Old Series

Write here your dreams, your stories, your experiences of footsie or other situations where a foot had been used to seduce

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Old Series

Post by thieph »

I found this story saved on an old hard drive and wanted to post it here for a couple reasons. I know this section is a bit slow, so wanted to post a classic, well written story that I probably saved from this site many years ago. Secondly, I was wondering if anyone remembers the author of this series and where I can find more of their work. I like everything about these stories from the writing style, pacing, descriptions, all the way to the shoeplay action. I'd love to read more if it's out there.

These are not my work and all credit goes to the original author.

Part 1A – Lily’s Holiday Party

Christmas music blared through the speakers in the ceiling as Lilly Preston balanced atop a stool trying to hang garland from a light fixture. The blast of horns and strings startled Lilly, but she kept her composure as the volume crept to a reasonable level.

“How’s that?” a voice called from another room.

“That’s much better now,” Lilly said.

Lilly and her staff were decorating the office for that evening’s holiday party, and Lilly was trying to tie off a string of garland to one of the wall-mounted light fixtures. She had been able to reach most of the fixtures, but this last one was just out of her reach, even as she stood on a stool for a couple extra feet.

Lilly stood on her tiptoes, finally reaching the fixture and wrapping the garland around the brass. She felt the heels of her ballet flats pop loose, the soles of the shoes slapping the stool. She usually wore the shiny red Steve Madden flats barefoot in the summer, but winter called for hosiery, and Lilly’s silky stockinged heels had been distractingly popping out of her beloved red shoes all day. Lilly dropped carefully from her tiptoes, feeling her heels slide back into her shoes, and stepped down from the stool.

“The bartender called too,” one of Lilly’s coworkers said. “They’ll be here right at six o’clock to get set up.”

“Perfect,” Lilly said. She looked around the room for her phone, finally spotting it on the edge of a table. Lilly picked up her phone to check her text messages and emails, walking around and glancing at the decorations her coworkers had been setting up as she sent back quick replies. Lilly worked for a nonprofit group, and while they had a small team, they took pride in throwing a seemingly extravagant holiday party for their associates and clients. Lilly loved playing hostess, so it worked out well for her, too.

“Lilly, are you wearing that tonight?” another co-worker asked as she wrapped faux-hemlock garland around a railing.

Lilly was seasonably casual and classy as always. She was wearing a clingy red sweater that fell to mid-thigh, almost long enough to be a sweaterdress, over black leggings. The leggings were layered over her tan nylons, and the sweater matched her patent red Steve Madden flats perfectly. She laughed. “No, I have to go home and change still,” she said. “This is just my casual setting-up-for-the-party outfit. I have a black dress just waiting for tonight.”

“Me too,” her co-worker said. “I was just afraid to be too formal.”

“It’s a holiday party,” Lilly said. “Holiday parties were basically made so we could go buy new cute dresses.”

Lilly worked her way around the office, her cell phone in one hand because her leggings lacked pockets, checking all the little detail things, making sure the food tables were ready for the caterers, double-checking the bar, putting away things in the coat room that would just be in the way, straightening the scatter rugs and runners in the corridors. She had to run home and change soon. She was adjusting one rug on the floor when she heard someone call “Lilly?”

Lilly looked up and saw her co-worker Holly over her shoulder. “What’s up, Holly?” Lilly asked.

“I had a huge favor to ask,” Holly said. “Do you have a pair of flats I can borrow for tonight?”

“I think so,” Lilly said. “I should have some black flats in my desk.”

“That would be great,” Holly said. “My black flats are kind of beat up from school and I don’t want to look out of place.”

Holly was an intern from one of the local colleges, a pretty blonde girl that Lilly could see as herself a few years ago. “Let’s go check my office,” Lilly said, the two girls heading for Lilly’s office at the end of the hall.

Lilly walked around her desk, plopped into her desk chair and pulled out her bottom drawer. Lilly always kept a couple spare pairs of shoes in her desk. A girl never knew when she would need a spare pair of shoes, after all. In the drawer were a few options: a pair of basic black three-inch pumps for unexpected lunch excursions with clients, her four-inch platform heels for salsa dancing lessons, a pair of flip-flops for summer lunches in the park, and a pair of simple black Nine West flats. She plucked the black flats from the drawer. “You’re a size eight, right?” Lilly asked Holly.

“Yeah,” Holly said.

“Then these should work,” Lilly said, handing the black flats to Holly across the desk. “They’re just my emergency flats, so I don’t need them back until Monday.”

“They’re nicer than my everyday flats,” Holly said, wiggling one foot from her Ugg boot. She slipped her bare foot into one of Lilly’s flats, rocking her ankle back and forth to critique the borrowed shoe before putting her tan boot back on. “Thank you! This is such a help.”

“No worries,” Lilly said, closing the drawer. In the privacy of her office, she slipped her flats off, wiggling her toes. “I can’t say I’ve never had to borrow shoes for a party.”

“I’m just afraid my flats aren’t nice enough to wear tonight,” Holly said. “Are you wearing those tonight?”

Lilly stretched one of her long legs, pointing and rotating her stockinged foot. “No,” she said. “I love these flats but you can’t wear flats with my dress.”

“Are you wearing nylons?” Holly asked.

“Tonight, of course,” Lilly said.

“No, I mean right now,” Holly said

Lilly looked at her outstretched foot and felt embarrassed. She went shoeless in her own office often, after longer-than-expected meetings or when breaking in a new pair of heels. But a proper lady never got caught shoeless at work, and so Lilly never had taken her shoes off past her own office door. In the comfort of her own office, she had momentarily forgotten that she had company. Lilly folded her leg back toward her chair, fumbling on the floor for her shiny flats. “My legs are so pale right now,” she said. “And I haven’t had time to go tanning. And it was cold this morning.”

“You just look so classy,” Holly said. “I never wear nylons with my flats.”

“Honestly, I can’t keep these on with my nylons,” Lilly said, finally stuffing her feet into her shiny red shoes. “They keep popping off my heel, but I love them so much.” She stretched her legs out, the shoes popping freely from her feet as she flexed her toes. “See?”

“Does that happen with these?” Holly asked, holding up Lilly’s emergency flats.

“Not usually,” Lilly said. “These are a little big on me anyway, but they’re red and I had to have them.”

“I do that too,” Holly said. “So what time should we be back here, about six?”

“That works,” Lilly said. “The guests start arriving at seven.”

“Okay, see you then,” Holly said. “Thanks again!”

As Holly left the office, Lilly turned in her chair to face her desk again, feeling her shoes slide off her feet as she swung her feet around. “Silly shoes,” she sighed as she stretched her legs back under the chair, hooking her toes around the base of the chair.

Lilly left the office before her co-workers, giving the suite one last check to make sure everything was set to go for the evening. Jumping on a chair to fix something just out of reach was easy in leggings and flats, but not so in a party dress and heels. It was still a little unseasonably warm out, so Lilly opted to walk the fifteen minutes to her apartment and take the train back to the office. Her shoes slipped off her heels with each step, but Lilly found herself growing fonder of the feeling as she got closer to home. The only time she was particularly careful to keep her shoes from slipping was as she crossed streets; she did not want to lose one of her shiny red flats in the middle of the road.

Lilly got home and slipped her flats off at the door, tiptoeing around the apartment as she topped off her cat’s food and water for the night and gathered her outfit together. Even though Lilly worked at a nonprofit, they would be entertaining donors and benefactors who spent more on car payments in a month than Lilly spent on rent. “Look the part,” she had stressed all week. “They don’t need to think you spent a thousand dollars on your dress. They just need to not think that you didn’t.” Lilly had a closet full of cocktail-party-ready dresses in black and red, and she had set aside one of her favorites for this evening. It was a form-fitting black lace dress. The sleeves, shoulders and back were sheer black lace, with a black lining making the lace opaque from her chest to the just-above-the-knee hemline, where a few ruffles of lace gave the slinky dress a playful twist. It was all at once elegant and sexy, ideal for schmoozing people donating money to the organization, but also capable of leaving a more-than-pleasant impression on the right guests.

Lilly took a quick shower, dried her hair, pulled on some sheer black nylons and slipped into her black dress. In front of the mirror, Lilly painstakingly adjusted the dress, making sure every seam was just right, that her hem was not too high on her thighs, that her sleeves were not bunched up anywhere. Still balancing on her tiptoes, she began accessorizing, choosing a silver bracelet ornamented with red gemstones for her right wrist, sliding a handful of Alex + Ani bracelets over her left hand and onto her left wrist, clasping a silver necklace and a string of faux pearls around her neck. Lilly fluffed her hair, brushing her long ash-blonde hair back neatly and holding it in place with a single bobby pin.

Finally, Lilly took her shoes out of the closet, a pair of four-inch black pointed-toe Nine West pumps. Lilly loved wearing heels, though it was rarely practical for her to wear four-inch pumps for work. Tonight, she could certainly get away with it. She slipped each shoe on, then took a few careful steps toward the mirror as she got used to the sky-high shoes. In front of the mirror, Lilly critiqued her appearance one more time. She loved the dress, loved the shoes, loved that she felt confident and sexy all at the same time.

It was already five-thirty, so Lilly pulled her last little details together, switching her essentials from her bulky purse to a smaller black purse and fetching her long red wool coat from the closet. Making sure she had money for the train and maybe a cab later, she hurried down the stairs – as much as she could in four-inch heels – and stepped outside into the cool December air. The long coat sheltered her legs from the chill somewhat, but she could feel winter on her stockinged calves as she walked down to the nearest train stop.

The train screeched into the stop just as Lilly stepped onto the platform. Even with her wool coat on, Lilly was feeling the chill from her short walk, so the timing could not have been more perfect. Lilly stepped into the train car and sat down, immediately fishing her phone from her purse and answering a few texts along the way. As Lilly sat in the quiet train car only half-watching the lights of the city flash past, she felt something irritating scratching at her little toe in her right pump. Lilly crossed her right leg over her left, reached down and slipped her shoe off, wiggling her toes. She reached inside the shoe and felt around. The only thing she could feel was that the insole was starting to peel up in the toe of the shoe. Lilly frowned. The tiniest imperfection in a shoe could sometimes feel like the biggest annoyance, but it was the risk of buying shoes on clearance, she justified as she slipped the shoe back on. She wiggled her toes in the pump and her little toe rubbed where the insole was peeling. She would just have to ignore it, she thought.

The train screeched through a few more stops, with Lilly anxiously awaiting her stop. She sat there with her right leg crossed over her left, her shoe loosened a bit so she could rub her arch with her left hand. At last, the train screeched to a stop at Lilly’s station. Lilly pulled the heel of her right shoe back on with her retreating hand as she gracefully stood up and stepped down from the train onto the platform. The office was only a few steps away, and the clock was just a few minutes from six o’clock.

Lilly returned upstairs to the office to find the caterers and the bartender waiting. “I’m sorry, I had to go home and change,” Lilly said as she unlocked the door. “I thought there was going to be someone here to let you in.”

“That’s okay, we’re running a bit early,” the bartender said. “You’re Miss Preston, right?”

“Yes,” Lilly said, shaking the bartender’s hand as she held the door open. “Lilly Preston. With two ‘L’s, like the designer.” It was the best comparison Lilly had in mind, though she wondered if the bartender had ever even heard of Lilly Pulitzer. But she didn’t care as long as he spelled her first name correctly.

Lilly got the caterers and bartender into position, and they got to work as she ran around the office suite to make sure everything else was in order. Her co-workers were filtering back in as the clock ticked down. Lilly was relieved to see that even the young men in the group had made an effort to put on suits, even if their ties weren’t quite perfect. So far, so good.

The Christmas music started playing just before seven o’clock, as the first batch of hors d’oeuvres came out from behind the caterers’ table and the first couple guests (and the last couple employees) started to come in. Lilly was by the door, statuesque in her slimming black dress and tall heels, greeting folks as they came in. Lilly had been fighting butterflies in her stomach since she left her apartment, but by the time the party started, she felt confident about things. Everyone was where they were supposed to be. Everyone was doing what they were supposed to be doing. Everyone looked how they were supposed to look. Things were going smoothly, and Lilly felt good about this party in a way she had never felt about an office holiday party before.

An hour into the party, though, there was one thing that was not going as smoothly as hoped. Lilly had been standing still for a while, and her toes were beginning to ache. Her little toe had found the imperfection in her pump’s insole and was quite annoyed at the peeling material inside. Lilly leaned against the wall and raised her right foot, squeezing the ball of her foot with her hand as she stretched her toes. She stepped down on her right foot again, feeling a bit relieved but also watching to be sure no one noticed. Lilly had danced in far more painful shoes before. She would be fine, she told herself as she took a few careful steps, making sure her feet had not completely fallen asleep from her hour at the door.

Lilly went around checking on her guests, making sure everyone was entertained, fed and watered. She hugged and shook hands and posed for selfies, whatever seemed like it was called for at the moment. After a quick tour around the office, Lilly was feeling a bit hungry and thirsty herself, so she headed toward the bar and asked for a glass of wine. She leaned on the bar to take some weight off her right foot. Through her natural smile and bubbly confidence, her shoe continued to annoy her. Not only was the insole still scratching at her toe, but her walking around had nudged Lilly’s toes deeper into the shoes, and both of her feet were genuinely uncomfortable. Lilly lifted her right foot and rotated her ankle, wiggling her toes to keep them awake. She shifted to her right foot and rotated her left ankle a bit when someone joined her at the bar. “Captain and Coke?” he asked the bartender as Lilly took her glass of wine.

Lilly took a half-step back from the bar, glass of pinot grigio in hand, when her partner at the bar turned to her and said, “Great party so far, right?” He was tall, taller than Lilly in her four-inch heels, probably about her age if not a couple years older, clean-shaven, and handsome.

“Oh, thank you,” Lilly said reflexively. She appreciated the compliment, though she did not recognize the man offering it – and she surely would have. “Have we met before?”

“Are you Lilly Preston?” the man asked. “I’m Ryan Baker.”

Lilly recognized Ryan Baker. He was one of her regular contacts for a sponsor’s donations to the organization. They talked by e-mail daily since Ryan joined her sponsor, but she and Ryan had never actually met. “Yes, I’m Lilly,” Lilly replied, shaking Ryan’s hand. “It’s great to finally meet you!”

“Likewise,” Ryan said. “This is a really nice party.”

“Thank you,” Lilly said, shifting her weight from her sore right foot to her less-sore left foot. “I’m really glad you could make it. We always have a great time.”

“Seems like it,” Ryan said. “Thank you for inviting me.”

“My pleasure,” Lilly said. She wondered for a moment if Ryan’s girlfriend was nearby. She had made sure to include her as a plus-one. “Was your girlfriend able to come tonight?” she asked.

“Ah, no,” Ryan said, sort of stumbling over the words. “Charlotte had another party tonight. Honestly we’re kind of, sort of, taking a break. But I appreciate you inviting her.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Lilly said. “This is such an awful time of year for breakups.”

“It is, but it was a long time coming,” Ryan said. “What about Miles? Did he come tonight?”

“Miles?” Lilly asked. Then it dawned on her; it was how she signed all her holiday cards. She could not help but laugh. “Oh, my. Miles is my kitty. I’d show you a picture but I didn’t have anywhere to hide my phone.”

“So are you seeing anyone?” Ryan asked timidly.

“Not recently,” Lilly said. The truth was, she had not “seen anyone” in a few years. Flirted at the bar, made out, maybe went home with a guy, sure, but she had to think four or five years back before she could name a boyfriend. Men always seemed intimidated by the prospect of a smart, successful woman with open feminist leanings. But she was hardly about to tell Ryan any of that.

“Hey, come over here for a minute,” Lilly heard behind her, and someone grabbed her right hand and dragged her in their direction. Lilly tried to follow, but glanced back at Ryan to mouth “see you around” before she had to turn back and see where she was going.

So went the next hour of the party, as Lilly was constantly dragged in one direction after another, first to answer some questions, then to shake hands with a sponsor, then to meet someone else who had arrived unexpectedly. Between her obligations, Lilly tried to scan the crowd for Ryan, but it was usually another second or two before someone else called her name or poked her shoulder or tugged on her sleeve for attention. Around eight-forty-five, Lilly was on a tiny riser they had set up at one end of the main room, saying a few remarks that they had prepared for their guests. When Lilly was done and set down the microphone, the crowd resumed mingling, and Lilly walked back to the bar with careful, delicate steps. Despite her outward grace, her feet were terribly sore. Her toes were cramped and aching, and it felt like the insoles of her shoes were peeling apart more and more with every step. Lilly wanted to see three things: a chair to sit in, another glass of pinot, and Ryan Baker. The glass of wine came quickly, and as Lilly saw Ryan approaching the bar, she thought two out of three wasn’t bad.

Lilly leaned up against the bar, again taking some of her weight off of her right foot. “I’m sorry about that earlier,” she said.

“Hey, it’s your party,” Ryan said. “You’re important tonight.”

“Kinda wish I weren’t as important,” Lilly said, reminding herself not to down the whole glass as she sipped her wine. “It’s good, though!”

“It is,” Ryan said. “Hey, would you like to sit down for a couple minutes?”

Lilly had been trying to stretch her right foot, then her left, and now her weight was shared between the bar and her left foot as she flexed her right knee and rotated her ankle again. “Oh God yes,” she said, not even trying to hide her excitement. “These shoes are killing me.”

“They’re really tall,” Ryan said, glancing down at Lilly’s black pumps as she set her right foot down again.

“They’re pinching my toes,” Lilly said, letting her guard down. “I’ve been standing all night.”

“Then let’s go find somewhere to sit down,” Ryan said, turning to look for an open chair or two.

Just then, Lilly’s co-worker Holly appeared. “Lilly,” she asked, “can you come over here for a minute?”

Lilly’s heart sank and she could have sworn her toes cried in protest. She glanced back at Ryan. “I’ll have a chair when you’re ready,” he said, smiling. Lilly felt a little comfort in that as she followed her co-worker.

“By the way, you look lovely, Holly,” Lilly said, acknowledging her junior co-worker’s party dress.

“You’re gorgeous,” Holly said. “Who is that?”

“Ryan Baker,” Lilly said. “He’s from one of the sponsors.”

“Lucky you,” Holly said, smiling. “Lil, do you mind if I head out a little early? My boyfriend just called, he got off work early and wants to go out.”

