled wider and winked as the police poured in to the governor's mansion.
My lofty dreams of being a famous & brilliant writer were literally smacked out of my head. Now I plan to fill the void with copious amounts of subpar writing!