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They Say That Katie's Got Soles
It started when Katie was five. That year, on her birthday, she got her first pair of Converse hi-tops. Bright pink, her favorite color. She wore them constantly, until the bold hue faded into a pastel and the laces ripped and frayed, and before she knew it, the Converses became her safety blanket. With her Chucks on, Katie could climb the highest tree in the neighborhood, run as fast as the horses she saw in the movies, and kick exactly like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles– and better than the gross boys down the street to boot.
So when nearing her sixth birthday, Katie's feet grew too large for her beloved shoes, she had a bit of a meltdown. She hid under the covers with tears pitifully rolling down her cheeks, wrapped the blanket around her head, and loudly proclaimed her wish to skip school. No amount of cajoling and bribery– of Cocoa Puffs, too, (it took a lot of willpower for her to resist that) – could change her mind. However, when her mother upped the stakes with a bar of chocolate, Katie folded like a house of cards. So she went to school with sticky fingers, a clumpy pair of boots, and a pout on her pint-sized face. Just because she got her chocolate didn't mean she had to enjoy wearing the boots. This routine lasted for about a week, until Katie's sixth birthday party, where she gleefully unwrapped a new pair of Converses, this time black low tops with bright green laces.
It soon became a yearly ritual: every year, on her birthday, Katie would get a new pair of Chucks. Eventually, it evolved so Katie became the one picking them out– from online, from the store, or in the mall. Katie's relatives and friends had quickly caught on to her infatuation, and soon the shoes were not just birthday presents. Other holidays were fair game, too. Once, there had been a pair from the "Easter Bunny" on her doorstep, pattered with bright red and white swirls.
Along the shelf of her closet, there lay an ever-growing parade of the sneakers, arranged by size in varying stages of decay. There were the purple-sequined low tops from fifth grade that she wore to the talent show, the orange-patterned ones from eighth that were thrown into a pool in Vermont, and the white, sharpie-ed high tops that were her latest acquisition. Converse were her trademark, and Katie was pretty sure that she had laces and the "All Star" logo imprinted on her soul.
So when over the weekend, some of her guy friends decided that it would be funny to break into her house and steal all her Chucks– including the pair on her feet, from where she was sleeping on the couch– she freaked out. She knew it was Kyle, Mark, and Dean from the taunting texts they sent her– “k got ur shoz ahahahaha”– and the trail of Doritos and smoke that followed them everywhere they went. When she texted them back with a quick, "wtf losers give em bak not funny," they only replied with a single stream of text-laughter and a pointless "u wish."
Monday rolled around, Kyle, Mark, and Dean were nowhere to be found, and Katie was still missing her Converse. She dreaded going to school without them; they were the small constant in a life that included divorced parents, backstabbing friends, and just high school in general. With her Converse on, Katie always felt stable, and the very seldom times she'd been without them, she had felt like someone had sliced through the string that tied her to the earth. But she had no other options, so she rooted around in her closet for an old pair of flip flops her ill-advised second cousin had given her as a present, tossed on a hoodie, and grabbed the keys to her beat-up Toyota to drive to school. On the way there, she flinched every time the hole in the car door let in a gust of air that brushed across her toes, which was often, given the condition of her car.
Lo and behold, there waiting in the school parking lot was the Thieving Trio in the flesh. As she pulled up into a space, Katie couldn't help but feel a flare of resentment and anger. They had stolen her sneakers. This could not be tolerated.
As she parked the car, Kyle, Dean, and Mark crowded around her door. Mark immediately began shouting in her ear, "Hey, Kay, Kay, guess what! Justin's totally having this party Tuesday night 'cause his parents are in Argentina or something, and he'll have a keg, and–" He was abruptly cut off by a door in his face.
Mark began cursing from the injustice of it all and Dean and Kyle joined in to form a chorus of, "Whoa, man, PMS-ing much? Totally uncalled for, Kates, like, really–" Katie decided to shut them all up with a razor-sharp glare. It worked, if their gaping mouths and big eyes were anything to go by. She took advantage of the rare silence and spoke as menacingly and with as much restraint as they had taught her¬¬– which is to say, not much, but enough to be intimidating.
"Which one of you came up with this plan to steal my Chucks?" Two pairs of eyes swiveled to Dean, and Katie's soon followed, narrowing. She walked up to Dean, stood on her tiptoes (which was hard to do in flip flops, she discovered) and poked him in the chest.
Dean started babbling nervously. "Hey, Katie, it's not a big deal, you know, it's a little thing, like Blink's song, you know, like, " and he broke into a warbling, off-key rendition of blink-182's All The Small Things, "All the small things, true care–" and it was here that Katie cut him off abruptly.
"Dean. This is a huge freaking deal. These are my shoes, Dean. My shoes. How long have you known me? Long enough to know what my shoes mean to me, yeah?"