Such was the risk of a Saturday-night Christmas party. “No, go ahead,” Lilly said. “I get the feeling we’ll be winding down in another hour anyway. The bar and food are gone by then, anyway.”

“Okay, thanks!” Holly said, giving Lilly a hug before leaving. Lilly had barely had a chance to recover before being swept into another circle of conversation, this time with one of her bosses and a couple sponsors. Lilly smiled, acted gracious, sipped her wine, and tried to ignore her shoes, even as they grew more and more uncomfortable.

One conversation led to two and three, and the chair Ryan had promised to find seemed further and further away. Mercifully, one of the conversations had been a walking one that included a stop back at the bar, but even Lilly’s third glass of wine could not drown the pain radiating from her toes. Lilly felt like she had been tiptoeing all night, and even her arches and heels were sore from her sexy but traitorous pumps.

At last, Lilly’s companions wandered off in search of a restroom, and Lilly was alone for a moment. Her eyes flitted around the room, looking for Ryan or an empty chair as she lifted one foot ever so slightly, her heel almost popping out of the shoe. Setting her latest empty wine glass down, she took a few painful steps in the direction of the corridor that led to the staff offices, and most notably hers.

Lilly was about halfway down the hall when she heard someone calling her name quietly behind her. She glanced back to see Ryan making his way down the corridor. “Where are you sneaking off to?” he asked.

“My office is down here,” Lilly said. “I need to escape for a few. You can come though.”

“How are your feet doing?”

Lilly opened her office door and clicked on the light. “So sore,” she said, walking around to her desk. “Is it obvious?”

“Maybe a little,” Ryan said. He nudged the door shut behind them.

“I’m gonna change my shoes,” Lilly said.

“Change your shoes?”

“Every girl keeps spare shoes in her desk for these moments,” Lilly said. She sat down in her desk chair and slid open the shoe drawer. Inside, she saw her tall dancing shoes, her spare heels, and a pair of basic flip-flops. Ryan looked over her shoulder as Lilly realized that her emergency flats were missing. “My flats,” she whispered.

“Your flats?”

“Oh, Holly,” Lilly said, suddenly remembering. “I lent my pair of emergency flats to one of my co-workers this afternoon, for the party.” She closed the shoe drawer. “So I don’t have any shoes to change into.”

“You can at least take your heels off,” Ryan said.

“I can’t go back out there in stocking feet,” Lilly said, reaching down and rubbing the tops of her feet.

“You don’t have to,” Ryan said. “Just take them off in here.”

“I don’t know if I can put them back on,” Lilly said in protest. But Ryan was already dragging a chair over to Lilly’s desk, and he sat down across from her. He reached down and took Lilly’s right foot in his hand, raising it up with the heel of her shoe cupped in his left hand and her ankle in his right. Gently, he wiggled the heel of her shoe down her stockinged heel until her heel popped free, then he eased the shoe from her foot. Lilly watched as Ryan slowly removed the shoe from her silken foot, then set the empty pump at her side. Lilly sighed as she flexed her nylon-sheathed toes. “Ooh,” she cooed involuntarily as Ryan lowered her foot and took her left foot and ankle in his hands the same way. She felt her not-quite-as-painful left shoe pop free from her heel, then slide effortlessly off her toes. “Thank you,” she whispered lightly as she rotated her left foot and wiggled her toes tentatively. The feeling of her shoes coming off rivaled the last time Lilly had had sex, but she was hardly about to admit that to Ryan.

“Is that better?” Ryan asked.

Lilly stretched her legs out, pointing her toes in and her heels out as she tried to knead her feet against the carpeted floor. Her high heels were a part of the independent-woman aura she tried to project, and with the heels gone, she felt that aura had slipped as well. “God, yes,” she said, at last in a speaking voice.

“Here,” Ryan said, standing up and nudging his chair closer to Lilly. “Put your feet up.”

Lilly swung her legs up onto Ryan’s chair as he dragged another chair close. “Thank you so much,” she said, pointing her feet and wiggling her toes. “I wish I could have done that, like, an hour ago.”

“You should have,” Ryan said. “Half the women out there aren’t wearing shoes right now.”

“But I’m the hostess,” Lilly said, looking down her long, black stockinged legs as she wiggled her aching feet. “I can’t be out there in stocking feet.”

“Who says you can’t?” Ryan asked.

“It wouldn’t be classy,” Lilly lamented. She picked up her empty right shoe off the floor and examined it. Sure enough, the insole under her toes had come unglued and was all wrinkled. The creases in the insole had been tormenting her toes for hours. “Cheap shoes,” she said, picking up her left shoe and finding the same wear to the insole. “I’ve only worn these a couple times.”

Ryan reached out for one and Lilly let him take the right heel from her. “That doesn’t look comfortable,” he said, rotating the shoe to see inside.

“I don’t know if I can put these back on,” Lilly said. “Ryan, would you rub my feet?”

Lilly stunned herself with her request. Maybe it was the wine talking, but she had barely met the man and now she expected him to rub her feet? But Ryan nodded kindly and patted his lap. Lilly pointed her toes and arched her feet, then raised them over the arm of the chair and swiveled her chair to face Ryan, her silken feet landing in his lap. Ryan took Lilly’s right foot in his hands, his thumbs under the ball of her foot, his fingers around the top, and started kneading her foot like a ball of bread dough. Lilly smiled and stretched her left foot flat, spreading her toes wide as she rubbed her sole against Ryan’s dress slacks. The fabric felt soft and smooth through her thin stocking. She looked up, and Ryan was smiling back.

Lilly and Ryan sat there for a moment. Lilly felt like she had been disarmed, her confidence and authority discarded on the floor as Ryan rubbed her foot and she kneaded Ryan’s thigh in response. And as Ryan switched his hands to Lilly’s left foot, stretching her toes out under the black nylons, Lilly stretched her right leg forward, her toes threading through Ryan’s shirt buttons, flicking at his tie.

Lilly sat mesmerized for a few minutes longer as Ryan switched back to her right foot, then her left again, flexing her toes, squeezing her heels and ankles, folding the outsides of her feet down as if there were a seam running down her foot. Lilly glanced at the clock on her desk. It had only been ten minutes, but it felt so much longer. She slid her feet from Ryan’s lap, dragging her toes along his slacks, and stood up tentatively, flexing her stockinged feet against the carpeted floor. She took a few delicate steps. Her feet felt sore but better, and she did not like the idea of stuffing her feet back into her tall, sexy shoes. “I can’t wear those,” she said.

“Do you have another pair of heels?” Ryan asked.

Lilly went back to her desk and pulled out the shoe drawer. She fished out her basic spare pumps. They were almost identical to her fancy shoes, except that they were only three-inch heels and she had bought them on clearance at Target. The plus, as she slipped each foot gingerly into a shoe, was that they were made a little wider than her Nine West pumps, and that merely meant she did not want to cry as she took her first steps. She kicked the Nine West heels under her desk as she and Ryan walked toward the office door. “Thank you,” Lilly said with a bright smile as the two of them slipped through the door and back to the party.

Lilly had only made it as far as the end of the hallway from her office before her feet started to hurt again. She stopped at the end of the hall and arched her left foot, her heel popping freely from her shoe. Lilly slipped her left pump off and glided her foot back down atop the pump, feeling the top of the shoe rub against her sole. Lilly rubbed her foot back and forth, scratching her sole with the edge of the shoe, then folded her leg back to adjust the toe seam of her nylons. She hesitantly slipped the shoe back on, glancing around the room to see if she had been caught.

Ryan had stood by Lilly the whole time. “Are you okay?” he whispered.

“My feet still hurt,” Lilly said, leaning against the wall as she did the same with her right foot, rubbing her sole against the top of her shoe, then stretching her leg back, rotating her ankle, and slipping her shoe back on. The seam of her nylon was crooked across her toes, though, so she slipped the pump back off, folding her leg back and reaching down to straighten out the annoying seam. As she lowered her foot back to her shoe, she saw her pump skitter across the floor a few feet, and her toes brushed the carpet where her shoe used to be. Lilly looked up and back at Ryan, who simply smiled. Lilly took a couple steps forward, tipping her pump back on its sole before slipping it back on.

Now out of the hallway and back in the room, Lilly resumed playing hostess, chatting with guests, and meeting people. Some of the early guests had left, but there were still plenty of people around, and to Lilly’s chagrin, too few chairs for everyone. She jealously noted that Ryan was at least partly right; there were a few women sitting with their shoes half-on or toppled over by a chair. Lilly’s toes throbbed in protest, and she wished she could do the same. Instead, she resorted to rocking back on one heel, or leaning into a chair’s back while popping her heel free and arching her cramping foot or rocking her feet from side to side. She felt desperate and unprofessional fidgeting like that.

Lilly walked over to the bar for one last glass of wine, as they were starting to pack up the catering setup for the night. Leaning on the bar, Lilly slipped her right shoe off, rubbing her aching foot on the carpet floor. Just for a minute, she rationalized as she sipped her wine. She watched her guests from the bar as she stood there in one shoe for a bit.

Lilly was looking down at her barely visible nylon toes when someone touched her shoulder. She looked up to see a couple of her long-time donors with their coats in hand. “We’re heading out, Lilly,” one of them said. “Thanks for a great party.”

“You’re welcome!” Lilly said, stuffing her stockinged foot into her Target pump. Her toe seam twisted as she did, but she tried to ignore it as she took careful steps following her guests to the exit door. “I’m glad you could make it.” They said some final goodbyes before Lilly let them out and closed the door behind them. Once they left, she slipped her right shoe off again, reaching down and adjusting the toes of her nylons before carefully slipping the shoe back on. Lilly never remembered a pair of nylons giving her so much trouble. It was as if her feet had been playing “The Princess and the Pea” all night.

Lilly desperately wanted to sit down, but as she walked back from the door she bumped into a couple more departing couples, and so they had to talk. Lilly smiled and thanked them for coming, and discreetly popped her right heel from her shoe as she tried to stretch her toes without getting caught in the act. Her toes still cried in pain, so she slipped her foot out and glided her toes over the top of the shoe, settling her heel into the heel cup so as to make it look less noticeable. She stretched her toes as she said her last goodbyes to the departing guests, then slipped the shoe back on.

The caterers were leaving next, and with them the bar, so Lilly shook hands with them and sent them on their way. When they were gone, she turned to look at what remained of her party. There were decorations, and there was music, and there were a few couples sitting around in a ring of chairs. And there was Ryan Baker, in one of them, looking back at her with his hand patting an empty seat as he smiled.

Lilly walked over to the vacant chair. Gracefully, she stepped out of her pumps, nudging them under the chair with one foot. The low-pile carpet against her aching feet felt heavenly. Lilly sat down, folding her left foot under the chair and crossing her right leg over her left knee. It was only as she looked at her gracefully pointed stockinged foot that she realized what she had done. Feeling suddenly self-conscious, she looked up at the other people surrounding her. They were still in conversation amongst each other, and two of the women were dangling their heels from their toes. Lilly would have done that if her feet didn’t hurt so much, she reasoned, as she slid one hand down her leg to massage her dangling foot.

“You made it,” Ryan said, reaching over and rubbing his hand on Lilly’s waist.

“Thank you for saving me a seat,” Lilly said. “I had to sit down.”

“I don’t know how you made it through the whole night standing in those,” one of Lilly’s co-workers chimed in. She was the only woman not dangling her shoes, but only because she had not loosened the straps that forbade her from doing so.

“I didn’t,” Lilly said, stretching out both her legs and feet now that she was exposed. “My other heels were four inches. I changed into these in the office. They’re only three.”

“I never would have noticed,” one of the other women said. She uncrossed her legs and swung her leg to the side of her chair, shaking her pump loose and stretching her now-bare foot in front of her. “You brought spare shoes?”

“No, I keep them at my desk,” Lilly said. “You never know when you’ll need to change, so I keep a pair of basic black heels and flats in my drawer.”

“That’s really smart,” the third woman chimed in. “I do that in the winter in case I have to wear boots to work.”

“You should have switched for your flats,” Lilly’s co-worker said.

“I couldn’t,” Lilly said. “I let Holly borrow them before the party. And besides, you can’t wear flats with a little black dress.” She folded her left leg back and crossed her right leg over her knee again. She curled her left toes under her foot, sighing as she heard the slightest crack of her tired foot.

“These are cuter anyway,” Ryan said, reaching down and tickling Lilly’s dangling right sole. Lilly’s foot squirmed in protest, even though the tickle felt soothing.

“I think it’s about time to call it a night myself,” Lilly’s co-worker said, standing up. “Ready to go, honey?” she asked her husband, who Lilly thought seemed to be watching her swaying stockinged foot.

“Oh, sure,” the distracted husband replied.

“We should let you get wrapped up here anyway,” the barefoot woman said, slipping her open-toed pump back on. “Lilly, you did a great job tonight. Thank you for having us.”

“Thank you!” Lilly said. She stood up and was going to step into her shoes, but Ryan put a hand on her waist again and pulled her away from that side of her chair. She mouthed “my shoes,” but he shook his head and whispered, “don’t bother.”

“Yes, we had a great time,” one of the other women added. “Thank you for having all of us over tonight.”

“Our pleasure,” Lilly said, following the other women to get their coats. She felt awkward doing so without her shoes, but no one seemed to care, and she was unsure if she could even put her heels back on at this point.

With smiles and handshakes, Lilly sent the last guests on their way, then closed the office door with some finality. She turned back to the empty foyer to see Ryan leaning against a wall, smiling. “Well, done, Miss Preston,” he said, clapping his hands jokingly.

“It was a great party,” Lilly said, “wasn’t it?”

“Everyone seemed to think so,” Ryan said.

“And you?” Lilly asked, taking lazy steps back into the room, arching her feet so she was walking on her toes, her heels raised ever slightly.

“I had a great time,” Ryan said. “I’m not so sure you did.”

“Oh, it was nice,” Lilly said, sinking into a chair. “But oh my God, do my feet hurt.” She swung her feet onto the chair next to her and stretched her toes, wiggling them.

Ryan knelt down next to Lilly’s chair and kneaded Lilly’s feet with his thumbs. “May I?” he asked.

Lilly felt like she should say no. For the last hour or so, she had been traipsing around in a pair of heels she bought when she was a college freshman. Her toes were hot, the balls of her feet had felt a bit moist in her heels, and now she had been walking around in her stocking feet on a dirty floor. She felt bad that Ryan was touching her feet. And yet, the pressure of Ryan’s thumbs on her tortured soles was the best thing she had felt since...since the last time Ryan was touching her feet. “Don’t stop,” she said, smiling as she wiggled her stockinged toes.

“I have to,” Ryan said. “I have to get home at some point tonight.”

“Me, too,” Lilly said, closing her eyes as Ryan continued rubbing her feet. “I don’t know how I’m getting home.”

“What do you mean?” Ryan asked.

“I took the T from my apartment,” Lilly said.

“Well, they run for another hour and a half, at least, right?”

“Yeah, but I walked there,” Lilly said, wiggling her feet in Ryan’s hands.

“Ooh,” Ryan said, grasping what Lilly meant.

“I can’t put these heels back on,” Lilly said. “And definitely not the other shoes.”

“Wait,” Ryan said, standing up and heading for the door.

“What?” Lilly asked.

“I’ll be right back,” Ryan said, leaving the office but making sure the door was unlocked behind him.

Lilly sat there, her aching feet still outstretched, wondering what Ryan was up to. Confused, she turned around and stood up, picking up her discount-store pumps from next to another chair. She kneaded her feet against the carpet for a moment before gingerly walking back to her office. She swung her office door open and walked around to her desk. She set the three-inch heels on her desk and fished her Nine West heels out from underneath, looking over them critically. They were dreadfully uncomfortable, but they were still sexy. She could replace the insoles. Surely that would save them for another party. Or another half a party.

Lilly set the tall heels next to their shorter cousins on her desk. One pair of them had to get her home. She wanted to leave the spare heels back in her desk, but they would be the easier shoes to make it home in, by far. And the thought of putting either of them on again made Lilly want to cry. Her feet still hurt, even with Ryan’s best efforts.

Suddenly, the office door swung open again and Ryan reappeared, with a small box in one hand. “I’m back,” he said triumphantly. “Where are you?”

“I’m here,” Lilly said, walking back down the hallway from her office. She stood in the doorway, hands by her side, shoeless, trying to hold a straight face. “And I’m confused.”

“I had to get something for you,” Ryan said. “So, you can get home tonight.”

“What is it?” Lilly asked.

Ryan took Lilly’s hand and tugged her toward a chair. “Sit down,” he said.

Lilly sank into a chair. “You don’t need to tell me twice,” she said, laughing.

“Here,” Ryan said, setting the box in Lilly’s lap.

Lilly looked at the box and lifted the lid. Inside was a pair of black satin ballet slippers. Lilly was a bit stunned. It was tremendously thoughtful, but how did he pull that off? She looked up at Ryan.

“I got these for Charlotte,” Ryan said. “For Christmas. They were in my car. But I thought of someone who would give them a better home. Someone who deserves them more.”

“They’re adorable,” Lilly said, taking them out of the box. She had some satin slippers at home, but these were made better, with tiny ribbons atop the toes, and what felt like plush foam insoles. “I feel bad walking outside in these.”

“Well, I can’t let you walk home in nylons,” Ryan said. “And you’re not going home in heels.”

Lilly pulled a slipper on each of her sore feet. They fit snugly but the feeling was magical. She stood up and looked down. Her sexy stockinged feet now looked cute, innocent, harmless. And the aches in her toes and arches and heels now felt softer, like she was standing on a pillow. “These are amazing,” Lilly said. “Thank you.”

“My pleasure,” Ryan said. He leaned in to kiss Lilly’s cheek, but Lilly turned her head instead, locking lips with Ryan briefly. Ryan was stunned, but after a momentary pause, he went along with it, completing the kiss.

Ryan and Lilly gathered their coats, and Lilly made her way around the office locking the doors for the night. Every step in her new slippers felt a little better. “Wait a sec,” she said as she locked the main door on their way out. “Your car is downstairs?”

“Well, yeah,” Ryan said. “I drove here.”

“So, you could have just offered to drive me home.”

“I was going to do that anyway,” Ryan said, smiling.

“So, you didn’t have to give me the slippers,” Lilly said.

“Why not?”

