By Charlotte E. Rahme
It was a gloomy overcast day. The women strolled, the men hustled, all of them chatting and flirting while rushing to work. It seemed like every other day that Steve dreadfully sat through. A grey sky, for a grey town, that hid a grey man in the background. Steve didn’t mind being overlooked anymore. Instead, he was rather comfortable with it.
Leaning against the brick he extended his legs out, his right knee cracking from the movement. The clouds loomed over and Steve wondered where he would go if it started to rain. Could he go to the restaurant down the street or had he already been there too often this week? Perhaps he could go to the shop, the one that sells—
“Ah!” Steve flinched and recoiled his legs to his chest, his foot throbbing. The black dress shoes stomped away without any falter in their stride, leaving their print on Steve’s bare foot. Before Steve could see the man’s face and search for any remnants of remorse, the man was gone, absorbed by the crowd. Steve gripped his foot, grateful that at least the shoe hadn’t cut him
While holding his foot closer to his chest, an unexpected sound caught his attention. In the middle of town square, a woman had begun dancing. She pranced, jumped, and twirled in the street. At first people starred, laughing and clapping while the woman put on an unexpected show. But it wasn’t long until they remembered their tasks, continued on with their busy days, and left the woman alone to dance by herself. Steve lingered longer, intrigued by the strange woman. He sat up from his spot on the corner, bones creaking in protest. His mouth pulled into a hesitant smile, lifting from the corners and barely touching his eyes.
It was odd to watch the woman act as playful as a child. Adorned in her high heels and pencil skirt, it didn’t seem as though she had planned her spontaneous dance act. With no music playing, her body simply bounced to the rhythm of the town, the irritating sounds of chatting, stomping, clicking, and laughing. Although based on how she jumped in her expensive clothes and even giggled when she tripped, Steve guessed she didn't mind the lack of music.
Watching her from a distance, Steve began to chuckle as well. But the humour caught in his dry throat, sending him into a coughing fit.
Suddenly the woman stopped and turned towards this new note. Eyes widening, Steve panicked. He hadn’t meant to interrupt and was surprised the woman had even noticed him. He abruptly grabbed his things from the step: a tattered novel, his blanket, and the empty coffee cup, before he hauled himself up the street, away from the first person in months who had turned towards him.
Oh no. Oh no, no, no. Steve tried to walk faster but quickly stepped on something sharp, and crumbled to the ground.
“Oh my goodness! Are you alright, sir?” she asked with a smooth voice.
Steve coughed in return, glancing up at the woman. She was tall with dark features.
“Oh here, let me help you up.” She extended her hand. The woman was youthful, and she wore an expensive watch on her wrist. The thought of snatching the watch and making a run for it entertained Steve’s mind but he quickly dismissed it. Although Steve had done many things to survive, he didn’t want to steal from her.
“I’m alright miss, I’m just fine,” he managed to grumble before entering another fit of coughing.
Her eyes held pity while she scanned his body, causing Steve to uncomfortably get up on his own.
Steve considered saying something else; was he supposed to carry on a conversation? He couldn’t remember the last time he had any small talk, much less with a beautiful woman. While desperately trying to think of something to say, Steve caught her stare locked in on his feet.
She must have felt his gaze as she slowly turned back up to his face. While she twiddled with her fingers all Steve could think of was how badly he wanted to leave.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” she asked.
“Yes? Hmmm… well, okay, I- I guess...” She looked back across the street and shuffled in her stance.
Surely she regretted approaching him, Steve thought. Even more embarrassed, he began to shift so he could walk away. Before he could turn completely and find a new place to sit, the woman’s gaze snapped back to his.
“Would you like to come dance with me?” She smiled boldly at him and her eyes twinkled with the invitation. Her outburst had taken Steve by surprise and he froze in his spot. He had never seen such a vibrant smile. It was wide and looked so comfortable on her face. He wished he could match it.
Instead, Steve scoffed at the idea. Sad to see her sudden smile fade, he stuttered “I’m sorry miss. It’s just that…well, I can’t go dancin’. You’ve seen; I don’t have shoes.”
She peered up at his filth covered face and scrunched her brows. “Well, surely one of these nice gentlemen can give you an old pair of theirs, right?”
Steve glanced down at her, positive she had not been in the town for very long. “Miss, no. There aren’t any shoes here for me.”
The woman narrowed her gaze at him. Steve’s heart pounded under the scrutinizing stare. Despite her previous glowing smile, her dark eyes had lost their humour. Steve felt suddenly dazed, unable to turn away from her.
“Well, what if you did have shoes?” Her voice was velvet to his ears. He couldn’t remember other women’s voices being so soothing. She tilted her head and Steve was relieved to see her expression relax. Her eyes warmed and Steve noticed their dark colour was laced with gold. “Would you go dancing with me then?”
