The bottle-green shoe

This was homework for my creative writing class for the 5th November. The theme was shoes. This is a true story told to me by a solid, down-to-earth Yorkshireman, the Brian in the story.

Brian and Sally had moved into the 18th century farmhouse early in their marriage. Once it had been surrounded by moorland but now it was enclosed and hidden away in the urban sprawl of Bradford. It was a low stone building under a heavy Yorkshire slab roof braced against the fetch of the westerly wind but now insulated by its thick walls and mullioned windows from the noise of the busy city. They took pleasure in just being in the house, feeling its tranquil solidity, imagining the lives of the generations who had lived, loved and died in it over the centuries.

The house had needed extensive repairs and they did their best to maintain its original features and feel. When modifying the massive fireplace in the living room to fit a modern stove they discovered a horseshoe embedded in the stonework. This was carefully replaced before being covered over again. They found the remnants of corn dollies under the broad roughhewn floorboards. Friends had joked that they should watch out for ghosts as there must be some lingering unquiet souls but they had never sensed the presence of malignant spirits. Far from it, they felt nothing but the warm and friendly embrace of the house, as the latest custodians in its continuing story.

A year after moving in they had returned from a New Year’s party in the early hours of the morning. Almost falling out of the taxi they went straight up to the bedroom where they partly undressed before diving under the duvet and falling into a deep inebriated slumber. Much later that morning they rose and tidied the clothes strewn around the room. But Sally could only find one of her new glossy bottle-green patent leather stiletto shoes. They looked everywhere, retracing their steps from the taxi. They rang the taxi company to see if the shoe had fallen off on the journey home. They rang their friend to see if she had left it there and can come home without noticing she only had one shoe on. The shoe could not be traced.

As the years past they forgot about the missing shoe, had a child and moved fairly harmoniously into comfortable middle age. Their daughter, Jackie, had grown up, left home and got married. They too decided it was time to move on. They were very sorry to leave the family home with all its memories but wanted to be nearer Jackie and an imminent grandchild. The old farmhouse had been their home for nearly 30 happy years but now they were entering a new phase in their lives.

All was packed except what had been stored in the roof space. The ancient vertical timbers supporting the roof were massive tree trunks untooled other than where branches had been sawn off. Remnants of bark still clung on here and there. The air under the roof was cold and dank and it felt somehow separate from the rest of the house. It was the most unchanged part of the building, the only area that was just as the first occupants would have seen it. Stepping into the roof space was like going back 300 years into the past. That is except for the bits and pieces they had stored there over three decades, most of which was old furniture and boxes of junk. Amongst them Paul found the old brown cardboard suitcase his father had been demobbed with in 1947. It contained some photos and letters and some campaign medals that he wanted to keep so the case was taken downstairs to await the removal van. He had never shown Sally this family memorabilia before so, while they sat around the kitchen table for a last cup of coffee, he prised open the rusted catches to lift the lid. There, in all its pristine beauty, was the missing bottle green stiletto shoe.

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