“Because,” Lilly said as she opened the outside door. “I could have just worn my heels to the car and toughed it out for a couple steps.”

“Nah, you couldn’t have,” Ryan said, holding the door from behind.

“Why not?” Lilly asked, stepping outside. The winter air nipped at her stockinged legs, and the concrete felt cold through the soles of her slippers. She wiggled her feet against her satiny insoles.

“First, because I couldn’t let you,” Ryan said. “And second, because then I couldn’t walk you across the street for a coffee.” He motioned across the street to a tiny café that was still open.

“Oh,” Lilly said, following Ryan’s gesture.

Ryan said nothing and held out his hand.

Lilly took Ryan’s hand, then rubbed her left foot against Ryan’s ankle, her toes searching under his pantleg. “I did kind of want to get these slippers off,” she said, smiling.

“Well, now that you put it that way,” Ryan said, grinning back as the two crossed the street.

Part 1B - Happy Holly Day

“Oh, damn it!” Holly Kingsley muttered as her shoe sailed through the stairwell, turning end over end in slow motion, before coming to a loud crash at the bottom of the next landing. Standing there with one foot extended and her hand on the railing, Holly felt as if it had happened in slow motion.

This is what she got for leaving the party early, Holly told herself. The organization she had been interning with all semester opted to throw their annual holiday party on a Saturday night. Holly had spent that afternoon helping the employees set up, and she was at the party when she got a text from a guy she had been seeing. Holly had told her co-worker Lilly that her boyfriend was getting off work early, and that was only part-true; the guy was hardly a boyfriend, but he was cute and had potential. And making out at his apartment would have to be more fun than schmoozing with rich people all night.

Holly paused at the top of the stairs, sort of hoping someone would be coming upstairs who could bring her the shoe. But how long could she wait for that? She leaned forward, her outstretched, shoeless right foot landing on the step below. The stairs were hard and cold on her unprotected foot, but she gingerly balanced on her toes as she stepped down with her left shod foot, then took another step down with her shoeless foot, balancing on her toes on the cold step as she stepped down again with her left foot. She stepped down onto the landing left foot first, then her right. She could feel the cold and the wet and the grit of the snow and sand people had been tracking in, and it made her frown.

Sitting one step out of reach was her shoe. Or, at least, it was her shoe for the night. Holly was a college girl, and she had embraced the stereotypical New England college-girl wardrobe: leggings by default, jeans if necessary, flip-flops if it was warm enough, and Uggs if it wasn’t. When she had to look “nice,” and the internship often required that, she exchanged the flip-flops for a pair of ballet flats. But her sole pair of ballet flats was well-loved, the heels crushed down, the toes scuffed and dull, the insoles worn and blackened. Holly knew she could never wear the worn-out flats to a fancy party. Her only other dressy option, a pair of strappy sandals, was hardly appropriate for a winter party, never mind that Holly had not worn heels since the spring.

So, before the party, Holly had asked her co-worker Lilly if she had a spare pair of shoes to lend her. Lilly lent her a pair of black flats she kept in a desk drawer for shoe emergencies. Holly reached down and picked up the overturned black flat, dusting some sand off the shiny leather and slipping it back on her foot. She still felt some of the sand from the floor on her foot, scraping at the insole of Lilly’s shoe, but she would have to take care of that later. Now wearing both of her borrowed shoes, Holly continued down the stairs, the outside door only a flight and a half away.

With each step, Holly felt her heels sliding in and out of Lilly’s shiny flats. She and Lilly were both a size eight, and the flats had fit perfectly when Holly tried them that afternoon. But while the girls were in Lilly’s office, Lilly took her own flats off, and Holly saw that her sophisticated supervisor was wearing nylons under her leggings. Holly had last worn hosiery when she was a little girl, and in a college girl’s world, there was little room for a luxury like nylons. But this was a somewhat-fancy business party, not a summer wedding or social gathering. Holly had been thinking of Lilly’s nylons since she left the office to go change, and after getting dressed, she looked in the mirror and felt incomplete. Holly’s roommate was out of town, so she looked in her dresser, found a pair of suntan pantyhose, and slipped into them. The nylons darkened Holly’s pale legs and gave them a nice shimmer, and Holly felt somehow complete.

But on the walk back to the party, Holly discovered that Lilly’s perfectly-fitting Nine West flats no longer fit so perfectly. With every step, the shoes slid up and down Holly’s heels, threatening to pop off. She almost lost one shoe a couple times on that walk alone. At the party, Holly tried to concentrate, keeping her feet planted in Lilly’s shoes. She had sat down a couple times, though, and the shoes had popped from her heels as she stretched her legs under a chair. She felt a tiny bit of comfort knowing that as she watched Lilly, Lilly’s shoes had the same tendencies. But Lilly had worn shoes and stockings before. For Holly, it was a totally new experience.

And that new experience made Holly’s trip down the stairs that more tenuous, as she tried just to keep the flats on her feet. She breathed a sigh of relief when she reached the bottom of the stairs. There was a bench there, and Holly sat down, crossing her right leg over her left. She took off Lilly’s right flat and fished in her purse for a tissue, wiping the dirt and salt off of the shoe so it looked clean again. She shook the shoe over the floor and dusted the insole off in case any sand had gotten inside. The last thing she could do was return Lilly’s shoes to her in less-than-perfect condition. She slipped the flat back on her foot and uncrossed her legs, her feet flat on the floor.

Holly checked her phone for a text from the boy. As she did, she slid her feet back and felt the flats pop from her heels again. She thought of Lilly, traipsing around the party upstairs in her sheer black nylons and tall heels, and wondered how she did it. Holly shook her feet to loosen the flats some more and curled her toes inside as she thought. The boy was a long walk from the party, more blocks than Holly cared to count. In Lilly’s flats, it would be a treacherous adventure.

Holly considered ditching the nylons. She knew the flats would stay on her bare feet. It wasn’t as if the hose were keeping her legs that much warmer, after all. And the boy wouldn’t likely even notice. Holly wondered if anyone could tell. She stretched her legs and feet out in front of her, pointing her toes. Maybe the nylons were noticeable, she thought. Her legs looked soft and sun kissed and slender. She had expected them to be uncomfortable, but instead they felt sensual, especially as her feet brushed against each other.

Holly had an idea, reaching back into her purse. She reached her feet under the bench for the flats, hooking them with her toes and sliding them back into view. She opened her package of tissues, crumpling a handful of them and stuffing them into the toes of Lilly’s flats. She slipped her feet back into the shoes. It was better than nothing, she figured. Holly gathered her purse and phone, pulled her coat and scarf tight, and took the five steps to the outside door, pushing through the door and into the cold.

Unfortunately, it took all of those five steps for Holly to realize her attempt at stuffing her borrowed shoes was futile. The tissues she had crumpled into the shoes had merely been crushed into the pointy toes of her flats, so instead of helping to pad out the loose shoes, they were just distracting Holly’s toes instead. And so, with each step, Holly felt her stockinged heels sliding around in her shoes, sometimes popping loose for the winter air to nip at them before her next step. She clenched her toes trying to keep the shoes on, but even that was a hopeless case. Holly remembered being a little girl, wearing her mother’s way-too-big high heels around the kitchen. Lilly’s flats were hardly that loose, but at that moment, they might as well have been.

Holly glanced back at the office, the silhouettes of partiers moving about in the lit windows a few stories up. Meanwhile, she held her coat tight against her. The cool winter air blew through her thin nylons and swirled under her short party dress, and Holly wished she had stayed at the party. Holly quickened her steps, her borrowed flats clicking against the pavement as she crossed a side street. She had no sooner stepped back onto the sidewalk when she felt her right flat come loose as she stepped forward, inadvertently kicking the shoe off. Holly landed her footstep anyway, the gritty concrete feeling icy cold on her sole. “Damn!” Holly said, limping a few steps ahead with light steps on her stockinged foot until she reached the empty shoe. She slipped her shoe on quickly and kept walking.

Three side streets later, Holly had chased her errant shoes three more times. She had kicked each of her shoes off down the sidewalks, and her left shoe slipped off while she crossed one side street, forcing her to double back for her missing shoe. Holly’s feet were cold and uncomfortable, her soles damp from her accidental stocking-footing down the concrete. As she crossed her fourth side street, Holly’s right shoe came off again, and she stepped down into a snowbank. Holly whimpered as she slipped the loose flat back on, her toes sliding around on the loose tissue inside the shoe.

Frustrated and miserable, Holly stopped and checked her phone. Where was she meeting the boy, anyway? He wasn’t really out of work early, like she had told Lilly; he was at one holiday party and wanted to meet Holly at another. The first party was at a hotel, the second was at an apartment, and Holly had only a vague idea where to find either. The boy had left her a text message, though: “Just left party #1, headed to #2.” She texted him back: “Where is #2?”

Holly made one more block without either of her shoes falling off. She stopped and checked her phone again. The boy had left another message: “Catch a train to Davison Station.” Holly was vaguely familiar with the instructions; Davison Station was in the middle of a neighborhood full of college-student-friendly bars and affordable apartments. Where could she catch the train though? Holly saw a sign for a subway stop about two blocks down. She started walking in that direction, her shoes still slipping like before.

The next two blocks passed without Holly losing a shoe. Maybe this evening would be less miserable than she had feared, she told herself. As she stepped into the stairwell to the station, though, her right shoe glided effortlessly from her stockinged foot, sailing to the landing eight steps below. “Why?” Holly whined as she made her way down the steps, the concrete steps cold on her sole. Holly had just reached the landing when she heard the squeal of train brakes entering the station. Holly reached down, grabbed her empty shoe and shuffled in one shoe to the next set of stairs. As she stepped forward, though, her left shoe came off her heel and cartwheeled to the bottom of the stairs, landing noisily. Holly cried out in frustration, grudgingly walking down the concrete and rubber steps in her stocking feet. The train was waiting at the platform and people were filing off of it, so she collected her left shoe, fumbled for her train card in her purse, swiped the card, and burst through the gate, running into the train in her nylons before the doors slid shut.

Holly sank into an open seat and dropped her empty shoes in the seat next to hers. The gritty floor of the train car reminded Holly that she was shoeless, and she suddenly felt self-conscious, tucking her feet under the seat, but when she glanced around, she realized she was alone on the train car. Feeling slightly more relaxed but still frustrated, Holly stretched her legs out and wiggled her toes. The floor of the train car was cool underfoot, and she felt the grit from others’ sandy shoes inside, but she imagined her feet were a mess already anyway. She crossed her right leg over her left. If she were going to look trashy, at least she could try to be classy about it.

“I hate these shoes,” Holly said out loud as she picked up Lilly’s flats from the seat next to her. They were perfectly nice shoes, far nicer than her own black flats. But they had been trouble for Holly since she left the party. As she dusted the sand and salt from them, she thought of Lilly traipsing about the party in her sky-high heels. Holly imagined having to dash down the sidewalks in those. She rarely wore heels anymore, so it would have been a nightmare. It could have been worse, she decided as she shook loose sand out of each flat onto the train floor. The train slowed for a station, the doors opened, but no one got on.

Holly waited another two empty stops before putting Lilly’s shoes back on her feet. Again, she thought about sneaking into a bathroom and stripping off her borrowed pantyhose and barefooting it in the shoes. But as she sat with her feet on the floor, she felt the shoes brush the sides of her feet, and she liked the sensation of wearing nylons in her borrowed shoes. She thought of Lilly that afternoon, her own stockinged feet popping out of her flats. She wondered how Lilly stayed planted in her heels all night. And she decided to keep the nylons on. If Lilly could do it, so could she.

At last, the train pulled into Davison Station. Holly got off the train and, with careful steps, made it to the ground level without once losing a shoe. There was a clean bench right next to the station exit, though, so she sat down to check her phone, slipping her flats off and stretching her toes as she did. At least the flats were better than her usual strappy sandals in one sense, she thought. It took a moment for her phone to pick up the messages she had been sent while on the train, but it seemed the boy had already left the second party, and was bound for a bar a few blocks away. Holly slipped Lilly’s flats back on and slipped her phone into her purse. She felt a little like she was in a game of hide-and-seek.

It only took a few feet of sidewalk, though, for Holly to find that Lilly’s flats were back to their old tricks. With each step, she felt the heels of the shoes pop loose, and the cool air nipped at her stockinged heels. On one step down, her left heel popped free and came down on the back of the flat, crushing the leather under her foot and turning Lilly’s flat into a backless slide. Holly made it a few steps like that before stopping and reaching behind her to fix the back of the shoe. She breathed a sigh of relief with both her shoes on her feet correctly, but her sigh turned to a grumble as, on her next step, the flats went flying from her feet again, sailing into a snowbank a few steps ahead. The cold concrete was a shock on Lilly’s soles as she stormed over to the snowbank, removed the flats from the snow and slipped them on.

After another block and two more shoe losses, Holly finally reached the bar where her new boy had promised he’d be. She checked her phone, but he had not texted her since she left the train station. Holly flashed her ID to the bouncer and walked into the dark pub. She looked around the tables for a group of people, but he was not among any of the groups. She walked back along another set of booths, and then glanced over the bar. She spotted him there, wearing the same green plaid scarf he wore when they first met. He still had his coat on, a beer in one hand, and he was locked in a kiss with another girl.

Holly took a deep breath and composed herself. No good would come of confronting him with the other girl. She watched and waited as the two separated, then the girl left her drink at the bar, holding up a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. The boy gestured with one finger and holding his half-full beer, so the girl left him at the bar. Since when did he smoke? Holly wondered. But that was immaterial. With his new flame departed, Holly worked her way closer to the bar.

The new boy noticed her approaching faster than she realized. “Oh, Holly,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if you were going to make it.”

“I told you I was coming,” Holly said. “Who was she?”

“She?” the boy asked.

Was he really going to play that game? “The girl you were just kissing before she went outside for a smoke.”

“Oh, her,” the boy said. “We just met.”

“It didn’t look like it,” Holly said.

“Well, at the last party,” the boy said. “She just broke up with her boyfriend.”

“But you knew you were meeting me,” Holly said. She felt betrayed. She knew what was coming.

“Well, yeah, but I wasn’t sure if you’d get out of the party, and even if you did, it’s a long way over here.”

Holly reached down and picked off one of her flats, stomping her stockinged foot on the bar floor. “I came all the way over with these awful shoes falling off every step!” she said, holding Lilly’s flat up as evidence. “Of course I was going to come and see you! We’re dating.”

“Well, just in case, I figured I’d chat up Kayla and see where things went,” the boy said, smiling.

“But we’re dating,” Holly said, feeling her emotions cracking at her voice. “We, we…” She lowered her voice to a bar whisper. “We had sex last weekend.”

“Well, that’s what you do when you’re dating,” the boy said. “But I wasn’t sure if you would make it, so—“

“So I was your backup,” Holly cut the boy off. “Well, thanks. Have a nice night, jerk.” Holly turned and was about to triumphantly storm out, but as she took her first step, her remaining flat flew off, skidding across the bar floor. Holly looked back one last time and saw the boy laughing a bit as she stormed off, picked up her errant shoe and left the bar in a huff in her stockinged feet. She glared at the girl outside the bar.

Holly was crying, and it took her a few steps down the sidewalk to recognize the cold sidewalk underfoot and realize that she was in her nylon feet, carrying Lilly’s shoes. She stopped to put the shoes back on and got a bearing on her surroundings. She was in a neighborhood she rarely ever ventured into. She had ditched a Christmas party and traveled half across the city, chasing a pair of ill-fitting shoes that wouldn’t stay on her feet, only to get humiliated by a boy who wasn’t worth the trip.

Holly wiped tears from her eyes as a gust of wind whipped around her legs and gave her a chill. She was sad and embarrassed and cold and uncomfortable, and lonely. And yet she didn’t want to go back to the party, or back to her apartment, or anywhere really. Holly sniffled and wiped a tear off her cheek. She just wanted to feel less alone. But as another gust of wind blew under her dress, she decided she just wanted to feel warm. She was surrounded by bars and closed restaurants and cafes, but there was a single coffee shop open. She walked up the steps, opened the door and stepped inside.

Holly took a moment to dry her eyes again. She ordered a hot chocolate - with a squirt of hazelnut syrup, topped with whipped cream - and looked for a seat. The shop was almost empty, but the big empty chair by the fireplace looked appealing. Holly walked toward the fireplace. It was a simple gas fireplace, but the heat was plenty real, as she felt the warmth against her legs. Holly slipped her right shoe off and pawed at the carpet with her toes. The carpet was soft and warm, so she planted her right foot in the fibers of the carpet, curling her toes into the warm rug. The soft, dry carpet was a more pleasant feeling than the concrete and pavement and brick walkways and sidewalks and the messy bar floor that she had been walking on earlier.

After a moment, Holly slipped her left shoe off and did the same, the warm carpet soothing on her cold and damp soles. Holly wondered if anyone was critical of the trashy shoeless girl in front of the fire, but as she wiggled her toes against the carpet, she decided that anyone who had a problem with it could keep it to themselves.

“Cold feet?” a stranger asked from behind Holly.

Holly turned to see a tall, bespectacled guy standing behind her. He was wearing a buttoned shirt under a casual brown blazer, with jeans and brown shoes and a matching messenger bag worn across his body. He looked like an academic. Normally, Holly would have felt in her element, confident and ready with a response. But tonight, she was tired and dejected and cold and shoeless and she felt completely disarmed. “Well, yeah,” she managed, sipping her hot chocolate.

“It’s kinda chilly out,” the guy said, stepping forward and standing next to her by the fire. “You look like you just came from a Christmas party or a date or something.”

“Sort of both,” Holly said. “I intern for this non-profit downtown and we had our big holiday party tonight, and then this guy I’ve been seeing wanted to see me so I left the party early to go find him. So I got all the way out here, and he’s at a bar with some girl he just met because now I’m his backup.” She took a breath. “And I borrowed these flats from someone at the non-profit for the party, but they won’t stay on my feet and they kept falling off all the walk over here and my feet are cold and wet and this is the best I’ve felt all night.”

To Holly’s surprise, her new friend hadn’t left by the end of her rant. “Well, if it makes you feel better, I’m just coming from a meeting for a paper that’s due Monday morning,” he said. “So I haven’t exactly been lighting up the town.”

“I think I’d rather have been working on your paper,” Holly said, managing a laugh.

“I’m Matt Cartwright, by the way,” the guy said, smiling.