Steve nearly scoffed for a second time. Dancing? There was already a risk of him being considered an eyesore. If he went dancing wildly in the streets there wouldn’t be a single business owner not trying to kick him away. But the woman stood eagerly perched on her toes with such a hopeful expression that Steve couldn’t possibly say no. “Yeah, yeah alright miss,” he cleared his throat, aware that his own voice was nothing like velvet. “I- I guess if I got shoes I’d go dancin’ with you.”
The woman gave him a sly smile and reached out towards him. Before Steve could recoil, she took his hand. The beaded bracelets around her wrist rattled with the motion and Steve wondered when she could have switched her watch for the much simpler jewelry. Wordlessly she squeezed his hand before dashing off into the crowded streets.
Steve shook his head, drained from the odd interaction. He began to shuffle back to his spot on the step when a group of people abruptly stopped in their place. At first, Steve only noticed the quiet. In all of his years of staying in the downtown, he had never heard the bustling of people end. The silence hung on his shoulders thicker than his blanket.
Slowly the people began tapping their feet. Some swayed and shifted while the subtle clicks of shoes grew in number. Steve stopped and stared at the growing crowd. What was happening? Within seconds, people began dancing in the middle of the road. Grown men practiced perfect pirouettes, women spun, and children jumped and pranced—all of them dancing to the beat of the town. More and more joined, the numbers growing by the second. It wasn’t long until everyone in the bustling main street was galloping and shaking, participating in a spontaneous dance. Only Steve stood still. He was the sole watcher of the chaotic parade. He stared as the uptight business people acted as foolish as the woman before them. Why would they...
Horrified, Steve saw it; each and every person’s face showed shock. As the dancing continued, some grimaced and other’s looked down at their feet with wide-eyed expressions. Steve’s heart pounded as fear flared within his chest.
“Help! I can’t stop! Help!” the voices rang out. Screams of agony came from the jumbled mess of dancers.
Terrified by the turn of events Steve stumbled backwards, tripping and falling hard on the ground. Crawling from the crowd, he could see people elegantly performing and others crashing to the road only to be trampled by the dancing masses. Scrambling to stand up, Steve winced as he jabbed his foot on a shard of glass he normally would have avoided. He threw his precious belongings to the side. Slight tears gathered in the corners of his eyes as he desperately tried to think of what to do. Where could he go? Steve didn’t know where it would be safe, he didn’t even know what was happening! It was when he dared to glance up again that he saw it.
It began with only a few people at first, but soon everyone was ripping off their shoes. The dancers were untying, unlacing, kicking, and pushing. With shoes being thrown in the air, the now barefooted people screamed and fled for cover. And for good reason, Steve thought as he sat in disbelief. This was unbelievable.
The shoes didn’t simply stop their dancing once free of their wearers. They continued to jump in the air by themselves. Spinning and twirling, seemingly with a mind of their own, the shoes danced. The heels, the boots, the sneakers, the loafers—each shoe with its pair swirled together forming a tornado of dancing shoes. Steve was overcome with fear, baffled by what he was seeing. Soon enough, all of the people in the street were gone. They’d fled for cover and left their possessed shoes behind. Limping on his good foot, Steve desperately tried to get away from the looming shoe storm, leaving his blanket, novel, and coffee cup on the ground. As he fled, Steve tripped and began falling, bracing himself for the pain of once again smashing into the concrete road.
But the contact never came. And as Steve hesitantly opened his eyes he discovered himself soaring underneath a flowing group of shoes. Holding him up, tumbling through the streets, and lifting him to the top of the buildings. Steve was in disbelief, but his panic evaporated. For some reason, he felt safe and secure. The shoes were his own magic carpet, flying him around and up and down; his own prancing and twirling dance.
Steve’s chest filled with new air and a laugh echoed out of his throat. A wide smile erupted on his face, lifting his eyes and erasing his scars. The flock of shoes began to slow down and gently bring him to the ground. As Steve found his footing, standing strong and stable, all the shoes crumpled to the street at once, forming piles all around his own bare feet.
Wide-eyed, Steve stared at the now lifeless leather and fabric, the scattered shoes that showed no sign of being capable of what they’d done.
“So,” a voice said.
Steve whipped around to face the young woman he had met only minutes before. She now stood wearing a flowing yellow dress. He could have sworn she wasn’t there a moment ago.
She smiled up at him with her familiar, kind eyes. “How about that dance?”
About the Author
Charlotte E. Rahme is a young adult writer currently studying at Carleton University. She has a passion for writing, painting, traveling, and hiking. Charlotte is inspired by the mystical as well as the extraordinary people she meets. You can contact Charlotte on her Facebook page @Charlotte.E.Rahme.
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