Dean gave a small, scared nod, and said, "But, see, Kates, I though, you know, you're a girl, and girls like to buy shoes and sh– I mean, stuff like that and–"
Katie cut him off again with a glare and another sharp "Dean. Do I look like those bimbos,” gesturing with her head to some blond girl not far away, chatting animatedly with some of her friends and popping her gum. She continued, "and don't feed me that crap, you know about the shoes." And Dean did. He had gotten Katie her ninth pair in seventh grade. They were funky and green and had ranked among her favorite pairs– until now.
Dean nodded faster, and added in some puppy eyes to boot. "I know, Katie, and I'm really sorry, but it was so funny and I'm really sorry and I'll buy you another pair, OK? I'm really really sorry." Dean had faced Katie's wrath numerous times through the course of their friendship, and had no wish to have hellfire raining on his head in the form of a short brunette demon again. He figured a couple extra apologies wouldn't hurt.
Katie sighed as Kyle and Mark snickered in the background. "I don't care how sorry you are Dean; I just want my shoes back.” Almost as an afterthought, she added, “And you can get me those new ones that look like the subway map, mmmk?" Katie had had her eye on those for a while, and she figured she'd squeeze Dean for them while she could. It didn't happen often enough for her liking.
While Mark and Kyle muttered, Katie whirled around to face them, anger showing in her previously cooling baby blues. "As for you two losers, where the hell are my shoes?"
Ten minutes, four detentions for tardiness, and a minor Spanish Inquisition later, Katie had finally figured out where her shoes were. And maybe Dean's singing had been prophetic, because Katie currently had the refrain "Say it ain't so, I will not go" stuck in her head. Her shoes had been stashed in the very place she tried to avoid the most: her mom's house.
Katie and her mom did not have an ideal relationship. After her mother divorced her dad, and remarried some jerk from the other side of town, she became a suburban bottle blonde, providing Katie with two new siblings and new reasons to stay farther and farther away. Oftentimes, on forced visits, Katie's mom would often go off on tangents along the lines of you know, Katie, if you just would lighten your hair, or maybe take some of your earrings out, you could get a boyfriend! Katie did not appreciate these so called "Just trying to give you some advice" talks. For these reasons, she stayed as far away from her mother as possible. Kyle, Dean and Mark knew that. They clearly were going for optimum hilarity here. Too bad Katie didn't appreciate it. But she loved her Converse much more than she disliked her mother, so that Monday afternoon, she dragged Mark, Kyle and Dean along with her to her mom's house across town. There was only a minimal amount of whining, which was a miracle, really, considering their usual standards. As they drove up to Katie's mom's perfectly painted house with Jesus of Suburbia blasting through the speakers, Katie could only snort at the incongruence of it all.
When her mom tottered out onto the front porch in her three inch heels and matching sweater set, screeching out a shrill "Katherine Anne!", Kyle burst out into laughter. Katie looked over her shoulder to make eyes at him that promised hell to pay later, and then climbed out of the car, leaving the boys shaking with giggles in the back seat.
Exactly six minutes later (Katie counted; every second was an eternity here), Katie, Kyle, Mark and Dean were all seated at call-me-Dina's kitchen table with a half-eaten plate of cookies in front of them. Dina was busy pouring them milk, and the boys were busy mouthing, “Katherine Anne?” to Katie behind her back. Katie flipped them off out of her mother's sightline.
When Dina turned around with the glasses of milk in her hands, she asked Katie in a numbingly sweet voice, "So, Katherine, what's with the unexpected visit? I thought we had had our girl's day for the month already!"
Katie turned to the boys, who were currently stuffing their faces, and said, just as chipper as her mother with an added dose of sarcasm, "Well, Mom, Dean, Kyle, and Mark took my shoes,"– this elicited a small gasp from Dina– “and have apparently stashed them here. So, any ideas on where they could be hiding?"
Dina's Botox-ed forehead strained to frown. "Your shoes, sweetie? All of them? Well, I'm not sure where they could be hiding! There are a rather lot, yes? Why don't you ask the boys? I'm sure that such sweethearts like them could help you. They took them in the first place, right?" Dean smirked, Mark giggled, and Kyle just stared at Dina’s surgically enhanced chest with a dazed look on his face.
Kyle stopped, though, with a quick jab in the ribs from Katie, and quickly responded, "Um , of course, Mrs, uh , I mean, Dina. Yeah. We'll do that." Dean and Mark chimed in with noises of agreement, cookie crumbs falling from their mouths.
Dina turned her vapid gaze onto Mark and asked, voice suddenly as sharp as knives, "So, sweetie, where did you put my Katherine's shoes?"
