Short stories

THE SHOP ASSISTANT – SHORT STORY

Ivy hobbled through the town’s shopping arcade. Her aging bones making the walk to her favorite shoe shop seem like she was attempting a marathon. Shopping had always been Ivy’s therapy ever since she was young, today she felt she deserved to splurge out and treat herself.

She finally reached the shop, taken in by the bright lights and sparkly shoes dancing in the reflection of her faded blue eyes.

‘Ivy?’ A familiar voice shouted down the aisle of the shop, it was the Manager Julia, her plump face smiling as wide and cheery as ever.

‘Hello Dear, has it been busy today?’ Ivy’s croaky voice tried to make its way over the other customer’s conversations.

Julia guided Ivy to the nearest seats. ‘ It has for a Tuesday Ivy, it must be the nice weather making people venture outside.’

Ivy held onto Julia as she lowered Ivy to the seats. ‘ Well, that’s why I’ve come Julia, I need some new sandals, my feet are getting all hot and sweaty in these clumpy things.’ Ivy winced as she lifted her leg slightly to show Julia her worn black boots.

‘Oh yeah Ivy, you can’t keep walking round in those things, you’ll overheat!’

‘I know lovely, I just don’t want to throw them away, they’re my favorite boots.’

‘Well, you could always buy yourself another pair.’ Julia hinted, pound signs flashing in her eyes.

‘Yes, well sandals first, winters well and truly done for a bit, thank heavens.’

‘So it is, right Ivy I’ll go and fetch you some different pairs of sandals to try on, you sit back and relax.’

Julia walked over to the summer sandals and picked out a few best-sellers in Ivy’s size four. Ester, a new shop assistant tapped Julia on the shoulder, with a friendly smile and the phone in her hand. She had long brown hair and innocent brown eyes.

‘It’s the area manager.’ Ester whispered.

Julia rolled her eyes,’ Will you take these boxes and help Ivy over there try them on, she’s a regular.’

‘ Sure thing!’ Ester said over-enthusiastically. Ester was sixteen and this was her first job, she was delighted to be earning her own money and determined to make a good impression.

‘Okay, you take these darling,’ Julia awkwardly handed over several boxes of sandals to Ester and took the phone off her.

‘Hello Paul, how are you?’ Julia asked, a sarcastic tone erupting in her voice.

Ester tried to keep hold of all the boxes and made her way to Ivy on the seats, she tripped over a pair of shoes that had been left on the floor and the boxes went flying around Ivy’s feet.  Ester stood frozen, her mouth hanging open.

‘Well, you know how to make an entrance deary.’ Ivy giggled.

‘Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry, I’m so clumsy!’ Ester panicked, scurrying up the boxes as quickly as she could.

‘Don’t worry deary, who are you? I haven’t seen you working here before.’

‘I’m Ester, I’m new this is my first week, as you can probably tell. Julia had to take a phone call so she told me to come and help you, well attempt too.’

Ivy laughed, this was the funniest thing she’d seen in a long time.

‘I’m Ivy Sweetheart, I come in here all the time.’

‘So Julia said.’ Ester pulled out the first pair of sandals, a white pair with a few silver diamantes scattered across them.

Ivy nodded, ‘ Well aren’t those fancy.’

Ester giggled, slipping Ivy’s boots off, trying not to repulse at the smell of sweat evaporating from Ivy’s small wrinkled feet. Ester put the sandals on her feet, Ivy’s face lit up.

‘Oooo those are nice. Be honest sweetheart, am I too old to pull these off?’

‘Of course not Ivy.’

‘ Well, I guess I’ll have to have them then.’ Ivy smiled through her crinkled lips.

‘Don’t you want to try any more on?’

‘Why not? I’m not in a rush to get anywhere, never am.’

Ester smiled, opening up the next pair of sandals. Ivy crossed her hands and rested them on her lap, a sigh emerging from her breath. Ester looked up and noticed a large silver ring on Ivy’s wedding finger and a plain silver one next to it, complimenting it’s shining features.

‘Your rings beautiful. I’ve never seen one like it.’ Ivy stroked the ring with her bony fingers.

‘Thank-you Deary.’

‘How long have you been married? ‘ Ester asked, unable to resist the tale of a good romance story.

‘Oh gosh, Albie and I were married for fifty-two years.’

‘Wow, that’s amazing.’

‘He was, he passed away last year.’ Ivy’s eyes filled with water, she sniffed and tried her hardest not to let the tears fall.

‘ Aw I’m so sorry Ivy, that’s terrible.’

‘It’s our anniversary today actually, so really we would be at fifty-three years.’

‘Ah well, you have a good reason to treat yourself today then,’ Ester remarked, as she put on the next pair of sandals for Ivy.

‘I miss him so much, it’s not the same without him, it’s so lonely.’

‘I bet you do, did you have any children?’

‘Yes one Christina, she lives in Spain with my Grandson Lui, Albie and I used to go all the time before he got ill. They can’t make it over as much because of Christina’s work and I’m too scared to fly alone.’ Ivy lifted her legs to see the new pair of sandals shining on her feet.

‘I think I’ll have to take these ones too.’ Ivy winked at Ester.

 

Ester took the two boxes of sandals to the till Ivy followed slowly.

‘Now thank-you for all your help deary.’

‘Ester scanned the boxes. ‘You’re welcome.’ She took the money off Ivy and put the boxes in a bag for her, as Ivy looked down to put her purse back in her bag, Ester held her hands over the shoeboxes and closed her eyes for a second.

‘Bye now deary.’

‘ You take care Ivy.’ Ester smiled and watched Ivy hobble out of the shop.

 

In her Bungalow, Ivy poured herself a sherry and perched down in a rocking chair in front of the fireplace. She raised her glass towards a photo resting on top of the fireplace of her and Albie on their wedding day.

‘Happy Anniversary my Albie.’ With that, she took a big glug of sherry and shut her eyes falling into a deep sleep. She was wearing the white sandals she’d bought earlier, a dim orange light glowed around them.  Ivy’s eyes flickered open and standing in front of her was an old man dressed in a smart suit with his hair combed back neatly. Ivy rubbed her eyes.

‘Albie, am I dreaming?’

‘You’re not my love, now it’s our anniversary, are you going to join me for a dance?’

Albie held his hand out and pulled Ivy up. She stood up without the unusual discomfort her body usually felt when moving. Albie and Ivy’s body’s swayed together in the small living room.

‘ I missed you Albie.’

‘I missed you too my darling.’ He kissed her cheek tenderly.

 

A few days later in the shoe shop. Ester was serving on the till when Julia approached her with sad eyes.

‘What’s wrong?’ Ester asked, concerned.’ It’s Ivy, do you remember that old lady you served the other day, she’s passed away.’ Tears emerged in the corners of Julia’s eyes.

‘Aw no, I’m so sorry, she was a lovely lady.’ Ester put her hand on Julia’s arm.

‘She was, I think it was of heartbreak, her husband only passed away last year you know.’

‘Did he? What a shame, at least they’re both together now.’

Julia nodded.’ Excuse me, I’ll have to go and tell Lorraine,’ she headed back down the shop. Ester carried on serving at the till, a woman with a pale complexion was buying a pair of boots, as she looked down to get her purse, Ester hovered her hands over the box of shoes and closed her eyes for a second.

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