“Holly Kingsley,” Holly said. “I’m usually not like this.”

“Like what?” Matt asked.

“Shoeless in a coffee shop looking like a mess,” Holly said.

“You look fantastic,” Matt said. “I mean, even with your shoes off.”

Holly sat on the hearth by the fireplace. “Aww, thanks,” she said, crossing her right leg over her left. She was reminded of how elegant and sensual Lilly’s stockinged feet looked when she took off her shoes, and Holly’s feet looked the same, the nylons hiding her unpolished toenails. She rotated her ankle and looked at her sole, and it was a different story. The ball and heel of her foot were dark from her barefooting moments, and there were tiny pulls in her stockinged sole. A couple runs had started at her toes and another ran up her heel. She rolled her left foot over and saw her sole was equally darkened, a tiny hole worn in the back of her heel. Matt had sat down next to her on the hearth, and he was leaning closer. “Don’t look,” Holly said.

“What’s wrong?” Matt asked.

“My soles are dirty,” Holly said, rotating her dangling right foot so Matt could see. “And I have runs.”

Matt laughed. “It happens,” he said. “Imagine spending ten hours in the library on a Saturday with three girls who thought it was a good idea to wear heels to a work meeting.”

Holly reached down and rubbed her right foot. “But that’s a library,” she said. “Not the winter streets.”

“What do you think three girls’ soles look like after seven hours of running around a campus library barefoot?” Matt asked.

Holly glanced down at her foot as she curled her toes tightly. Matt nodded, and the two laughed. “At least I wore pantyhose, then,” Holly said.

“On the other hand,” Matt said, picking up one of Holly’s shoes, “the other girls were wearing heels to start…”

“I’m a Florida girl,” Holly said. “I should be wearing flip-flops right now.”

Matt reached down, took Holly’s dangling right foot and propped it on his knee, examining her ruined sole before giving her arch a gentle knead with his thumbs. “For what it’s worth,” he said, “I’m glad you’re not.”

“Me, too,” Holly said, pulling her left foot up and under her on the ottoman. She looked at Lilly’s empty black flats on the floor, and then at her stockinged foot in Matt’s lap, sighing as he pressed his thumbs deep into her sole. “Me, too.”

Posts: 27
Joined: Wed Oct 05, 2011 2:42 pm

Re: Old Series

Post by thieph »

Part 2A - Easter

Lilly Preston leaned close to the mirror as she secured a purple flower in her hair. She was usually a fan of a plastic clip or maybe barrettes, but the flower seemed like a proper accent to make a big impression. And she certainly wanted to make a big impression. The delicate lavender petals matched just perfectly with the floral print of her dress, just as she had planned. Lilly smiled.

A phone buzzed softly in the kitchen. Lilly assumed that meant that Ryan Baker was outside her apartment, waiting patiently in his handsome blue BMW. Ryan worked in accounting for one of the companies that sponsored the charity that Lilly worked for. Lilly had met Ryan at their holiday party a few months earlier, after months of working together by e-mail. There was a certain spark that evening, and the following nights had confirmed it.

Suddenly, the proudly-feminist, perpetually single Lilly had a boyfriend. And she admitted to herself that she enjoyed her new role, enjoyed the dinner dates and the dressing up and being Ryan’s arm candy at parties and social events. It felt reassuring to have companionship beyond her salsa dancing and yoga classes.

Ryan had asked Lilly to join him for Easter dinner at his family’s house. Lilly thought it sounded marvelous. And then the details started coming out. That Easter was a big family gathering for the Baker family. And that the Baker family was pretty wealthy in their own right. And that the Baker family Easter gathering was at a big estate they owned on the coast. None of it was a deception by any stretch; Lilly knew Ryan had money, but she had just assumed it was all self-earned. Lilly, by contrast, was not from money, and the thought of meeting Ryan’s wealthy parents freaked her out a little.

Hence Lilly’s desire to make a big impression.

Lilly had deliberated over the perfect Easter dress, and settled on a white dress adorned with purple and pink floral blossoms. The dress had a modest neckline and little sleeves, which she would hide with a matching lilac-purple shrug with three-quarter sleeves. A classy pearl (or faux pearl, really) bracelet on her right wrist offset the five or six Alex + Ani bracelets on her left wrist, each with a medallion for some cause or charity or value. Below Lilly’s just-above-the-knee hemline, she was wearing opaque white tights. Lilly opted for the tights because they seemed Easter-appropriate, they looked innocent and conservative, and she especially liked Ryan’s reaction when she mentioned them to him a few days before. Lilly usually treated opaque black tights as her safety net for fashion, but the white tights worked well on Lilly’s long legs, and she could see why Ryan was so intrigued.

Lilly’s phone buzzed again as she sat on the edge of her bed and slipped her feet into a pair of lavender peep-toe slingbacks. The shoes had a vintage sensibility to them, with short-for-Lilly two-and-a-half-inch heels, graceful buckled slingback straps and a rounded toe cut out at the tip to reveal Lilly’s white-stockinged toes. Lilly adjusted the slingback buckles to fit tightly around her heels, then stood up and looked in the mirror. She looked like the matured version of a girl in her Sunday best.

Lilly grabbed her purse and her phone and a light spring coat, but through her scrambling, she heard the delightful click of her own shoes and thought, what if they spent time out by the water or on the grass? Lilly dreaded the thought of walking down a grassy hill in her heels, so she fished a pair of lavender ballet flats from her closet. They were a thrift-shop find, a pair of cheap ballet flats dyed to match a bridesmaid’s dress, and they probably sold for a hundred dollars because they were “bridal” shoes. But at the thrift-store price tag, they were a perfect pair of springtime emergency shoes. Lilly tucked the flats into her purse as she rushed down to the door.

“Morning, Lilly,” Ryan said from the driver’s seat of his BMW M3 as Lilly pulled the door open.

“Morning, and Happy Easter,” Lilly said as she climbed in and slipped into the soft leather seat.

Ryan leaned over the console and kissed Lilly as she buckled in. “I was worried you changed your mind,” he said.

“I didn’t change my mind,” Lilly said. “But I wanted a change of shoes.”

Ryan looked in the footwell at Lilly’s shoes. “I like those,” he said.

“Well, yes,” Lilly said. “But walking on grass doesn’t like them.” Lilly reached down and eased her slingback straps off her heels, because she didn’t like wearing her shoes in Ryan’s car, either.

“So, you brought spare flats,” Ryan said, pulling out of the parking space in front of Lilly’s building and joining the traffic on the main road.

“I did,” Lilly said, slipping her heels off and rubbing her feet on the carpeted floormats. The carpet felt brand new, and Lilly never had to question if the floor of Ryan’s car was clean. “You never know.”

“It’s good thinking,” Ryan said, smiling. “You’re always prepared.”

“Usually,” Lilly said, folding her right leg up and tucking her foot under her left thigh. Her soft white sole peeked out from under her dress, resting against the center console. Ryan enjoyed that, too.

Ryan took his hand off the shifter and wrapped his fingers around Lilly’s foot instead, kneading with his fingertips. Lilly curled her toes. She loved when he did that.

Ryan drove one-handed, his other hand massaging Lilly’s right foot as they rode in silence. At last, Ryan asked, “Are you nervous?”

Lilly laughed, but there was no point in dancing around the matter. “Very,” she said.

“You don’t have to be worried,” Ryan said, petting Lilly’s foot with his free hand.

“Of course I do,” Lilly said. “I’m just this delightfully average girl from a modest family who dresses up so people think otherwise.”

“That’s why I love having you around,” Ryan said. “You’re a breath of fresh air.”

Ryan had said that since their first night out, when they left the Christmas party where they’d met to grab a coffee before heading home. Ryan was from a world of money and image and uptight socialites. He confessed this to Lilly, who was in her slinky, lacy party dress, black hose and a pair of ten-dollar satin slippers Ryan had given her because her feet hurt too much to wear shoes home. Lilly was, by comparison to the past women in his life, normal and unpretentious.

And Lilly felt like Ryan was far more “normal” than the world he came from, even though he certainly lived the part of the money and image. The world of privilege had been a bit of a vacation for Lilly, too. She loved the date nights where she’d wear a designer dress and tall heels that she had paid a pittance for at some thrift store, and they’d follow up a fancy dinner and a bottle of wine with some dancing. It beat the casual splitting-the-check dates Lilly had become used to.

And here they were, the rich boy and the girl who merely looked it, headed off to a fancy Easter dinner. Ryan was wearing a shirt and tie, with his blazer on a hanger in the back seat. Ryan had even followed Lilly’s suggestion that he wear a tie to match the purple in her dress. And here she sat, prim and proper except for the fact that her shoes were off, and one foot was getting a gentle massage as she rode along.

Lilly stretched out her left leg in the BMW’s footwell, pressing her toes into the carpet floormat, sort of wishing she could switch feet and get a massage for her left foot, too. Until they got to the house, this would have to do. Ryan was the first man Lilly had dated who confessed to having a foot fetish, and Lilly found herself enjoying it against her expectations. She had called Ryan out on it when they were at a play that winter. Lilly had worn her four-inch heels (cheaply but adequately repaired enough to get her through a night), and Lilly kept noticing Ryan glancing down toward her legs in the dark. “Is there something wrong with my legs?” Lilly had asked during an intermission.

“No, I’m just shocked you still find those shoes comfortable,” Ryan had replied.

“They’re not,” Lilly said. “They still kind of pinch.”

“So, take them off,” Ryan said in a near-whisper.

“Here? Now?” Lilly asked.

“No one’s going to notice,” Ryan whispered back.

They were alone in the row, and Ryan was right. So Lilly reached down and gracefully slipped her left shoe from her crossed foot, making sure to set the shoe on the floor silently. Lilly felt self-conscious, but the feeling of her tight shoe coming off was bliss, and she stretched her stockinged toes, curled them tight, then stretched and wiggled them. “Is that better?” she asked teasingly.

Ryan’s gaze was fixed on her wiggling left foot. “Yeah,” he managed.

And for the rest of the play, even in the dark, Lilly noticed Ryan straining to see her one stockinged foot. “Are you watching the play or my foot?” Lilly asked once.

“Both, sort of,” Ryan said, reaching his arm around Lilly’s shoulders.

Lilly stretched her shoeless foot toward Ryan and slipped her stockinged toes under his pantleg. She started rubbing his leg, her toes finding the top edge of his dress sock. Ryan tightened his hug, and Lilly kept her foot there for the rest of the play.

Ryan and Lilly followed the play up with a visit to a wine bar, where they occupied one side of a booth, each with a glass of wine while watching a pianist at the front of the club. After the first glass of wine, Lilly had already been talked out of her left shoe. Her feet were in Ryan’s lap, and Ryan was rubbing her shoeless left foot, while gently tugging the heel of her right pump so the shoe slid on and off her stockinged heel. Finally, Lilly had asked, “What is it about my feet?”

Ryan explained his love for feet, that he had been at least aware of his interest since grade school. Lilly listened intently, not even flinching when Ryan finally slipped Lilly’s right shoe off and set it on the table on its side. Lilly was well aware of the mechanics of attraction; she had always been a pretty girl, and she had learned how to use her wardrobe to showcase her figure and often her long legs. But despite a closet full of shoes, her feet had never even factored into that equation. She looked to Ryan’s end of the bench, where the overhead lights made her silken, stockinged feet shimmer, her blue toenails barely visible through the fabric wrapping her toes. She bent her right leg, sliding her right foot across Ryan’s lap so her toes could brush the seam above Ryan’s fly. She only barely needed to curl her toes to feel Ryan’s arousal through his dress slacks. And all it took to elicit that reaction, she thought, was wearing a pair of pantyhose and removing a pair of so-called sexy heels.

Lilly spent that night with Ryan, and she had spent the next two months adapting to her new knowledge. Mostly, it was little tweaks to her habits. Bare legs and boots gave way to hose and heels, with the boots only if it were too cold or snowy for heels to be practical. Instead of wearing her ballet flats barefoot with pants, she opted for knee-highs or cute trouser socks. When a sunny, warm spell popped up in mid-February, Lilly tried wearing some of her strappy sandals with nylons, a style that caught Ryan’s eye a few times. And when they were out on dates, Lilly had taken to playing footsie with Ryan, first nudging his foot or leg under the table, then eventually taking one of her shoes off and rubbing her foot under his pantleg.

And that was how Lilly had ended up in Ryan’s BMW with her slingbacks off under the car seat. Lilly never remembered taking her shoes off in other dates’ cars. But in Ryan’s car, she was invariably shoeless. Lilly flexed her right foot, curling her toes against the center console while Ryan tended to driving. And after Ryan was back up to cruising speed, his hand effortlessly slid from the shifter to Lilly’s waiting foot.

Lilly and Ryan chatted idly as they cruised along, crossing a bridge and tracing the shore toward the Baker family’s home. It was adequately warm for Easter Sunday, in the sense that at least it was not snowing, but it was hardly warm enough for tourists to be lining the beaches and seaside towns. At times, Lilly felt like she and Ryan were the only ones out there.

Finally, Ryan turned off the four-lane highway and onto some two-lane roads, and after winding past a winery, he slowed down for a driveway flanked by two tall stone pillars. A steel gate had been left open. “Here we are,” he said.

Lilly looked up the long driveway to see an enormous house built at the top of a crest overlooking the ocean. It was absolutely beautiful. Lilly felt all her apprehension of earlier coming back as she unfolded her right leg and felt for her slingbacks, slipping her toes into the shoes. “Wow,” she said.

“Don’t be nervous,” Ryan said. “They’re just people.”

“People with money and class,” Lilly said, reaching down to fit her slingback straps back around her heels.

“You have class,” Ryan said.

“Says the boy with the shoeless girlfriend in the car.”

“Still classy,” Ryan said, smiling and leaning over to kiss Lilly’s cheek as she adjusted her shoes, hunched forward in her seat.

Ryan parked his car, got out and walked around to the passenger side. He opened the door to find Lilly still buckling one slingback strap. “I’m ready,” Lilly said as she took Ryan’s hand and climbed out of the low-slung sports car.

Lilly’s feet landed on the gravel driveway and stones crunched under her shoes. She took a few steps and was surprised that such a fancy house had a gravel drive, though it gave the mansion more of a beach-escape feel. It also made Lilly’s steps very tentative, as she felt stones slipping under her heels and had to hold Ryan’s hand for balance. The walkway to the house was gravel laid around pieces of slate, and Lilly felt more at ease as her narrow heels landed well on the slate stones. At least Lilly’s balance felt more sure, as she still felt nervous as they approached the front door. Ryan knocked twice, then opened the door himself, stepping in first so as not to put Lilly on the spot. Lilly smiled, then stepped inside the house and pulled the door shut behind her.

The house inside was immaculate and elegant. There was the hushed commotion of activity somewhere else in the house, but the front foyer was mostly empty. Lilly heard footsteps coming in their direction, though. “Ryan? Is that you?” a woman called.

“Happy Easter, Mom,” Ryan called back, taking Lilly’s coat to hang it in the closet.

Ryan’s mother appeared from a doorway, and Lilly thought she was about as she imagined: sophisticated and classy, self-assured, but maybe a bit warmer than she had expected. She hugged her son tightly and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

“Mom, this is Lilly,” Ryan said, motioning in Lilly’s direction.

“Lilly, we’ve heard a lot about you,” Mrs. Baker said, giving Lilly a hug of her own. “We’re glad you could make it. It’s so nice to meet you.”

“Aww, thank you,” Lilly said. “I’m glad I could be here, too.”

“I like your dress,” Mrs. Baker said. “You accessorize well, too.”

Lilly blushed. “Thank you,” she repeated, still expecting to hear some criticism about how she was not quite up to the Baker family’s standards.

“Can we get you anything to drink?” Mrs. Baker asked.

“Maybe some water?” Lilly asked.

“Sure, right this way,” Mrs. Baker said.

Ryan led Lilly through the halls back to the kitchen, which overlooked the ocean and the house’s expansive backyard. A fancy patio opened out to the grass, which stretched as far as the beach and then dropped away into sand. “I’ve got this,” Ryan said, pouring two glasses of water and handing one off to Lilly.

“You’re just in time for the Easter egg hunt,” Mrs. Baker said. “All the little ones get so excited for it.”

“I can imagine,” Lilly said. “Easter used to be so exciting.” She stood next to Ryan at the island in the kitchen, as his mother stood across from them.

“We’re glad we have the kids here,” Mrs. Baker said. “Ryan’s sisters’ little girls, and the cousins bring their children too. These holidays are really for the children.”

“They really are,” Lilly said. “Though I appreciate the occasion to play dress-up, too,” she added, laughing maybe a bit nervously. She doubted her small-talk abilities when she was on the spot, and she could not remember the last time she had met a boyfriend’s parents. Even though Mrs. Baker seemed pleasant enough, she still felt nervous.

“What do you do for work?” Mrs. Baker asked.

Lilly sipped her water. “I’m a coordinator for a non-profit,” she said. “That’s how I met Ryan.”

“I told her a little of the story,” Ryan said, moving closer to Lilly and putting his hand on the small of her back.

Lilly smiled through the small talk, but as they stood in the kitchen, Lilly’s lovely lavender slingbacks were growing uncomfortable. Lilly usually bought her shoes very wisely, but with a pair of purple heels, they needed to match an outfit more than they needed to be comfortable. Such were the lavender slingbacks. The height was as comfortable to Lilly as walking barefoot, but the shoes were cut just a bit narrow for her feet, and so her toes felt cramped inside as the shoe forced them toward the peep-toe opening. The other part was her own doing; she had questioned in the car whether she left the slingback straps too loose for comfort, and so she tightened each one a notch before getting out of Ryan’s car. It only took a few steps to realize she had overtightened them, and it would be difficult to correct that without sneaking away somewhere. Classy women didn’t adjust their shoe straps while meeting a suitor’s parents.

As Ryan and his mother talked, Lilly leaned into the conversation. She raised her right leg behind her, and with her right hand, she gently nudged her slingback strap down her heel, being very careful not to snag her tights. She also did not want to nudge the strap so loose that her shoe fell off. Lilly lowered her foot, carefully setting her heel down on the tile floor, then arched her foot, feeling the strap give way just enough. Lilly clenched her toes and slipped her shoe off, planting her soft foot on the tile and spreading her stockinged toes wide against the cool floor.

