As soon as she put her foot in the shoe, she feel like Cinderella. Oh! It feel good. But there was still the matter of the other one. She lean up against the wall, and push the hoof in gingerly, afraid for the shoe, and she own hoof. But there. It fit. Just like the other one. Now she stand in front the mirror and watch sheself. Is the first time she could ever lif’ up she skirt them and look at two foot. She whole life, she had to hide. How many years is that now? So many she stop counting. She take a little walk in front of the mirror to see how the shoes fit. She smile. No more: one foot down, drag the cow heel. Now she was walking regular like other women. Who would know what she was? And then these days, people didn’t look so hard at you. They was too busy wrap up in they own business to pay anybody else any mind. Not that it didn’t have plenty maco spreading gossip around, but even the maco them was busy with they own thing. It was the t.v. that did it. As soon as that box come in everybody house, people stop looking out they windows. That make Ma Laja happy. She didn’t need anybody watching she. Staying in the shadows by the edge of the road was how she survived all this time. Now the road them paved, and all them fellas driving on it fast.
“Lord, no!” Ma Laja said aloud. “Not mih new shoes!”
She quick-stepped out of the way of the spreading pool, and toward the door of the shoe store. She took one more look back inside the store, at the boxes of shoes that other customers had tried on during the day, the closed blinds that meant the store was closing up, the manager’s blood soaking up the carpet, his eyes staring blankly at the ceiling fan that rotated slowly, whoop, whoop, whoop over their heads, and her own self in the mirror, so pretty, the manager couldn’t resist letting she try on that one pair of shoes even though he was already locking up.
She thought, “Is a good thing it wasn’t a woman, eh? Nothing I can do with women. And besides, I not supposed to harm them. That’s the rules.”
If it was one thing, Ma Laja liked, was to stick to the rules. These days though, some of them rules had to be adjusted, wiggled a little to allow she to live in peace.
She stepped outside the store and close the door behind her. The dark was welcoming. It fall around she shoulders like a cape. Ma Laja decide to walk around town a bit to test out how the new shoes would work. She didn’t have to go far. It was generating plenty of looks already, even people in they fast, fast cars slow down to get a better look. Nobody had shoes like these. They was unique.
“Mmm! Doux doux! You lookin’ good, Mama. Whey you get them crazy shoes from?” That was one guy leaning out he car.
“Psst! Sweet thing! You going to a party or what in them fancy shoes?” A young boy call out as she pass him and his group of friends.
A couple of women walk by. They watch she foot, and then watch straight ahead again, pretending not to see. But after she pass them, she could feel they eyes on the back of she, staring.
Ma Laja smile and draw sheself up to she full height. She never feel so good in all she born days. Well, she wasn’t born exactly, was she? In her earliest memory she look exactly the same way she look right now. Well, she used to change up the hairstyle and the clothes to go with the fashion, but her face never change. Sometimes she would see people that she know from years and years gone, and they faces was always different. First the cheeks them lose they roundness. Then the color slowly leech out. Then the skin get loose around they bones. Always changing. But not Ma Laja. She never change.
She turn down a narrow alley behind the row of stores, and follow it back to the river. Not too many people know ‘bout that little road. No lady in she right mind would walk down it. Town was dark, but there it was darker, no street lights, nobody to hear if you call out for help. Dangerous for a woman. The heels of the new shoes click on the stones in the middle of the street as she walk, and it sound like music. Make she start to swing she hips.
“You ent ‘fraid something happen to you on a desolate road like this?”
Ma Laja turn around and see a tall, dark-skin man watching she. He had something in his fingers that curled smoke up into the air. She knew that scent.
“You got another one of them?” Ma Laja asked. She walked toward the man. He look surprise. Didn’t expect she to be friendly. Probably expected she to try and run off.
“No, but you can share this one.” He hold the cigarette out and smiled like a cat who corner a mouse. But he didn’t know who he was dealing with. He shoulda run. But now, it was too late for he.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the beginning of a longer story that was inspired by the shoes in the picture, and a challenge by one of my friends to bring the Trinidadian story of the La Diabless (pronounced: La Jah BLESS) into modern culture. It’s a first draft, so I beg your forgiveness. I hope to have a completed story later this year.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tracey Baptiste is the author of 9 books, including Angel’s Grace, her debut YA novel which was named one of the 100 best books for reading and sharing by New York City librarians. She has also been a teacher and an editor, and brings the skills of both to her new company, Fairy Godauthor, which strives to help other writers find their path to publication. She blogs about writing and publishing at Knitting with Pencils. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.
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