(A Flash-fiction featuring Mickey Downey, Mary Gates, and Claire Anderson Underwood from The Downey Series.)
by Genevieve Dewey
Mary set the shoes back in the light brown box and started to place the lid on, but at the last second, set the lid back on the bed. Again.
Just one more time won’t hurt. Then I’ll give them back, she thought. Her stomach twirled from equal parts guilt and pleasure.
She pulled one pump back out of the little bag in the box and traced the high arc on the red bottom, breathing in that fabulous new shoe scent. She closed her eyes and replayed the look on Michael’s face when he had given them to her like one of those old film strips stuck on loop.
He had such amazing eyes. She had never seen such a vibrant shade of green and they left little to the imagination of his thoughts.
He’d said he wanted their third date to be extra special and he was going to take her someplace fancy. Or, at least, that’s what she thought he had said since she was too distracted at the time by his hands under her sweater. His warm, strong, rough, yet strangely gentle hands. She had never been particularly intelligent—nor stupid, either—but she could swear on a stack of Bibles she lost at least twenty IQ points around this man.
But now that some of the haze had worn off, it did seem a little… unusual for a gift. He claimed the high heels were castoffs from a client’s wife, but they had clearly never been worn. The box, too, was impeccable, and they were exactly her size. The shoes were–hands down–the most sinfully extravagant thing she had ever worn, much less been gifted with. And that was why she had to give them back tonight.
But not just yet, her mind whispered and she opened her eyes with a long sigh.
Mary slipped the shoes on and stood awkwardly in them. She grinned like a fool at herself in the full length mirror. She could almost imagine herself on a stage in a fabulous gown singing encore after encore. And there Michael would be, smiling and cheering the loudest…
Her right ankle started to wobble and she quickly sat back down on the bed. She wore heels all the time but nothing quite this high or delicately made. She slowly slipped them off again.
Nope, she thought, put them away and quit daydreaming all this poppycock and nonsense.
The phone ringing in her tiny apartment startled her and she dropped the shoe she was holding in the box like a kid who stole a cookie.
“Ninny,” Mary said out loud with a self-deprecating laugh.
She threw herself across the bed and grabbed the phone, hoping against all odds and good sense that it was her mother. She had been gone six months, surely they missed her?
“Please tell me you’re not bailing on choir practice again,” Claire Underwood said without preamble.
Mary let her chin drop to the bed. It shouldn’t still matter, but they were her parents, and she was all alone, except for Claire, and maybe…
“Claire? If a man gives you a pair of shoes after the third date, that’s… ok, right?”
Claire was silent for so long Mary was beginning to wonder if her phone had been disconnected. She had paid the bill this month, hadn’t she?
“Did you put out already?” Claire finally asked.
Mary rolled over and scrunched her nose.
“Oh my God! Are you serious?! Mary, this is Brooklyn, not Podunk, Massachusetts! What if this guy had AIDS or something?”
Mary rolled her eyes at the hysteria in Claire’s voice. True, Claire was a solid five years older than Mary, and married, but she had never shown any signs of being a prude.
“Claire, we’re in the twentieth century, not the middle ages. And aren’t you from Nebraska or something? Talk about middle of nowhere…”
“Mary, I’m just saying, you don’t know anything about this guy!”
“Well, I didn’t mean to sleep with him. Our first date we talked all night, and then the second, we went ice skating, and then when he picked me up for the third, well… we never actually made it out the door. Oh, Claire, he’s just got these hypnotizing sort of eyes…”
“Good Lord, stop, cheese alert! And why is this the first I’m hearing of him? We’re supposed to be best friends and yet you had two dates, sex, and a pair of shoes without telling me? Are they designer? No, wait, hold on, buzz me in.”
Mary sat up.
“What, you’re here?”
But all she got in response was the click of the entryway phone being hung up.
Mary put the phone back on its cradle, ran across the apartment—which really was a matter of steps—and slapped the button. She opened the door and waited for a breathless Claire to make it up the steps. Stupid Super (as Mary thought of him) had promised to fix the elevator since the first day she moved in six months ago. Everyone from here to Queens knew to just take the stairs.
Claire skidded to a stop in the doorway, grabbing the stitch in her side. She raised a hand and waved it wildly.
“Shoes,” she gasped. “Bring me the shoes.”
Mary laughed at the dramatic action and tone. She had always thought that Claire had missed her calling in the theatre.
She brought the shoes to Claire and opened the box with a flourish.
“Oh my saints alive! Louboutins!”
“Is that good?”
Claire squinted her eyes and examined the shoes like a judge in court.
“Are you sure they’re real?”
“Well, how would I know?”
“Mary, these shoes, if they’re real, cost more than a month’s rent!”