After a few minutes, Lilly slipped her toes back into her pump, resting her heel atop the slingback strap. She wondered if she could successfully loosen her left shoe’s strap with her stockinged toes, and slipped her right foot free again, this time planting her stockinged toes atop the leather heel strap of her left shoe. She was trying to nudge the strap inconspicuously when Mrs. Baker stood straight up and took a few steps around the island. Lilly slipped her right foot back into her pump, glad she had not been successful.

“You know, we should go out and see the kids finish the egg hunt,” Ryan said, once again wrapping his arm around Lilly’s back and planting his hand atop her hip, as if to guide her.

Lilly looked up innocently as she reached down, raised her right leg ever so carefully, and tugged the strap back over her right heel. “Sure, I’d love that,” she said.

“So, you like children?” Mrs. Baker asked.

Lilly laughed nervously. She hated the question because it was an impossible answer, especially meeting someone’s parents. “Kids can be fun,” she said. “But I’m not in any rush to have my own family. I want to get my career in order first.” She looked up at Ryan, who had a nervous look of his own on his face. He clearly disliked where the small talk had gone.

“It’s important to have priorities,” Mrs. Baker said. “These days especially, there’s really no need to rush.”

“I’ll remember you said that, Mom,” Ryan said, laughing nervously as well.

“I mean, I do tell Ryan we’d love to have grandkids,” Mrs. Baker said, opening one door to the stone patio outside. “But first things first, naturally. Plus, we already have a couple grandkids running around.”

Lilly stepped out onto the patio with Ryan and his mother, her heels clicking on the patio blocks as she left the house behind. The true beauty of the scene was only partly visible from inside the house. The patio stretched most of the length of the house, with a gated inground swimming pool set off to one side, not yet open for the summer. The patio opened onto a spacious lawn, showing hints of green despite the early Easter and the cold winter in the rear-view mirror. Just beyond the lawn, a sandy drop-off led to a beach along the ocean. The sea breeze was cool, but the sun felt warm and inviting on Lilly’s forearms. Above the patio, on a porch on the second floor, Lilly saw a couple men smoking cigars and motioning out toward the water. She guessed they were Ryan’s father and brother-in-law.

The patio was not vacant, either; there were a couple women sitting down at one end, and a few kids milling about. “I think Lilly needs to sit down for a few,” Ryan said, steering Lilly toward one of the tables. Mrs. Baker took a seat on one side of the round table, and Ryan sat next to her, so Lilly took the other seat to Ryan’s right.

“I like seeing Ryan so protective,” Mrs. Baker said, laughing. She then motioned to the adjacent table, where two women were sitting. “That,” she said, gesturing to the closer woman in a blue dress, “is Ryan’s sister Mary. And that,” she continued, gesturing to the other woman wearing a black-and-tan dress, “is their cousin Emily.”

Lilly nodded. Mary, in the blue dress, looked a little older than Ryan, with the same classy air of their mother. Emily was a few years younger, and very pretty, prettier than Mary even. Lilly loved the dress she was wearing, and thought she had tried it before, hoping to find it again one day on clearance. Emily appeared to be bare-legged, though, wearing a pair of black pumps with ankle straps and four-inch heels. Mary was wearing sheer nylons and blue pumps that matched her dress. Lilly was conflicted; suddenly, in her cardigan and white tights, she felt years younger than them.

All of a sudden, three little girls rushed up to Mary and Emily, each dressed in some form of Sunday best, carrying little Easter baskets. Lilly looked over as the two mothers plucked a few Easter eggs from each basket, then preened their little girls, adjusting headbands and sweater sleeves and dress hems.

“How did you do, girls?” Mrs. Baker asked from her tables.

Suddenly, the frenzy of girls had surrounded the table where Ryan and Lilly were seated. Not only did Mrs. Baker have the full attention of her granddaughters and great-niece, she also had her own daughter and niece making introductions. “Mary, Emily, this is Lilly,” Mrs. Baker said, gesturing across the table. Lilly smiled and introduced herself, shaking hands with Mary and Emily. In turn, Mary and Emily introduced their daughters.

Mary’s daughter Marisa was especially excited to meet Lilly. “Miss Lilly, you have purple shoes,” she said, as if it were a tremendous discovery.

Lilly laughed. “Yes, I do,” she said. She did like how little kids were fascinated by the simplest things. “I like your shiny white shoes, though.” Marisa blushed.

“Do you want to come egg-hunting with us?” one of the girls asked Emily.

“That’s okay,” Emily said. “Aunt Mary and I can’t really walk in the grass in these shoes anyway.” She motioned to her black heels, which Lilly recognized had glossy cherry-red soles.

“What about Miss Lilly?” Marisa asked.

“She’s wearing heels too,” Mary said.

“Well, actually,” Lilly said, reaching for her purse. She took out her pair of backup flats and set the two simple lavender shoes on the patio in front of her. The little shoes were styled like ballet slippers, with some decorative stitching to give the flats definition and two little string bows atop the toes. “I did bring spare shoes.”

The girls surrounded Lilly with their Easter baskets as Lilly reached down to unbuckle her slingback straps. She felt bad that the girls couldn’t convince their mothers to come out on the lawn with them. But this was also an easy way to impress Mrs. Baker, and a perfect way to get out of her uncomfortable pumps. Lilly slipped her right foot out of her slingback and into one of the flats, and then did the same with her left, tucking the shoes back under her chair. Lilly got to her feet and said, “Ready to go, girls?”

Lilly was instantly grateful that she had brought the little flats along as the girls led her to the lawn. She missed the sexy clicking of her heels against the patio, but the backs of her heels were sore from the tight straps of the slingbacks, and as the group of girls reached the lawn, Lilly knew she would have plunged into the earth on her first step. She had had enough bad experiences walking in tall heels on grass to know it was a bad idea.

The three girls were wearing shiny and pretty dress flats, but they could have been wearing sneakers the way they attacked the lawn and the garden paths, targeting the parts of the landscaping where they had not yet looked for Easter eggs. One of Mary’s daughters and Emily’s daughter were the same age, so they teamed up ahead, peeking under hostas and looking along the shards of slate laid into the earth. Mary’s daughter Marisa, the older daughter, lagged back with Lilly.

As the egg hunt went on, Lilly found herself less and less enchanted with her thrift-store flats. She was wearing boots the day she found them, and there was no way she was taking her boots off in a Goodwill to try on a pair of cheap flats in her size. The flats were adorable. But they were narrow, and they squeezed Lilly’s toes uncomfortably. The soles were stiff, too, and every time she bent down to talk to the girls, her heels would pop out of the flats. Admittedly, Lilly was breaking them in, as she was pretty sure they had been barely worn before finding their way to the store. But she was quite happy that she had not been the one to buy them at full price.

At last, the girls had found their fill of plastic-shelled Easter eggs, and they came over to Lilly to show her their Easter baskets. Lilly once again crouched down, balancing on her toes so she could be at the younger girls’ level. She felt her heels slip from the flats and heard the shoes slap the slate stone below her. At last, Lilly stood up and followed the girls back to the patio. Marisa lingered back with Lilly as the two younger girls raced ahead. “Your shoes keep falling off,” she said.

“I know,” Lilly said, wishing they would fall off for good. “They’re not very comfortable.”

“Mine either,” Marisa said. “Is that why they make little straps on them like your other shoes had?”

“Pretty much,” Lilly said. “To reinforce good habits.”

“So we don’t take off our shoes everywhere?”

“I guess so,” Lilly said.

“So why do big girls take their shoes off all the time?” Marisa asked.

It was a kid’s question, but as Lilly thought back a few months, and as she thought to the uncomfortable shoes on her feet at the present, it was an interesting question. “Because sometimes, it’s just better,” she finally said, smiling as they reached the patio.

As the girls showed off their finds to their parents, Lilly circled around the table she had been sitting at, coming up behind Ryan’s chair. She was going to playfully give him a hug but realized she did not want to seem too forward in front of Ryan’s mother. Instead, she leaned down with her hands on the back of Ryan’s chair. “Hi,” she said, smiling.

“Hey, Lilly,” Ryan said, looking up from his seat. “How did that go?”

“It was fun,” Lilly said. “My feet hurt, though.”

“Take your shoes off,” Ryan said, joking.

Lilly had already slipped her right flat off, resting her foot atop the leather so she did not have to stand on the patio. “I already did,” she said.

“I wish I could see,” Ryan said. “You’re cruel.”

“Did your mom say anything?” Lilly asked.

“She likes you,” Ryan said. “She thinks you’re classy, and good with the girls.”

“I should probably put my shoe back on, then.”

“She was very impressed you came prepared, by the way,” Ryan added.

“Prepared?” Lilly asked.

“Your spare shoes,” Mrs. Baker said as she returned to her chair. “You could see how excited the girls got when you could go on the lawn with them.”

“Well, I figured my heels wouldn’t work so well if we were out on the lawn,” Lilly said. She slipped her right shoe back on, hoping Mrs. Baker hadn’t seen her exposed stockinged foot.

“She’s very practical,” Mrs. Baker said as if speaking privately to Ryan.

Marisa suddenly appeared by Lilly’s side. “Miss Lilly,” she asked, “can I show you around the house?”

Mrs. Baker was nodding in the background, so Lilly said, “Sure, I’d like that.” She leaned back down to Ryan and whispered, “I’ll be back in a few.”

Lilly followed Marisa across the patio to one of the many sliding doors inside. Marisa chose a door to the living room, and Lilly helped her slide the heavy door open and closed again as they stepped inside. Lilly felt her steps sink a bit into the plush carpet as she surveyed the room. Like everything else she had seen so far, it was immaculate, everything shined and polished and clean as if no one had ever actually lived in there. The furniture was ivory leather, the carpets were almost white. Lilly felt like she and Marisa, in their white-and-purple ensembles, were the room’s sole pop of color.

The white carpets gave Lilly a moment of pause. She lifted one leg, noticing a few blades of grass on the heel of her flat. “I’m going to take my shoes off,” Lilly said, stepping out of her flats and into the carpet. As each foot landed in the carpet, she felt her toes and heels dig into the plush floor. It was soothing, relieving, and at the same time a bit revealing. Lilly realized that six months ago, she never would have taken her shoes off in this situation. She decided that six months ago, she had no idea what she was missing.

Marisa watched intently as Lilly wiggled her white-stockinged toes against the carpet. “Do your feet hurt?” she asked. Marisa was young but perceptive.

“A little bit,” Lilly said. “These aren’t very comfortable shoes.”

“They’re cute, though,” Marisa said.

“Exactly,” Lilly said. “Comfy is important but cute is even more important. But sometimes cute hurts.”

Marisa led the shoeless Lilly up the carpeted stairs and showed her the expansive mansion. With every exquisitely furnished room, Lilly felt smaller and smaller. Ryan had admitted, grudgingly, that his family had money. “I don’t like to tell women at first,” he had explained. ”Then they’re just interested in hanging around for the money.” But he had never suggested that they had the money to buy a small country. Marisa, on the other hand, had grown up in the lap of luxury, so she never flinched as she pointed out each extravagance casually.

But if the mansion was extravagant, it was also comfortable, especially as Lilly walked about shoeless. She was accustomed to walking around her apartment or her office sans shoes, but the mansion’s carpeted floors were so luxurious and so seemingly untouched by comparison. Each step was a gentle massage on Lilly’s soles. When they stopped to look at a room, Lilly would knead her toes against the carpet, or brush her soles lightly against the floor, the fibers tickling her feet. She felt a bit spoiled.

“Are you going to marry Ryan?” Marisa asked as she led Lilly down another hall to a sunny sitting room overlooking the ocean.

Lilly laughed. “I don’t know,” she said. “We haven’t been dating very long.”

“You’re the nicest girl he’s ever brought here,” Marisa said.

“Aww, thank you,” Lilly said.

“And you wear purple shoes,” Marisa added.

“Not right now,” Lilly said.

“Ryan’s other girlfriends never took their shoes off,” Marisa said.

“No?” Lilly asked as the girls entered the sitting room. There were two lounge chairs illuminated by the sunlight shining into the room. Marisa sat on the edge of one, her feet barely touching the carpeted floor. Lilly sat in the other, feeling herself sink into the plush chair as she swung her long, white-stockinged legs onto the chair. The warmth of the sun radiated on her pretty white legs and feet, and she wiggled her toes.

“Nope,” Marisa said. “Except for Marla. She was super nice, and she never wore shoes here. Ryan really liked her.”

Lilly looked down the lounge chair at her shoeless white feet, her toes curling in the sunlight. She had a feeling she understood why Ryan liked Marla so much. Lilly had remembered to bring her purse, so she reached down, fished out her phone, and snapped a picture of her white-stockinged feet wiggling in the sunlight. She smiled as she texted the photo to Ryan, hoping he would be alone when he saw his phone. Then she considered Marisa and hoped the inquisitive girl did not ask what she was up to…or mention it later.

“Do your feet still hurt?” Marisa asked.

Lilly curled her warm toes. “Not really,” she said. “But I don’t really want to put my shoes back on when we go downstairs.”

Marisa nodded understandingly.

Lilly heard footsteps coming upstairs, muffled by the carpet. “Lilly?” Ryan’s voice called from the hall.

“We’re in the sunroom,” Lilly called back.

It was barely ten seconds before Ryan appeared in the doorway to the sunroom. “Hi, honey,” he said, smiling.

“Did you get my text?” Lilly asked.

“I did,” Ryan said. “Some of the cousins are just pulling in so we’re going to get together downstairs in a few.”

“Should I come down?” Lilly asked, sliding her right foot off the lounge chair so she could stand up.

“We have a few minutes,” Ryan said, walking over and kissing Lilly’s forehead. He sat down at the foot of the lounge chair. Lilly raised her left foot and Ryan scooted over on the lounge chair so her foot was resting in his lap. Lilly raised her right leg and slid her right foot into Ryan’s waiting lap as well. She had barely landed her heel on Ryan’s thigh before he had his hands on her soft feet, kneading them gently.

“Thank you for keeping Lilly company,” Ryan said to Marisa, who looked on with interest as he rubbed Lilly’s feet.

“You’re welcome, Uncle Ryan,” Marisa said. “She’s really nice.”

Ryan laughed. “I know,” he said.

Lilly loved that Ryan was rubbing her feet, but Marisa’s intent observation left her slightly unsettled. “How did you know Lilly’s feet hurt?” Marisa finally asked.

“Because her shoes are off,” Ryan said. “If I rub her feet enough, she can put her shoes on again. But Lilly doesn’t want to tell everyone, so that’s a secret for the three of us. Right?”

Marisa nodded solemnly. She was clearly mature for her age, but she was still prone to a child’s imagination, Lilly thought.

“Good,” Ryan said. “We’ll be right down if you want to head downstairs. I think some of the cousins just got here.”

“Okay,” Marisa said, nodding. She got up and bolted downstairs.

Lilly looked at Ryan, who was smiling as he rubbed her feet. “She’s very smart, but super trusting,” Ryan said. “And she likes you.”

“She’s a sweetheart,” Lilly said. “But right now, you’re mine.”

Ryan smiled as he took Lilly’s right foot in his two hands. He lined his fingers up on Lilly’s sole, with the heels of his hands on the sides of her feet, and he rolled his hands down while pressing his fingers into Lilly’s soles. Lilly called it “folding” her feet, and she loved it. He repeated the folding motion a few times before switching feet and folding her left foot. Lilly leaned in and kissed Ryan without a word.

Lilly leaned back into the lounge chair, her feet still on Ryan’s lap. She rubbed her left foot against Ryan’s slacks, and she could feel his arousal. Ryan blushed, and Lilly smiled, wiggling her toes against his crotch. “I should wear white tights more often,” she whispered.

“Yeah, you should,” Ryan said. “How are your feet?”

“Happy,” Lilly said. “Do you need a moment?”

“Yeah,” Ryan said. Lilly sat up and swung her feet to the floor, cuddling next to Ryan. She dug her toes into the carpet.

“There had better be an encore,” Ryan added, looking down as Lilly wiggled her stockinged toes.

“Well, of course,” Lilly said, smiling. She wanted the encore to be right now if their absence at the party would not go unnoticed. Instead she would wait until they got home. Or maybe to Ryan’s apartment. She remembered the first time he had taken her there. It had started with his hands working inside her peacoat, exploring her curves atop her short sweaterdress. Lilly had reflexively shed her pumps the way a snake sheds its skin, and when the elevator door opened the two awkwardly made their way to Ryan’s apartment door. Once inside, their coats fell to the floor and…Lilly smiled at the recollection. The only bad part was that no one found her shoes in the elevator, and the next morning, she had to pad home in the slippers Ryan gave her, conveniently hiding in her purse for such emergencies.

Ryan apparently had the same thoughts in mind as he stood up. “We should go see the family,” he said. “Are you ready?”

Lilly nodded, standing up and following Ryan back into the main hallway.

As the two made their way down the stairway back into the living room, Lilly asked, “Ryan, where are my heels?”

Ryan stopped in his tracks. “Um…they’re on the patio,” he said. “I forgot to bring them in. Where are your flats?”

“Behind the couch,” Lilly said.

They took two more steps down, and both Lilly and Ryan saw there would be no discreetly finding a pair of shoes for Lilly. The family had started to filter into the living room, and a few had already noticed both Ryan and Lilly coming down the stairs. Lilly sighed. “Oh, well,” she said, following Ryan into the living room.

As Ryan exchanged hugs and handshakes with some uncles and aunts, Lilly stood quietly alongside, waiting for her introduction. She just hoped that, in the crowd, no one would think to look down. And for the first few “and this is Lilly” introductions, she was fortunate. But as the family got more and more spread through the room, Lilly worried that people would be inclined to look down. And sure enough, as she shook an aunt’s hand, the aunt glanced down. “You’re quite tall, and dear, you’re not wearing shoes,” she said critically.

“We were out on the lawn earlier, for an egg hunt, with the nieces,” Lilly said. “And when we came in, I didn’t want to track any grass on the carpet.”

“That’s smart of you,” the aunt said, seeming to approve of Lilly’s excuse, before moving on. Lilly was relieved. She had an excuse she could fall back on. And a few times, she did.