It took awhile, but soon Mark had cracked under the ruthless pressure Dina had applied (never let it be said that she didn’t love her daughter), and spilled about the exact location of the Chucks: they were in a "freakishly pink bedroom, man, like, the explosion of Mount Pepto-Bismol or something, I don't even know."
Dina had blinked once, and said in a rather puzzled tone, "Oh. Do you mean Natalie's room?" Natalie was Katie's seven-year-old stepsister. She was, in fact, a lover of all things pink.
"Great," said Katie, swinging her legs off the chair. "Natalie's room it is, then." On the climb up to the second floor, out of her mother's hearing, she hissed to the boys, "My shoes better be up there." The inherent ‘or else’ did not need to be voiced for them to understand. By the time they were standing at the door to Natalie's room, all three boys were unconsciously slouching to make themselves into smaller targets.
Kyle was bopping his head along to the Hannah Montana coming from Natalie's room, and when Mark gave him an incredulous look, he sullenly muttered, "What? It's catchy." Katie elbowed him, and then knocked on the door to Natalie's room.
"Nat?" she called."Nat? We're coming in."
Katie opened the door to her room, and was welcomed with a large hug and a squeaky voice calling out, "Katesy! Katesy! I thought you were never coming back!" Katie grimaced. Her last visit here had not ended well.
"Yeah, well, I'm here now," Katie said, almost shyly, and then with renewed vigor said, "Hey Nat, have you seen my shoes? Mark said they were up here."
Nat detached herself from Katie's legs and bounced over to her CD player to stop the music. Mark sighed in relief. "Your shoes, Katesy?" Nat said, wrinkling her nose in distaste. "Your shoes are smelly. And they were all over my bed. That was not very nice."
"Yeah, Nat, sorry. Dean did it. Where are they, so I can remove them from Your Highness's room?" Kate said, barely disguising the sarcasm with a perky tone.
"Oh. I put them in the sink. They needed to be cleaned, Katesy. They were making my room all gross." Nat said this all with a wrinkle in her forehead and a pout on her lips, hands making frantic gestures that clearly were meant to convey the dirtiness of it all.
As soon as she heard this, Katie sprinted to the bathroom at the other end of the hallway, the boys ambling along behind her. She pried open the door to find the bathroom flooded, a mountain of Converse overflowing from the sink. "Jesus Christ," she breathed. There was water everywhere. Kyle, Mark and Dean had similar reactions.
Dean whispered in an awed voice to Kyle, "Man, we are so screwed."
Katie didn't even know where to begin to start. She settled for grabbing as many shoes as she could and flinging them out onto the pristine white carpet, the still-clinging mud making dark, wet streaks like a Jackson Pollock painting. Katie didn't care. All she wanted was her shoes out of the swimming pool Natalie had made the bathroom into.
When the boys stared dumbly at Katie's experimentation in art, she yelled at them, exasperated, "Come on, guys. You got me into this friggin' mess!" They snapped to attention and began rescuing stray shoes from the pile. It took awhile, but eventually all the shoes were scattered around outside the bathroom, the carpet underneath them stained an ugly shade of light brown. There were puddles of water in the bathroom, with foam lying in a thin veneer across them. It was, to be frank, disgusting. Katie could recognize this as well as the next person, but being her mother's daughter, she also could recognize the inevitable freakout her mother would have as soon as she saw the mess. So Katie gathered up all the shoes she could fit in her arms, ordered the boys to do the same, and left the house as fast as she could, yelling out a quick, "Bye Mom!"
After Katie had retreated to the relative safely of her car, with her soaking Converse across the boys' laps, she turned to Dean and said, "How the hell did you even get the key to Mom's house anyway?"
Dean just smirked and said, "Who needs a key when you have my skills with a paperclip?” At Katie’s look of shock, he quickly backtracked and said, “No, no, we took the key off of your neck when we took the Chucks. And before you ask, I knew it was the right key because it had an unsmiley face on it. You’re so predictable, Kates.” Dean said this with an eye roll as Kyle and Mark nodded in agreement. “Only you would put an unsmiley face on a key.”
Katie just stared blankly at Dean and retorted, "Well, only you would use the word ‘unsmiley’. But seriously, dude. That explains absolutely nothing. How did you even sneak in? How did you even know where the house was? This is like, in the realms of impossible, man." And it was, because Katie had always assumed that Dean, Kyle, and Mark needed to pool their brain cells to even get a passing grade on a math test.
Dean just shrugged and said, “Well, it wasn’t that hard. Jamia lives near your mom, and so I was going to pick her up one day and I saw your car in the driveway of the house.” Jamia was Dean’s girlfriend. “And when we got the key, your mom wasn’t even home. End of story.”
Katie was riding on a high of endorphins, and she wasn’t about to drag this mess out longer than necessary. So she turned in her seat to face Dean, who was riding shotgun, and said, “You still owe me a new pair of Chucks, a******.”