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Her Dance Shoes
Julia Weller had succeeded in achieving eternal youth. In the eyes of Robin Weller she remained the dimple-cheek, river-stone eyed girl that he had first met all those years ago. In the eyes of her husband, Julia Weller was the same young girl whose dark hair would swirl around her as she twirled and skipped across the dance floor. She had not changed in the slightest.
Mr Weller slowly made his way down the street, his feet shuffling and crunching through the dead leaves. The children sprinted past him, not bothering to look at the sea of booths, running towards the fairground. Mr Weller was almost past the second-hand store’s booth when he spotted them. They were sitting comfortably in their little blue box, reflecting the sunlight, right under the watchful eyes of the girl standing behind the table. They were beautiful, almost exactly like the ones she had wanted.
He saw the girl glance at his shaking hands as he switched his cane to his other wrist. Reaching into his pocket, Mr Weller pulled out his worn wallet and retrieved the bill. It quivered violently in his outstretched hand, as if it was alive.
“For the shoes,” he mumbled. His voice was raspy even to his own ears.
The girl has been watching his trembling hands. She pointed to the lovely shoes, “The dance shoes?”
Mr Weller’s head bobbed up and down. “The shoes,” he repeated, “For my Julia.”
The girl smiled, as if he had said something particularly charming. She pulled the shoes out of their box and tapped the metal toe with her fingernail. “These really aren’t the best shoes for kids to wear if they aren’t dancing,” she tapped them against the table, “They’re really slippery.”
Mr. Weller nodded again, holding the bill out further. “The dance shoes are for my wife. My Julia. She loves to dance ‘round the house.”
The girl’s face melted, all of her features softening. She gently replaced the shoes, keeping her head bowed, and glanced at Mr. Weller’s shaking hands again. “I’m sorry sir, but these are kid’s shoes. Size one. They probably wouldn’t fit your wife; they’d be too small.”
Mr. Weller kept his hand outstretched, bill fluttering, as the girl’s eyes became more and more reflective. “Too small?” he whispered.
She nodded, then sniffed loudly, dragging her arm under her nose.
Mr. Weller stood frozen for a moment, then he replaced the bill in his wallet, switched his cane to his other hand and left the table, his steps painfully slow.
He walked down the street, through the doors and up the stairs in a daze. When he reached her room, he gently opened the door. He tried to call out “I’m home, June Bug,” like he used to, but his song came out as a croak.
If things were as they had been before, she would be playing music in the kitchen and singing along as she danced around the stove, a perfect fairy in an apron. When he would call out, she would come skipping over and throw herself in his arms before twirling away like a sweet scented burst of wind, that never lingers long enough.
Today, she lay with her eyes closed, a small puppet surrounded by tubes, and instead of music, Mr. Weller was greeted by a steady beeping. He sat in his chair, petting her cold hand.
“I almost bought you new shoes, darling,” he murmured, rubbing circles into her palm. “Proper ones, like you always wanted.” Her eyelids were not even fluttering and the blue veins across her skin stood out sharply like miniature rivers across the pale landscape of her hand.
“But ... they were just a tad too small,” he whispered and through the sudden blurriness of his vision, he almost saw her dark eyes shimmer and her dark hair swish as she danced to the music in the warm tiny kitchen.
“Just a tad too small.”