But as Lilly followed Ryan around the room, the only girl in her stockinged feet, she still felt a bit awkward. At the holiday party, she was trying not to get caught playing with her shoes, and no one had caught her until the very end. Now, she was entirely shoeless, and people kept glancing down, hoping to judge her by her heels, and instead judging her by her adorable but improperly shoeless stockinged feet. But on the bright side, Lilly was comfortable, as the carpeted floors were soft underfoot. She imagined the other women, mostly in designer heels that cost more than Lilly’s entire ensemble, would regret their shoes by the time lunch was served.

Some of the family took seats on the sofas, and Ryan did the same, leading Lilly to a spot on a white leather couch. Lilly sat down and, figuring she had been exposed by now, crossed one leg over the other, arching her foot for an invisible high heel.

“I just realized,” Mrs. Baker said, sitting next to Lilly, “that you’re not wearing shoes, Lilly.”

“Well, I didn’t want to risk tracking any grass or dirt on the carpet,” Lilly said. “So I left my flats at the door.”

“Ryan has found a practical one,” Mrs. Baker said, giving Lilly a hug with one arm. “That’s what we have a maid for.” The rest of the room laughed.

While the family members caught up, Lilly listened in, leaning into Ryan a bit, rubbing her foot up and down her leg. She knew Ryan was watching, and as her eyes scanned the room, she could see some of the men glancing in her direction every now and then. It felt like the holiday party all over again, only with a bigger audience. Ryan’s sister Mary had joined the group, and as she stood by the couch, she eyed Lilly’s legs jealously, shifting her weight from side to side. Cousin Emily did the same, stretching her legs to keep her feet from going numb in her towering shoes. None of the Baker women looked comfortable in the least. Lilly felt uncomfortable being shoeless, but her feet certainly felt comfortable. She wondered why no one else dared take their shoes off.

At last, some of the family started getting up and wandering toward the dining room. Mrs. Baker got up to go check on the food, leaving Ryan alone with Lilly on their couch. “Could you do me a favor?” Lilly asked Ryan.

“Sure, Lil,” Ryan said.

“Could you go get my slingbacks from the patio outside?” Lilly asked.

“Sure,” Ryan said. He got up and headed straight for the sliding door to the patio.

Lilly uncrossed her legs and stretched them out, pointing her toes in and heels out as she rubbed her soles into the carpet. As she stretched, one of Ryan’s cousins glanced over. She was maybe a few years younger than Lilly, with reddish hair and a bright smile. “That is a really cute outfit,” she said.

“Thanks,” Lilly said. The cousin was wearing a pink-and-green Lilly Pulitzer dress, and she was either wearing shiny nude hose or she was an heiress to a lotion magnate. She looked cute in her own right, and she had probably even paid retail for the Lilly dress. “I like your dress too.”

“I like the white tights,” Ryan’s cousin said. “It’s kind of daring but you make it work well. I don’t think I’m that brave.”

Lilly was flattered. “Aww, thanks,” she said, looking down at her legs. It was a simple fashion choice, really. She wondered why more women didn’t give it a try. “Are those nylons?”

Ryan’s cousin nodded. “Wolfords,” she said, slipping off one of her glossy tan pumps and wiggling her stockinged toes. “They’re so worth the splurge.”

Lilly’s tights came from Kohl’s, but she knew of Wolfords. She could never imagine spending that kind of money on nylons. “They have a nice shimmer,” she said.

“I like the tights though,” Ryan’s cousin said. “It’s very youthful.”

“It looks more grown-up when I have my shoes on,” Lilly said, laughing as she stood up.

“You really want these?” Ryan asked, setting Lilly’s slingbacks in front of her on the floor.

“No, but I should try and be a big girl,” Lilly said, laughing as she slipped her right foot into one empty slingback.

“Oh, of course you’d have matching shoes,” the cousin said. “Those are so cute. Where’d you get them?”

Lilly slipped the other shoe on and sat down so she could buckle her heel straps. “I actually found them at a secondhand store,” she said. “There’s this little shop downtown that’s all vintage stuff and designer stuff that’s traded in. It’s the only way I could afford some outfits.” She buckled her first strap, leaving it looser than she had buckled them in the car.

The cousin slipped her shoe back on. “I’m Erin, by the way,” she said, finally introducing herself. “And this is Brady.”

“And I’m Lilly,” Lilly said as she buckled her left heel strap. She stood up and arched her feet, feeling her heels barely rub the heel straps of her shoes. Maybe she had left them too loose this time. She could fix that later, she rationalized as she and Erin and their dates walked to the dining room.

As Lilly walked, she wished she had stayed in her tights after all. The dining room was as plushily carpeted as the living room, and with her slingback straps so loose, the shoes were difficult to walk in. She did like that Ryan had put his hand around her waist to sort of guide her, and she felt ladylike and elegant despite her loose-fitting pumps making each step slightly treacherous. Ryan selected two chairs and pulled one out for Lilly, who gracefully sat down next to Erin. Ryan sat in the seat next to hers. Lilly slid her feet back toward her chair, her stockinged soles gliding on the smooth insoles of her slingbacks, the slingback straps helplessly brushing her stockinged heels. Despite the commotion and the hum of chatter in the dining room, Lilly heard the distinct sound of nylon heels popping free from shoes not far away. She glanced over at Erin in the next chair.

Erin was sipping a glass of water and glanced over at Lilly. “Oh, hi, Lilly,” she said, having not noticed Ryan and Lilly taking the seats next to her. Lowering her voice, Erin asked, “Did you take your shoes off?”

“Mostly,” Lilly said in an equally low voice, her toes playing with her slingback straps.

“Me too,” Erin said, looking under the table. Lilly looked to see Erin stretching her legs out in front of her, wiggling her nude-hosed toes.

“I brought a pair of flats, but I was in the grass with them earlier,” Lilly explained. “So I didn’t want to wear them in here.”

“Brady yelled at me after church,” Erin said. “Mass ran wicked long and we were standing the whole first half, and so I took my shoes off and got communion in my stocking feet. Brady was so embarrassed.”

“Heels are not made for standing around,” Lilly said. “Ryan and I went to a function two weeks ago, and after an hour I had to take my shoes off and just stand there for the last half. My toes were so sore.”

“My toes still hurt from church,” Erin said.

“Mine feel good now,” Lilly said, as she rubbed her feet into the carpet.

Erin was about to say something, but Brady and Ryan both leaned in with a silencing finger as Ryan’s father raised a glass to kick off dinner.

After a toast and a prayer, Erin and Lilly continued to chat through Easter dinner. Lilly was just pleased she had someone besides Ryan to talk to. While they talked, Lilly occasionally nudged her shoes around with a stockinged foot, or reached over and rubbed her toes on Ryan’s pantleg. She wished Ryan would take his shoes off and play footsie with her, but it would be an awkward game at best. Besides, Ryan never took his shoes off in public, and Lilly sort of liked that, especially as she became more prone to playing with her shoes. One of them had to be the proper one, after all. She wondered if Erin and Brady had the same chemistry.

Dinner wrapped up, and some of the family ventured back outside, while others mingled around the table and some stayed seated finishing conversations. Ryan left to use the bathroom. Lilly stayed at the table partly because she had nowhere else to go, and partly because she didn’t want to put her shoes back on. She had stretched her long legs out, exploring the frame under the table, exploring the carpet, making sure she hadn’t lost track of her pretty purple slingbacks. She looked over at Erin, who was slumped down in her own chair, playing on her cell phone. Lilly looked under Erin’s chair and her shiny tan pumps were still empty under her chair. Brady suddenly returned and slid his chair out from under the table so he could sit down. “What do you want to do?” he asked Erin.

“I don’t know,” Erin said as her fingertips flicked at her phone.

“Did you put your shoes back on yet?” Brady asked.

“No,” Erin said sheepishly.

“Me either,” Lilly said, coming to Erin’s defense.

Brady glanced under the table. “What is it with you girls and shoes?” he asked, laughing.

“You try wearing three-inch heels all day,” Erin said.

“But you’re going barefoot in public,” Brady countered.

“We’re wearing nylons,” Lilly said.

“Socks aren’t any better,” Brady argued.

“All the best shoes are just made to look cute,” Erin said. “They’re not made to be comfortable in the least.”

“And that’s why they make our shoes easy to take off,” Lilly added, dragging her slingbacks out from under the table. If she were going to wear them again, she had to adjust the heel straps first.

“Ryan, you’ve gotta back me up on this,” Brady said, half laughing as Ryan returned to the table.

“Why don’t we take this upstairs?” Ryan asked. “It beats the dinner table.”

“To the sunroom?” Erin asked. Lilly saw she was also reaching under the table.

“Yes, the sunroom,” Ryan said.

Neither Erin nor Lilly bothered to put their shoes on before heading upstairs. In the sunroom, Lilly took one lounge chair while Erin took the other. Ryan and Brady took chairs across the room, but Lilly noticed that Ryan opted for the chair with the better view of her feet. Lilly rubbed her feet together and smiled at Ryan as he and Brady chatted.

Erin sat on her lounge chair and contemplated putting her shoes on, but finally swung her legs up onto the chair. “We need to head out soon, but I’m tired of these shoes,” Erin confessed, rubbing her soles against the chair.

“I might wait until I can get my flats back,” Lilly said. She stretched the toes of her right foot against her left heel, as if she were trying to pry off an invisible slipper.

“I can’t get over your tights,” Erin said. “I really need to get some.”

“I sometimes wear them with these white lace flats,” Lilly said. “Or crochet flats. But Ryan likes when I wear them with a Mary Jane heel.” She kept prying at her heel with her right toes. The sun was baking her feet, and she loved the warmth. “Ryan just loves them.”

“Brady’s indifferent,” Erin said, rubbing her toes against the arch of her right foot. “But I always figured Ryan was a foot guy.”

“How did you know?” Lilly asked. She crossed her ankles and rubbed her crossed right ankle against her left.
Posts: 27
Joined: Wed Oct 05, 2011 2:42 pm

Re: Old Series

Post by thieph »

Part 2B – Easter Continued

“We were at a family wedding,” Erin said, thinking back.

* * *

It was a family wedding, and an early fall wedding. Erin had had to make a special trip home from college for the ceremony. She had remembered her new dress, but in her rush to pack after class, she had left her best pair of pumps at school, a few hours away.

Fortunately for Erin, she still had a lot of her wardrobe at her parents’ home, and she was able to find a pair of stunning silver heels in her closet. They were the same pumps she had worn to her high school prom, but she had not worn them in three years, and they were far less comfortable now than Erin remembered them being then. Combined with the fact that Erin mostly wore comfy, flat shoes around campus, it made for a very long day.

By the reception, Erin’s feet were killing her. Her shoes were pinching her toes, the heels were uncomfortably high, the seams of her nylons kept sliding under her toes, and the reception hall was stifling hot, so her feet were sweating in her shoes. Erin had wanted to take her shoes off at dinner, but imagined she would never get them back on her feet for dancing afterward. As she walked back to her table with a cocktail in hand, she thought now might be the time. There were stray shoes left under every table already. No one would notice.

Erin sipped her drink as she leaned against her chair, arching her right foot to pop her heel from her shoe. A couple tables over, she noticed one of her cousins, Ryan Baker, standing by a table with a beer in hand, chatting with someone still sitting at the table. Ryan and Erin were not terribly close. She tried to remember who his parents were; technically, they were second cousins or something in that ballpark. He had graduated college four or five years ago, making him something like 26 or 27. They had probably talked one or two times at a family gathering, if that.

But he was glancing in her table’s direction now.

Erin waved and smiled as Ryan nodded back, acknowledging her. He was still in conversation at the other table, so she eased into a chair, crossing her right leg over her left. Sitting down was an improvement, so Erin took another sip of her drink and watched her family out on the dance floor. Every so often, she glanced across the room at Ryan’s table, where he was still in conversation, but glancing back in Erin’s direction all the same. Erin looked down and realized she had let her heel slip from the shoe completely, dangling the silver pump from her toes. She reached down and rubbed the exposed arch of her foot.

A few minutes later, Erin was still rubbing her arch when she heard someone approaching the table. She sat up and pulled her right shoe back on as she looked over to see Ryan closing in. “Hey, Erin, “Ryan said, still holding a beer in one hand.

“Hi, Ryan, “Erin said. Ryan may have been Erin’s cousin, but she had to admit he was handsome, tall and clean-shaven and well-dressed in a dark suit and coordinating shirt and tie. “I don’t think I’ve seen you since Clara’s wedding. “Their cousin Clara had gotten married two years before. It had been a while.

“That’s probably about right, “Ryan said, sitting down in an empty chair and setting his beer bottle down on the table. “I think you were just finishing your freshman year.”

Erin nodded as she took another sip of her drink.

“How is that going, anyway?” Ryan asked. “You’re a senior this year, right?”

“Yeah,” Erin said. “It’s actually going really well. I did an internship this summer, so that was really good.”

Erin noticed that Ryan kept his gaze cast downward as they spoke. Erin tried to see what he was looking at, but the only thing in his line of sight was her bouncing right foot, her shoe once again dangling from her toes. Finally, Erin asked, “Is something wrong with my shoe?”

Ryan’s gaze snapped upward. “Oh, no,” he said, almost stammering. “I was just thinking, my last girlfriend had a pair of those. I was trying to think where she got them.”

“Oh, I’ve had these for years,” Erin said, reaching down and taking her dangling shoe off to check the insole. “Honestly, I think these came from Walmart. I wore these to my high school prom.”

“And they’re still comfortable?” Ryan asked.

Erin laughed. “I don’t think I’ve worn them since,” she said. “They’re terrible. I had to sit down because my feet are killing me.” She cradled the empty shoe in her hands, then went to slide it back on her foot.

“Well, don’t put a painful shoe back on,” Ryan said. “Take them off.”

“You’re right,” Erin said, setting the silver pump on the floor. She uncrossed her legs, using her right toes to push her left shoe off her heel, then slipped her foot from the shoe altogether. “Ooh,” she said as she recrossed her legs, folding her left foot under her chair with her toes touching the carpet. “That is better.”

“Why do you think there are so many shoes under the tables?” Ryan asked.

“Yeah, good point,” Erin said. She curled her toes and stretched her feet, the hot inside air feeling cool against the moisture of her soles. She wished she had taken the shoes off hours ago.

Erin and Ryan talked a while longer, returning to the bar for new drinks and even walking around the reception hall. They caught up on Erin’s internship adventures, Ryan’s new job in the city, and all the family gossip each of them had heard that the other had not. Erin had felt a bit detached from the family through college, and it was oddly comforting to know that one of her cousins felt the same way.

As they returned to Erin’s table, Ryan said, “It’s a shame we don’t keep in touch better. What’s your cell number?”

Erin gave Ryan her number as she found her own phone tucked into her tiny purse. “We should definitely try and catch up more often,” she said as she programmed Ryan’s number into her own phone.

“I’m going to go roam the tables again,” Ryan said. “I’ll catch up soon.”

Erin settled back into her chair, where one of her high heels remained upright next to the chair, and the other lay on its side. She propped her feet up on the rung of the chair Ryan had been sitting in, and she watched her family dancing. Erin was an introvert, and she enjoyed the people-watching as much as others preferred participating. Every so often, Ryan would glance back in her direction, smiling if they met eyes. Erin was amused. If anything, it took her mind off her sore feet.

The wedding came and went, and on Monday, Erin was back to the normal college routine, the wedding weekend just another weekend away. Despite the phone-number exchange, Erin had not heard anything from Ryan, though even if she had, it wasn’t as if she had the time to do much about it. At best, maybe they could catch up over her Christmas break.

And then, one Thursday afternoon as Erin wrapped up her classes, her phone buzzed in her purse. She found the phone and saw Ryan’s name flash across the screen. She flipped open the phone anxiously. “Hello?” she said with a lift in her voice, even though she knew who was on the other end.

“Hey, Erin, it’s Ryan,” Ryan said. “What’s going on?”

“Just got out of class for the day,” Erin said. “What about you? Isn’t it work time?”

“Sort of,” Ryan said. “I’m on my way to a conference tomorrow, but I’m passing by your school in like an hour. Want to grab some dinner?”

Apparently Ryan had been sincere in his hopes to keep in touch. “Sure,” Erin said. “Where did you want to meet?”

“Campus is fine,” Ryan said. “Maybe you can show me around.”

“Sure,” Erin said. “Do you know how to get here?”

“I have my GPS,” Ryan said.

Erin gave Ryan the address for the main campus. “There’s a sign for parking,” she added. “Just give me a call when you park and I’ll come meet you.”

“Okay, sounds good,” Ryan said. “Bye.”

“Bye,” Erin said, flipping her phone closed.

Erin felt excited as she walked back to her dorm. She rarely got visitors on campus, and it would be nice to see Ryan again. At the dorm room, she kicked off her worn-out black flats and decided to upgrade her drab college-student outfit. She was wearing a pair of jeans and a college t-shirt, so she swapped the t-shirt for a white long-sleeved top, layering a blue cardigan over it. She hurriedly brushed her hair, then applied new lip gloss and freshened the little makeup she usually wore.

As Erin opened her closet to find a better pair of shoes, she wondered why she was preening so, especially given she was only meeting a family member. But of course she was preening, she told herself. Ryan was a college graduate. The last thing Erin wanted was for him to look at her like she was a lazy college student, dressed in a sweatshirt and leggings or pajamas like half her classmates in an early-morning lecture. Erin was not above wearing pajamas to a lecture if it meant sleeping in another half-hour, but she did not need to broadcast that.

And Erin finally found the shoes that seemed to fit her current outfit best, a pair of dress loafers with silver buckles across the front and a modest inch-and-a-half-high heel, far removed from her abused black flats. Erin slipped into the loafers and felt a little more confident about herself, no matter who awaited downstairs.

Erin’s phone buzzed a few minutes later, and she flipped it open as she pulled on her charcoal hooded peacoat. “Hi, Ryan,” she said.

“I just parked,” Ryan said. “So where do I find you?”

Erin rushed downstairs and walked briskly to the parking lots, where she saw Ryan walking over from the far end of a lot to the walkway. Erin waved, and Ryan waved back. At last, the two met on the walkway, with Ryan leaning down to give Erin a hug. “This is a gorgeous little campus,” he said.

“Imagine what it’s like in spring,” Erin said. “Or in the daylight.”

