"Adventures With Lainie" is a series of vignettes I've expanded into a kind of short-story format. The origins are real, the inspiration real, the people...well, mostly real. Presenting them as fiction is an opportunity to fill in the gaps of a faded memory. Or change names to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent. Or just make the stories a little better than just "oh, I saw this."
This is one that's a sort of bridge chapter...but you know how sometimes, the anticipation forced you to imagine what you were missing. That's what this is about. The story's just beginning.
As it turned out, Lainie didn’t wear those shoes the next day, or the day after that.
I wasn’t too concerned, though. Lainie liked dressing up, but we were still a casual office, and dressing too nicely got the wrong kind of attention. Mostly, it amounted to teasing, questions like “So what time is your interview?” And while people would overlook Lainie’s dress pants or blouses, her clicky, shiny heels were far harder to ignore.
So Lainie settled for flat shoes most days.
But Lainie only had a few pairs of shoes to rotate through. She lived in flip-flops in the summer, or so she confessed. Besides that, it was her sneakers for really casual days. Or it was her ivory sweater-knit clogs. Or it was her black velvety flats, the kind every girl had a pair of in high school.
I mean, Lainie tried, but she still had the wardrobe of a college girl who spent more time working retail than being fancy.
And so a couple days after unknowingly teasing me with those tall glossy heels of hers, Lainie was back to those simple black flats she wore so often. She wore them enough that I knew them well just from a glance. They were black, of course, and flat-soled, and kind of a velour or velvet material. The toe was high-cut, sort of like a loafer but not quite, enough for a big black rose or something to be embroidered into the top of the shoe. I didn’t know them just from Lainie. I knew them from so many girls over the years. Lainie was the first girl I had seen wearing them in a while, though.
To be fair, Lainie was the only girl I had seen wearing cute shoes in a while.
But if you have to see a girl wearing cute shoes, it’s nice when it’s the girl at the desk next to yours.
I was kind of busy most of the day, but on every trip away from my desk, I’d get to see Lainie when I got back. Lainie’s outfit was about as basic as her flats; her pink hoodie contrasted with her black dress pants. Lainie dressed like that when she wanted to look work-professional but wasn’t feeling like it, like if she had a migraine or when it was crappy outside.
Lainie was glued to the phone for collections calls, not one of her favorite responsibilities. So she sat there with her hoodie sleeves pulled over her hands, her fingers peeking out to type. And under her chair, she bounced her heels up and down, up and down nervously. She always did that when she had to make phone calls.
Not that I could see her heels, or her flats, for that matter. Lainie had a couple pairs of dress pants that were a little long for her. They were fine when she wore heels, but with those flats, it was really noticeable. You could see the hint of gray dust where she had kind of stepped on the hem when it got caught under her heel. Lainie was pretty aware of it; I had seen her kind of tug her pantlegs up when she was walking around. But when she was sitting, it was hard to prevent, and you couldn’t just roll up a pair of dress pants.
Lainie’s pantlegs were kind of hiding the backs of her shoes from view, but you could see the motion as she bounced her legs up and down.
But my mind could fill in the blanks.
So as Lainie sat there and her feet bobbed up and down, I wondered. Were her shoes popping off with each bounce, or every now and then? What kind of socks was she wearing? Were they boring white socks or maybe the little nylon dress socks she liked? Did she even realize what she was doing?
I mostly had to imagine, because I couldn’t watch her all day. And when I did get to watch, I wasn’t getting any answers.
Lainie eventually got up to use the bathroom. And surprisingly, I was still at my desk when she came back. “You’ve been busy today,” Lainie said as she walked past me.
“So have you,” I replied.
“Blah,” Lainie whined as she stood by her desk.
“Boring phone calls?”
“I hate phone calls,” Lainie said.
Even at her frumpiest and moodiest, Lainie was still adorable. Her hands were still hidden by her stretched sleeves, clasped in front of her. And her black pants traced the lines of her legs, her left knee slightly bent, the toes of her shoes angled in toward each other, at least what of her toes I could see.
“Your pants look really long today,” I said.
“I know,” Lainie said. “My shorter pants are in the wash. But I wanted to wear my slippers today.”
“Slippers?” I asked. “I thought those were flats.”
Lainie shrugged. “They’re kind of like slippers,” she said. “They don’t hurt my feet.” And then she stretched out her left foot, pointing her shoe to show me.
I’d seen plenty of girls wearing those shoes. But Lainie may have been the first to show them to me. She may have been the first girl to show them off to anyone, ever. And with Lainie showing me her foot, I could see the velour worn smooth on the tips of her toes, the shine of the threads embroidered into the top of the shoe. She had been wearing them for quite some time. Better yet, I could make out the pink and gray stripes of her socks.
“They look comfy,” I said.
“Eh, they’re still shoes,” Lainie said, returning to her standing pose with her toes pointed in and knees together.
“Where did you get them?”
“I dunno,” Lainie said. “Kmart, I think. They’re pretty old.”
“They’re kinda cute, though,” I said.
Lainie laughed, and I worried I had outed myself. “If these are cute you must really like my other shoes,” she said.
I laughed too, desperate to play the whole thing as a joke. “You don’t have that many shoes to like,” I said, hoping she would think I didn’t realize she had exactly three or four pairs of cute shoes.
“I know,” Lainie said, sitting down in her desk chair. “I need more shoes.” And as Lainie sat, her cheap velour shoes popped off her heels.
Socks don’t really do a lot for me. I’d rather see nylons. But when a cute girl can’t keep her shoes on right in front of you, you don’t turn down the show. Also, there’s little hotter than a woman talking to you about her shoes. Particularly if she’s complaining about them.
And here was Lainie, complaining about not having enough cute shoes while her flats popped off her striped socked feet. She wanted cute flats and comfy wedges and maybe some sexy pumps, she went on as she bounced her heels up and down. I sort of wanted her to ditch the flats, and at one point she almost looked like she would, but she popped her feet back into the shoes again, scuffing her little slippers on the floor.
“So when do you want to go shopping?” I asked.
Lainie laughed and spun around in her desk chair. “When I have money,” she said as she picked up the phone to make a call.
Lainie’s feet were resting on the wheeled base of her desk chair, and she was still bouncing her legs. But this time, I imagined her socked heels sliding out of her slippers under her pantlegs. And as her feet bounced with nervous energy, I hoped she got some cute shoes soon.
Maybe they wouldn’t fit that well either.