“Well, I gathered that much! They reeked of expensive. So does he, actually,” Mary finished with a wide grin.
“What’s his name? Spill!”
“What about practice?”
“Didn’t want to go anyway,” Claire replied and flopped on the grungy tweed couch.
She clutched her purse on her lap and practically panted like a dog at the shoes.
“His name is Michael… something.”
“Well he told me, but I forgot. Doorly or something. He’s some sort of finance guy for a shipping firm or something.”
“Or something? You have sex with a guy and he gives you shoes after the third date and you don’t even know his last name?”
“Well, I didn’t grill him over it or anything. I have his business card somewhere. Who cares what his last name is?”
“Right, because you’re too busy sticking your tongue down his throat. Give me the Fabio scale.”
Mary giggled. It amazed her she had only known Claire for a few months but felt closer to her than her own sisters.
“Mmmnn, he’s more classically handsome. Distinguished…”
“You mean old?”
“No! I mean, I think he said he would be turning thirty this year, so only—”
“A good solid ten years older than you,” Claire interrupted, eyebrows lost in her brown curly bangs. She looked both scandalized and titillated.
Mary sat criss-cross on the other end of the couch.
“I’m going to give them back. He’s supposed to be picking me up for another date tonight and he wanted me to wear them. I’ll just wear those black suede ones you lent me instead. He won’t tell me where we’re going, just that it’s fancy.”
Claire opened her mouth but there was a knock on the door.
Mary jumped up and opened it, ignoring the ‘For Pete’s sake, look who it is first’ from Claire.
She gaped in stunned confusion at Michael standing there in that gorgeous, fur-lined, winter coat of his.
“How did you get in the building?” Mary asked.
“Ah, well, this building is actually owned by my employer. He owns quite a number of these rentals.”
“Oh,” she said weakly, staring at his handsome features and the hint of mystery in his smirk.
“Oh! Um, this is my friend Claire. Claire, Michael.”
He nodded curtly and brushed past Mary into the room. Then he turned and dismissed Claire.
“Sorry I’m so early, I just wanted to do this in person.”
Mary’s stomach dropped to her toes. He wasn’t going to dump her, was he? Right in front of her friend?
“I’m afraid I have to cancel tonight,” he continued gravely. “Something’s… come up. But I hope you’ll keep my gift and allow me to reschedule?”
She felt slightly mesmerized by the intensity of his gaze and the soft lilt in his voice. His words were so formal but there was a slight Brooklyn-Irish accent to it. She couldn’t quite figure out if he was covering the streets with a veneer, or was a rich man trying to seem less posh. She didn’t much care, truth be told. She just liked the way he made her feel.
“Sure, that’s fine,” Mary managed to say after a moment. “Um, I actually forgot I was supposed to go to choir practice tonight with Claire anyway.”
“Ah,” he said and pivoted back toward Claire.
Claire was almost rudely staring at him with her eyebrows scrunched.
“And, what church?” Michael asked.
“Our Lady of Angels,” Mary answered for Claire since she was still gaping at him like a statue.
Michael seemed to start a bit then frowned and looked down at his leather shoes.
“Have we met? You seem… familiar… sort of…” Claire trailed off weakly.
Michael shrugged and dismissed her once more with his body.
“I don’t think so,” he replied while looking at Mary.
It was Mary’s turn to be taken aback because his eyes were no longer soft and expressive like she had been gushing over in her memories. Their emerald depths were now icy-cold and aloof, as was the rest of him.
He reached out with a gloved hand and ran the back of one finger along the side of her face.
“I’ll call you after I finish my errand. Enjoy your practice,” Michael said then leaned down and gave her a brief, chaste kiss. It still somehow managed to make her lips tingle and her toes curl.
Then he was out the door in a matter of seconds.
“He seems… intriguing,” Claire said after he shut the door behind himself. “And wow! The way he looks at you. Like there’s no one else in the room, literally. I doubt he could pick me out of a line up. They’d all be described as curvy nineteen year olds with milky-white skin and wild, curly red hair.”
Mary giggled so hard she snorted. She leaned up against the door, trying not to feel disappointed.
“Guess you get to keep the shoes a little longer,” Claire continued with a cheeky grin. “Which means, I get to wear them!”
Mary laughed. “Do you think you might’ve met him before?”
Claire shrugged without looking up from the tennis shoes she was taking off.
“I’m always seeing people come and go at the store. Probably just saw him buy groceries once.”
“Probably,” Mary replied faintly.
She ignored the stirrings of worry and focused on his kiss. Intriguing, yes… and also, young, rich, and gentlemanly. How often did one find that combination?
Maybe her Prince Charming had finally come.
–Copyright 2013, Genevieve Dewey