The two cousins caught up with conversation as Erin showed Ryan around her college campus, pointing out the academic buildings, the athletic fields, the campus theater. Erin enjoyed playing tour guide, and Ryan was quick with comparisons to his own college. The two stopped for a coffee on their walk to keep warm, before winding up at the student union building’s sub shop for dinner. They took their dinner on the road, Erin finding more facets of campus to show off to Ryan under the lights.

As they found a trash can for their sandwich wrappers and napkins, Erin asked, “Where is your big conference?”

“Stamford,” Ryan said. “I have a hotel room down there.”

“Ooh, OK,” Erin said, nodding. “That’s not too far.”

“No, about another hour,” Ryan said.

“I just didn’t want to keep you too late,” Erin said.

“No worries,” Ryan said, smiling. “Though is there a bathroom nearby?”

“We can just head up to my dorm,” Erin said. “That’s probably the easiest.”

Erin and Ryan headed up to Erin’s dorm room. Erin unlocked the door and stepped into the suite. She and four other girls had private bedrooms that opened into a shared living room, kitchen and bathroom. Ryan ducked into the bathroom while Erin tidied up some clutter on the coffee table. She sort of hoped the tour was coming to an end; as much as she enjoyed it, her loafers were not the right shoes for the adventure, and her toes had been sore for a while.

Ryan emerged from the bathroom as Erin set some mail down on the table. “So, which one’s your room?” he asked.

Erin motioned to the door closest to the kitchen. “That’s mine,” she said. “Room three. Want to see?”

“Sure,” Ryan said, walking over. “I feel like I’m in the inner sanctum.”

“It’s just a dorm room,” Erin said, laughing as she unlocked her door. “Just probably smells prettier than a guy’s room.”

Erin swung the door open and Ryan stepped in. Erin momentarily wondered if she had left anything in plain sight that should not be, but she was always cautious about that anyway. Not that there was much room in the tiny bedroom for clutter to gather.

“It’s small,” Ryan said after a pause. “Kind of tiny.”

“Perfect for me,” Erin said, leaning against the doorframe. She popped her right heel from her shoe, but it did little to relieve her cramping toes.

The tour was indeed over, but Ryan had some family gossip to share, tidbits from the wedding that Erin had not heard. As he told the stories, Erin stood in the doorway of her room, struggling with her sore feet. She thought about just taking her shoes off, but felt awkward about doing so. Instead, she reverted to her usual habit, balancing on her left foot while she slipped the right foot from her shoe, wiggled her toes, and slipped her shoe back on. Her sheer nylon socks made the shoes slide off and on easily, and the cooler air was relieving on her hot, tired feet.

Erin dipped in and out of her shoes, taking turns and taking care not to tap her heels on the threshold as she dipped out of each shoe. It was a little relieving, but her toes still hurt, and she felt an itch on the sole of her right foot, so as she slipped her right shoe off the next time, she scratched her sole against the buckle atop her empty loafer. As she did, she realized Ryan’s words had slowed, and she also noticed that his gaze was cast down, watching her rub her pale nylon foot against her shoe. So much for discreet, she thought.

“I’m sorry,” Erin said, slipping her foot back into her loafer.

“Sorry?” Ryan asked, snapping up to look at Erin. “Why?”

“My feet hurt,” Erin said, bending her left knee so she could pop her heel out of her shoe.

“Why didn’t you say so?” Ryan asked, stepping back into Erin’s room. “You should sit down and take your shoes off.”

Erin stepped into her room and closed the door behind her. Ryan’s suggestion seemed rather eager, but he was right. “Okay,” Erin said, sitting on the edge of her bed. Ryan sat down next to Erin as, one by one, she slipped off her loafers. The heeled shoes fell softly on the rug next to the bed, and Erin felt relieved as she stretched her toes and feet.

“Is that better?” Ryan asked.

“God, yes,” Erin said. “I’ve been walking around all day and my feet are hot and itchy and tired, and oh my God does that sound awful. Don’t look at my feet.”

“Why not?” Ryan asked, with sudden alarm in his voice.

“Because they’re probably gross and sweaty,” Erin said.

“I think they look fine,” Ryan said.

Erin looked down at her own feet. Her feet felt sore and her soles felt moist, but at least from where she and Ryan were sitting, they still looked clean and presentable. She had not painted her toes in a month, but the chipped and worn polish was masked by the reinforced toes of her nylon socks. “Well, thank you,” Erin said, laughing. “I’m glad you think they’re cute.” She crossed one leg over the other, dangling one tired foot in Ryan’s direction.

Ryan laughed nervously. “You weren’t wearing those loafers all day,” he said inquisitively.

“No,” Erin said, impressed that Ryan recognized her shoe style. “I wear my flats pretty much everywhere.” She reached to the floor and picked up one of her black flats, holding it up so Ryan could see. Erin preferred to call her beat-up flats “well-loved.” The flat she was holding showed all the scars and scuffs of being worn almost every day for two years. The finish was worn from the tips of the shoes, and the backs of the heels were worn and cracking where the sole was attached. Inside the shoe, the floral pattern of the insole had been worn away and the fabric was stained tan, the result of hours of Erin’s often-bare feet being trapped inside. While Erin found some comfort in her worn-out flats, she also realized it was probably time for some new shoes. She tossed the shoe back to the floor from where she’d picked it up.

“It’s better than flip-flops,” Ryan said.

“It’s too cold for flip-flops,” Erin said, laughing.

After a few more minutes of conversation, Ryan realized it was getting rather late, and he had a hotel reservation an hour or so away. Erin slipped her flats on to walk Ryan toward his car, and they both bundled up in their coats again. At the car, Ryan gave Erin a big hug, and they vowed to talk soon.

When Erin got back up to her room, one of her suitemates, Brianne, was painting her toenails on the sofa. “Who was that?” the suitemate asked.

“That was Ryan,” Erin said, kicking off her flats as she curled up onto the opposing sofa.

“New boyfriend?”

“My cousin,” Erin said.

“Oh,” Brianne said, capping her bottle of nail polish. “That’s too bad. How close are you?”

“Not very,” Erin said. “We’re just trying to get back in touch.”

“No, I mean,” Brianne asked, “how close are you related?”

Erin had to think for a moment. “His mom and my dad are cousins,” she said. “So I guess that makes us second cousins?”

“Well, that’s better,” Brianne said, getting a glass of water from the kitchen.

“Better?” Erin asked, reaching down and rubbing her feet.

“Well, at least you’re not first cousins,” Brianne explained. “Second cousins, that’s a little fuzzier.”

Erin was a bit confused, but she could see where Brianne was going. “We seriously aren’t going to start dating,” Erin said.

“Well, can I date him?” Brianne asked. “He’s hot.”

“He’s like twenty-seven,” Erin said. “He lives a couple hours from here.” She paused. “He is handsome, though.”

“So date him,” Brianne said. “I mean, don’t have sex with him or anything, but he can still treat you and hang out with you and all. Maybe he has cute mature friends.”

“Maybe,” Erin said, getting up and picking her flats up off the floor. “I guess we’ll see how much I hear from him.”

The answer seemed to be, at first, not much. Erin was busy with end-of-the-semester assignments and projects and the nerve-wracking emotional rollercoaster of being a graduating college senior, so whether or not her cute cousin was going to call her or come visit was low on her list of priorities. But at times, she would wonder why she had not heard anything new from Ryan. The radio silence continued as she moved back in with her parents over winter break, and through Christmas.

It was just after the new year that Erin, feeling bored on a Saturday, texted Ryan herself. She was going through her closet trying to get rid of some old clothes when the phone buzzed in response. Erin ran to the phone across the room, excited for Ryan’s response. “Hey,” Ryan had texted back.

“How was your Christmas?” Erin texted Ryan.

“Warm, some friends and I went down to the Keys,” Ryan replied. “We just got back last night. You?”

That explained the latest bit of silence, Erin thought. “It was nice, spent with my folks,” Erin typed. “Feeling kind of cooped up though.”

Erin returned to her chores, but her heart leapt when she heard the phone buzz in reply. Ryan had texted back: “Want to go get a coffee?”

For the next couple minutes, Erin was glued to her phone as she and Ryan quickly made plans. Erin once again preened, trading her sweatpants for some jeans and pulling on a fluffy pink sweater over her t-shirt. She almost grabbed a pair of boots when she instead slipped her bare feet into a pair of glossy black ballet flats with shiny black bows atop each toe. She slipped her feet back out, quickly added some nylon ankle socks, and slipped the flats back on. And with a quick good-bye to her parents, she was out the door and to the car.

Erin told her parents she was meeting someone for coffee, but left out that the coffee shop was a half-hour away. The drive felt like three hours. Erin was nervous with anticipation as she got out of her car and saw Ryan’s silver BMW in the parking lot. Erin walked into the coffee shop and saw Ryan sitting at a table already. He smiled and she felt his eyes study her, from her red hair to her shiny black shoes. “Hey, cousin,” he said.

“Hi, Ryan,” Erin replied as Ryan stood up and followed Erin into the line to order their drinks.

The cousins ordered their coffee separately and returned to Ryan’s table, where Erin draped her peacoat over the back of her chair. “So how were the Keys?” Erin asked, crossing one leg over the other as she sipped her latte.

“Gorgeous compared to here,” Ryan said. “We stayed in Key West for New Year’s Eve. It was absolutely wild. But the weather was great.”

“I could use a beach day,” Erin said.

“How have you been?” Ryan asked.

“Bored,” Erin answered. “I spent all afternoon so far organizing my closet.”

“And that’s the best you found in there?” Ryan teased.

“Shut up!” Erin said. “I was picking out old stuff to donate. I have plenty of cute things in my closet.” Erin stretched her crossed leg out to the side. “I found these shoes today.”

Ryan looked down as Erin rotated her ankle, showing off her shiny flat. “Those are kinda cute,” Ryan said.

“I know,” Erin said, smiling. “I forgot I had them. Now I have to start wearing them again.”

“Where did you get them?” Ryan asked.

“I forget,” Erin said, reaching down and slipping one shoe off. Unlike some of her shoes, the brand name was still readable on the insole. “I think Walmart,” she said, slipping the shoe back on.

As their conversation meandered along, Erin recalled why she had worn the shiny flats sparingly. Erin rarely wore socks or stockings when she bought the shoes, and as they were uncomfortable to her, they wound up in her closet at home. Since then, she had taken to wearing nylons with most of her shoes. Erin’s sheer nylon socks improved the feel of the shiny ballet flats, except that they now slipped uncontrollably from her heels as she sat. As Erin swung her crossed leg, her shoe popped from her heel and dangled from her toes. Erin would try and flex her foot to get the shoe back on, but within a minute, she would feel the back of the shoe slip down her silken heel and fall free. Sometimes she struggled to get her shoe back on, and she would reach down to pull her shoe back on.

And Erin had noticed that Ryan was aware of her shoe dilemma. He had shifted in his seat, and while they talked, he would glance down around the table, particularly when she reached down to her foot. Erin chalked it up to distraction. It certainly did not interrupt the flow of the conversation; Ryan and Erin had a lot in common, and Erin liked having an older, stable relative she could bounce things off. She wished they had been closer when they were younger.

As they wrapped up their coffee rendezvous, Ryan walked Erin to her car. “I don’t know about these shoes,” Erin said, looking down as they walked. “They’re cute but they don’t stay on well.”

“They are cute,” Ryan said. “Maybe you just need to break them in.”

“Maybe,” Erin said. “I’ll give them another chance. Talk soon?”

“Sure,” Ryan said. “Call me anytime.”

The next two weeks were hectic as Erin moved back to college, settling back into her suite. When she had time, she texted Ryan, who usually texted right back. He was dating someone new, and she found herself oddly jealous of Ryan’s new flame. But they were an hour and a half apart on a good day. Ryan was a businessman, Erin was a college student. And they were cousins. Erin convinced herself her jealousy was rather misplaced.

And then came an afternoon in the student union building, after a particularly dull psychology lecture. Erin had stopped in for a coffee, and found herself at a table killing time before her next class began. And as she killed time, she found herself texting to Ryan. Erin was a bit surprised Ryan had texted back so quickly.

“Hey, cuz,” Ryan said. “How’s school?”

“Good,” Erin replied. “Between classes, drinking a coffee. How’s work?”

“Work’s quiet,” Ryan answered. “Still wearing those cute flats?”

Erin smiled. Ryan remembered their coffee-date conversation. But Erin was not wearing the shiny shoes. Erin was wearing a navy cardigan adorned with snowflakes atop a white turtleneck. Instead of jeans, she was wearing khakis. Instead of sheer nylon socks, Erin was wearing blue socks knitted with white snowflakes. And instead of her shiny black flats, Erin was wearing brown clogs with an ivory fur lining and two-inch block heels. “Not today,” she texted back. “I’m wearing clogs.” Erin’s toes traced the stitching around the heel of the backless shoe. Wearing was a technical term.

It was a minute before Erin’s phone beeped back. “Clogs?” Ryan replied. “I need to see this to believe it.”

Erin leaned back from her table and looked down at her feet. Her left foot was only half in her clog, so she hooked the top of the clog with her toes, swung it out around her right foot, and dropped the empty shoe on the floor. Sitting up, she tucked her left leg underneath her on the chair. With a clearer view, she angled her phone just right and snapped a picture. “Believe it,” Erin typed with a smile as she sent the photo of her empty clog to Ryan.

Ryan finally replied: “I thought you were wearing them.”

Erin laughed: “My foot is hot.”

Ryan countered: “Hot in those nylons?”

Erin shook her head as she typed: “No, wore socks today.”

Erin finally slipped her clog back on to head to her next class. But she and Ryan continued to text back and forth at her next lecture, and at Ryan’s insistence, she sneakily snapped another photo of her socked feet, empty clogs between them, as she stretched her toes under the chair in front of her.

So it went for the next week or two. Ryan would send a teasing text asking Erin about her shoes, and Erin would discreetly snap a photo of her shoes to send to her cousin. The only day Ryan seemed uninterested was the snowy day where Erin had worn boots to class. Erin found it amusing; Ryan would tease her about her socks, and she would tease him back. Or he would chastise her for taking her shoes off in a lecture hall, and Erin would fire back that she had never done that before he asked her.

One morning, before class, Erin was chatting with her suitemate Brianne. The two girls were flipping through Erin’s photos on her phone when they came across Erin’s shoe photos. “That’s a lot of pics of your shoes,” Brianne said.

Erin laughed. “It’s my cousin,” she said.

“The hot one?” Brianne asked.

“Yeah, Ryan,” Erin said. “He was teasing me about college girls wearing Uggs to class all the time, so I started sending him photos of my cute shoes, to prove him wrong.”

Brianne was studying Erin’s photos closely. “Does your cousin have a foot fetish?” she asked.

Erin had no idea what Brianne meant. “A foot fetish?” she repeated.

“Yeah,” Brianne said. “Some guys are turned on by feet. Or shoes. Or both.”

“I’ve never heard of that,” Erin said.

“Really?” Brianne said. “It’s pretty common.”

“I’m a prude, I guess,” Erin said, laughing nervously. Erin had gone to all-girl Catholic schools, complete with plaid skirts and saddle shoes. College was Erin’s first exposure to co-ed classrooms, cable television, and so much else. Even dating was a new experience, one that she felt woefully unprepared for. Now, she was learning that apparently, her feet could be a turn-on. She felt suddenly silly for thinking she was modestly dressed when they met up.

For most of the day, Erin was distracted from her lectures and classwork, pondering instead what Brianne had suggested. It all sort of made sense. She had seen Ryan at the wedding months ago. She was talking to him when he got distracted by her shoe. He had asked her where she got them.

And he told her she should take them off. Just like he did later, in her dorm room.

Erin was conflicted. Every time Ryan texted her, it brought a rush of excitement. He was her cousin, as she reminded herself every time, but he was interested and he was flirtatious and she felt like someone was noticing her. Now, she wondered if she was just a pair of feet to him. Was there such a thing? Was that how it worked? Erin wanted to ask him outright, but she doubted he would just open up like that.

It was two days, two long conflicted confusing days, before Erin heard from Ryan again. Erin had stopped in the student union between classes, and she was opening a book when she heard her phone buzz. She flipped her phone open to see a new text: “Hey Erin, what’s going on?”

Erin felt excited and nervous all at the same time. Her thumbs could barely work the tiny phone keys fast enough. “Not much, between classes as usual,” she texted back. She added, “My feet are hot.”

Ryan’s response came quickly after her second text: “Too close to the heater vent?”

Erin laughed. “No,” she texted back. “I’m wearing Uggs.”She reached down and petted the suede boots. In classic college-student fashion, she was wearing them pulled over her jeans to mid-calf. They were ugly, but they were warm, and admittedly comfortable.

“You should have worn thinner socks,” Ryan replied.

“I’m wearing them barefoot of course,” Erin texted back.

There was a short pause, long enough for Erin to rethink whether she was going to get any classwork done on this break. At last her phone buzzed with a reply. She flipped it open to read Ryan’s text: “Erin, for shame.”

Erin was caught off-guard. Ryan seemed truly disappointed. “Uggs are meant to be worn barefoot,” she replied.

“I think they look better with tights,” Ryan replied.

“I’ve never worn mine with tights,” Erin replied.

“You should try, it looks cute,” Ryan said.

Ryan and Erin went back and forth a little longer, but Ryan never asked for his usual picture. Erin was intrigued. After talking to Brianne, she was convinced that Ryan was a foot fetishist. But the mention of her bare feet left her cousin clearly disappointed. She had even repainted her toenails that morning, anticipating wriggling out of her cozy warm boots for a photo. Now, she looked down at the ugly tan boots, and she felt unwanted, unattractive.

Erin moped to her next class, and only halfheartedly took notes, just trying to get through the afternoon after Ryan’s snub. Later that evening, she paged through her text messages, feeling distraught as she rubbed her bare feet against the comforter. It was only then, though, that she caught two of Ryan’s messages. “I think they look better with tights. You should try, it looks cute,” he had suggested.

Was it possible? Was Ryan suggesting she try tights with her new boots for fashion’s sake, or was he suggesting it for his own interest? Erin glanced at her phone’s picture collection, mostly photos of her shoes and feet that she had sent in the last few months. In every picture, Erin was wearing socks or hosiery. Never had she shared her bare feet with him. Maybe that was it.

The next day, Erin dressed as if she had an interview. She started with a clingy light pink sweater and a pair of gray dress slacks. She agonized, though, over her choice of hosiery. Erin looked at a few different pairs of trouser socks before settling on a pair of nude knee-highs. She pulled on the stockings and looked down at her pale, almost-white stockinged feet. It was a look that had captivated Ryan before. She hoped it would catch his attention again. She considered wearing her black patent ballet flats, but when she slipped them on, they almost seemed too cute. She slipped them back off, and took out another pair of black flats with pointed toes. She saved them for special occasions, and today, she justified, was such a day.

Erin only had one morning lecture, which went past without incident or fanfare. When she got back to her dorm, she excitedly checked her cell phone. No new texts awaited her. Erin sighed as she slumped down in her desk chair. She had hoped to see something. She read through Ryan’s texts again. At last, she typed, “Just so you know, I’m not wearing my Uggs today.” She took a deep breath, then hit send.

Erin went about cleaning her apartment, when she heard her phone buzz at her desk. Erin rushed to check her messages. Sure enough, Ryan had responded: “Oh yeah? What are you wearing?”

Erin smiled. He had taken the bait. She quickly slipped her flats back on and took a picture, then sent it as a response, without text.

Ryan’s response barely took thirty seconds: “What are you up to this afternoon?”

Erin smiled, kicking her flats off and folding her foot into her desk chair as she sat down. “Studying,” she said. “Not much else.”

“I’m free this afternoon,” Ryan replied. “Want to catch up?”

“Sure,” Erin replied. The only question was where; her room was messy, and the common area was too awkward if anyone came home. There were, however, a couple study lounges where she could meet Ryan. “I was headed to the union, should I meet you there?”

“Works for me,” Ryan said. “I’ll be there in 2 hours.”

In an hour and a half, Erin was waiting anxiously at the student union for Ryan’s arrival. She had staked out one of her favorite study nooks, a padded bench along one wall near the union’s fish tank. Her classwork was set off to the side, to suggest that she had actually been studying all that time. The truth was that Erin had been messing with her makeup and pacing frantically in her dorm room, but Ryan had no need to know any of that.

Erin was going to open a book when she noticed Ryan walking into the union building, smartphone in hand. He was wearing a wool coat over his suit and tie, and he looked like he had just left work. Ryan glanced around nervously, and when he looked in Erin’s direction, she waved to catch his attention. Ryan’s smile lit up and he headed in her direction.

“You’re here early,” Erin said, standing up for her tall cousin.

“I drove fast,” Ryan said, laughing. “Coffee?”

The two walked across the room to a coffee bar, each ordering a drink. “So you had this afternoon off?” Erin asked.

“I took this afternoon off,” Ryan said. “We didn’t have much going on.”

“Lucky you,” Erin said, smiling. Did Ryan ditch work because of a picture of her shoes?

“You’re the one without class this afternoon,” Ryan replied.

“I’m full of class,” Erin said. “Look, dress slacks, new shoes.” She stopped at the bench, turning one of her legs out and lifting her pantleg to show Ryan the shiny black flats she had chosen.

“Those are cute,” Ryan said. “Are they new?”

“I’ve had them,” Erin said, sitting down on the bench. “But I save them for interviews and presentations and fancy stuff.”

“So what did you have today?” Ryan asked as he sat down in a chair next to the bench.

“Just a lecture,” Erin said. “I just didn’t feel like wearing jeans today.”

“You look really nice,” Ryan said. “You should dress up more often.”

Erin smiled. “Thanks,” she said, feeling tongue-tied. “I might.” She rocked her feet in her shoes slightly. The flats fit well, but she wanted them a bit loose for later.

“Maybe I’m spoiled,” Ryan said, unbuttoning his suitcoat. “But I find it way more attractive when women dress nicer.”

“Well, we are,” Erin said, grinning. She had wanted to string Ryan along, but she couldn’t wait. Without a word, she shook her shoes loose and slipped her feet out of the flats, then folded her legs under her and sat on the bench cross-legged, her pale stockinged feet exposed.

Erin looked up at Ryan. His attention was fixed on her feet as she wiggled her toes ever slightly, his mouth slightly open. He said nothing. Erin wondered if he could. After a minute of sitting there, Erin smiling, Ryan staring, Erin asked, “Is something wrong?”

“No, nothing,” Ryan said. “Do you study here a lot?”

“A fair bit,” Erin said. She felt a bit guilty as she curled her toes, thinking how Ryan felt seeing her shoeless. She wondered if, for him, it was the same as a girl being topless in public. For a moment, she wondered how many other men across the room were also staring, and she felt exposed. But only for a moment. College girls took their shoes off all the time, especially in the union building.

“Do you always take your shoes off?” Ryan asked.

“Not always,” Erin said. “If I feel comfortable, I do.” She rubbed her right foot with her left hand, flexing her toes back and forth. “Or if my shoes feel uncomfortable.”

“So which is it now?”

Erin thought. “Both, I guess,” she said with a shrug. “I don’t love these flats.”

“They look very formal,” Ryan said, reaching down and picking up one of the shoes.

“And they pinch my toes,” Erin said. “I should have worn my bow flats.”

“Why didn’t you?” Ryan asked, putting Erin’s empty shoe down.

“Because you liked the picture I sent you of these,” Erin said, smiling at Ryan.

Ryan’s face flashed hints of surprise and joy, and confusion at which one to share. Once again, she had caught her older cousin speechless.

“Besides, you’ve seen me wear my bow flats,” Erin added.

“Only once,” Ryan said. “And they kept slipping off your feet.” Ryan had noticed, and Ryan had remembered.

“So which is better?” Erin asked, curling her toes and arching her folded feet. She leaned forward and batted her eyelashes.

“This is less of a tease,” Ryan said.

Erin unfolded her right foot, reaching out and picking up one of her shoes with her toes. “I could tease you with these, if you prefer,” she said in a serious tone.

“That’s okay,” Ryan said. “Besides, that’s the wrong shoe.”

Erin dropped the left shoe back to the floor and used her foot to nudge herself back onto the bench before folding her leg back under her. Ryan inched his chair along the floor, getting closer to Erin. Erin smiled. She had his full attention.

“How did you know?” Ryan asked in a hushed voice.

Erin considered talking about her roommate, but this already had the potential to be awkward enough. “I guess I wondered why you always wanted my shoe pictures,” she said. “Except for the day I went barefoot with Uggs. And then I remembered you watching me play with my shoes in my dorm room, and when we went out for coffee.”

Ryan’s face was a bit red. “I didn’t realize I was that obvious,” he said.

“Me, either,” Erin said. “Until you were all sad about my Uggs, and then it dawned on me that every time we’ve met since the wedding, I’ve been wearing nylons.”

“And in most of your pictures,” Ryan added.

“So is it my shoes, or my feet?” Erin asked, leaning closer to Ryan.

“I think you have pretty feet,” Ryan said. “And I like that you’re always wearing nylons.”

Erin was flattered. Sitting atop her padded bench in her stockinged feet, she felt like the prettiest girl in the world. “Thanks,” she said. “I just like how they feel in my shoes.” She paused. “And how they feel when I take my shoes off,” she added.

“When you send me your shoe pictures, I imagine you taking your shoes off,” Ryan said. “Like you did in the dorm that night.”

“My feet were so sore,” Erin said. “I wore those shoes for you, and they hurt my toes.”

“You wore them for me?” Ryan asked.

“Well, yeah,” Erin said. “You’re sophisticated, and I didn’t want to look like a frumpy college girl. So I wore heels for you.”

Ryan smiled. “Is this outfit?” he asked, his voice trailing off.

Erin nodded. “Now I can take my shoes off for you instead,” she said, unfolding her legs and stretching out her pale nylon feet.

“You’re adorable,” Ryan said, laughing.

Erin blushed. She felt suddenly self-conscious, flaunting her stockinged feet in front of her cousin. Ryan was sitting there enthused, but Erin felt guilty. “Ryan, I’m your cousin,” Erin said as she rubbed her feet together. The sound of nylon rubbing against nylon seemed loud in their quiet corner.

“Second cousin,” Ryan said. Clearly he had this on his mind, too. “But we’re not dating.”

“Well, no,” Erin said, crossing one leg over the other. Her pantleg rode up high on her crossed right leg, and she rubbed her silky ivory ankle.

“So as long as we’re not dating or kissing or anything, I don’t think that’s out of line.”

“I guess not,” Erin said, flexing her dangling foot as she rubbed her ankle and calf.

“But I like hearing from you, so we should talk more,” Ryan said, pulling his chair closer to the bench.

“And I should send you pictures of my shoes, so you can tell me if I’m dressing well,” Erin said, pulling her pantleg down and tucking one foot under her on the bench.

“Does that mean you’re going to wear fancier shoes?” Ryan asked.

“Maybe,” Erin said, wrapping the toes of her free foot around the leg of Ryan’s chair. The cool metal felt soothing against her stockinged toes.

“That could hurt your feet,” Ryan said. “Maybe I should visit to make sure your feet get massaged every so often.”

“That would be very responsible,” Erin said, smiling as she stroked the chair leg with her foot, up and down.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” Ryan said, reaching down and rubbing Erin’s toes.

Erin had expected the coolness of the metal, but the warmth of Ryan’s fingers touching her toes was something she was not prepared for. Erin gasped in surprise, but the feeling of Ryan’s fingers kneading her little toes was comforting. She let Ryan guide her foot away from the chair and into his hand, into his lap, where she felt his suit pants under her soft heel as Ryan kneaded her foot. Erin had never had her feet massaged before. But she understood why other women loved it. She unfolded her other foot and reached down to the floor, rubbing the ball of her foot into the carpet below. The sensations between her two stockinged feet were nothing short of ecstasy.

Erin and Ryan sat there for minutes, Ryan rubbing Erin’s foot in his hands and Erin stroking the floor with her free foot. The two met eyes, and Ryan shifted his body to nudge his chair closer to Erin. Erin stretched her free foot toward Ryan, rubbing her toes on the tip of his dress shoe before sliding her foot into his lap. The wool suit felt smooth and soft in contrast to the rough carpet below, and Erin fanned her toes as she pressed her sole against Ryan’s thigh. Ryan’s eyes grew wide, and Erin smiled as she curled her toes tightly. Ryan switched one hand to Erin’s other foot, and pressed his thumbs against the ball of each foot as he massaged her two feet one-handed. The soft fabric under her heels and the pressure against her soles felt so good, and Erin felt short of breath.

“We’re in the student union,” Ryan whispered as he brushed his fingers across the top of Erin’s feet.

Erin nodded as her eyes darted around. They were in the student union. And while she had picked a quiet corner for their rendezvous, people were passing through the room in the background, some glancing in their direction. It was one thing while Erin sat there shoeless. It was another story as she sat there with both of her feet in her cousin’s lap, getting a foot massage. “Maybe we should go back to my dorm,” she whispered with resignation.

Erin and Ryan both stood up, Ryan nudging his chair to the side and Erin packing her notebooks into her backpack. She threw on her peacoat, then looked down at the floor and her still-empty flats. She looked back up at Ryan. “I have to put my shoes on,” she said, frowning.

“Not for long,” Ryan said, smiling as Erin stepped back into her flats for the walk back to the dorm.

Ryan left shortly after dinner that night. Erin had offered to cook something for her visiting cousin, but the two ended up at a tavern instead, sharing a loveseat and sipping wine as they shared stories. Erin curled up against one arm of the loveseat, her flats on the floor and her stockinged toes curled around the edge of a cushion as Ryan played with her feet with his free hand. Amid the stories, they drew a line for their relationship. Their liaisons were to stay quiet, so as not to concern the family. Their intimacy would remain limited to Erin’s feet. That, the two of them could agree on.

The next few weeks were the high point of Erin’s senior year. Erin wasted no time in upgrading her wardrobe; jeans and college sweatshirts were set aside, and her skirts, dresses and dress slacks went from interview and presentation attire to daily wear. Erin’s Uggs and sneakers were nudged to the back of the closet to make way for her rarely-worn heels and her fancier flats. “Another interview?” Erin heard over and over between classes and leaving the dorm. She just smiled, nodded, whatever she could do to dodge the question.

And at first, it was not without its awkwardness. A girl all dressed up stood out on campus. In the dining halls and her classes, Erin felt like everyone was staring, critiquing her skirts and her shoes and hosiery. In her dorm, she felt like people doubted the sincerity of her excuses for her new look. And Erin felt especially tense the first time she posed in front of a mirror to snap a photo of her new style to send to Ryan. She hesitated as she wrote out her email. It was what they had agreed on, but it was still her cousin.

But with time, it felt more natural. Erin felt more and more confident in her skirts and dresses. She would steal away to the union or the library, and take some photos to send to Ryan. She loved teasing Ryan by sending photos of herself in shoes first. Ryan would always respond: “Cute shoes, but what about your feet?” Erin would often tease back (“But these shoes are comfortable today!”), but she would always relent, sending a photo of her stockinged feet from her bed, or in a couch in the student union, or tiptoeing around the library.

By spring break, Erin was at ease, both in her new style and out of her shoes. For all the flirtation with Ryan, he had been unable to visit her on campus, so she looked forward to seeing him on her week off. She did wonder how she would explain her new sense of style to her parents, but fortunately, “I like dressing up” was adequate reasoning enough for most dress choices.

Erin played it safe the first couple days, but on the third day she was home, she was meeting Ryan for a dinner date, so she had an excuse to dress up. She had a new dress she had bought for a spring night out; it was a form-fitting short-sleeved white dress patterned with black and red flowers. Erin added some opaque black tights and a little black shrug. She tied a black ribbon around her waist for a belt, and added a black bow to her red hair. Erin twirled in her bedroom mirror a couple times, satisfied with her new look, before picking out her shoes. Her shoes, too, were brand new: a pair of black peep-toe wedges. They gave her a couple inches of height, but compared to her usual heels, they did not hurt her feet in the first few steps. Even so, she carried the shoes through the house, only slipping them on before she left.

Ryan was meeting Erin at a sushi bar, and he was waiting outside the front door as she walked up. Ryan looked stunned to see Erin. “You’re beautiful,” he said, hugging his younger cousin. “And taller.”

“I’m wearing heels for once,” Erin said, hugging Ryan back. For all the photos and text messages and emails they had exchanged, it was comforting to actually see him, to talk to him.

Ryan glanced down at Erin’s shoes as they separated. “Wedges,” he remarked. “That’s smart.”

“They’re better than heels, so far,” Erin said as she walked through the door ahead of Ryan.

Erin and Ryan scooted into a booth by a window in the quiet restaurant. “I’m impressed,” Ryan said as the waiter left. “You’re really pretty tonight.”

“Thanks,” Erin said, feeling her cheeks flush. “You’re handsome as always.”

“It’s easy for men,” Ryan said. “I just left work like this.”

“I had to explain to my mom that I had a fancy night out with friends,” Erin said, laughing. “She’s getting used to my new style.”

“You don’t look twenty-one,” Ryan said. “You look mature now.”

“That’s the point,” Erin said. “It’s helping with interviews, I think.”

“How about dating?”

“Well, I get lots of looks,” Erin said, smiling.

As Erin and Ryan caught up, Erin crossed her ankles under the table. To her dismay, the wood floor of the entryway changed quickly to carpet, and so her shoes failed to click on the floor the way they had down the sidewalks. On the other hand, the carpet muffled shoe sounds, and Erin always liked being discreet. She uncrossed her ankles, the soles of her wedges now flat on the floor. Erin slipped her left shoe off quietly, nudging it to the side with her stockinged foot. Erin rubbed her stockinged sole against the top of her shoe to scratch it, then slipped her right shoe off as well. She nudged the empty shoe off to her right, and rubbed her stockinged feet against the carpet, feeling more comfortable immediately. She wondered if Ryan had noticed. She sort of hoped he had.

Ryan had ordered a bottle of sake, and as it arrived, Erin felt Ryan sweep his foot across the floor under the table. Ryan’s shoe brushed Erin’s foot, and she pulled her feet back under her side of the bench, but she stretched her legs right back. As the waiter left, Ryan asked, “Did you take your shoes off?”

Erin smiled. “Well, yeah,” she said. “Aren’t you supposed to take your shoes off to eat sushi?”

“If you sit at those tables, maybe,” Ryan said, motioning across the restaurant to a set of low tables with mats.

“Oh, well,” Erin said, reaching out with one foot to find Ryan’s shoe. “I’m comfy now,” she said as she rubbed her sole over Ryan’s foot. The leather felt cool under her soles, and as she felt the shoelaces under her toes, she wished she could untie Ryan’s shoes for him. She tucked her other foot into Ryan’s pantleg, her toes kneading Ryan’s ribbed socks.

Ryan looked a bit surprised. “Have you been practicing?” he asked.

“Practicing?” Erin asked as she rubbed her arched feet around Ryan’s ankles and under his pantlegs. The sensation against her soles and toes was amazing. “I mean, I’ve been taking my shoes off in class a lot.”

“No, I mean footsie,” Ryan said.

“Oh, no,” Erin said. “Usually I just rub my feet on top of my shoes. It feels really good.”

“So does this,” Ryan said.

Erin beamed proudly. “Would you take your shoes off and footsie with me?” she whispered seductively, leaning into the table. She rubbed her toes along the edges of Ryan’s shoes, the shoelaces tickling her soles.

“No, not here,” Ryan said softly. “But what I could do” Erin saw Ryan reach down, and then felt one of his hands closing around her right foot, gently lifting her foot into his lap, where his other hand began kneading her sole and toes. Erin leaned back in the booth, rubbing her left foot against Ryan’s ribbed socks and shoelaces, smiling at her cousin across the table.

The sushi arrived from the kitchen, and Erin noticed as the waiter set everything down at the table and glanced down at Ryan’s lap. The waiter was asking if they needed anything else, but immediately broke it off, mumbled “I’m sorry” and left. Erin felt her face flush red. “Did he see?” she managed in a low voice.

Ryan nodded. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Women get foot rubs all the time.”

Ryan was right, Erin thought. And how was a waiter to know they were related at all? For all he knew, Ryan was out with his girlfriend. “I guess so,” Erin said. “I’ve never been caught before.”

“Sometimes it happens,” Ryan said, grinning as he picked up his chopsticks.

As they ate and talked, Erin rubbed her feet up and down Ryan’s legs, alternating between his hard leather shoes and the ribbed dress socks and his smooth suit pants. The textures were soothing on Erin’s soles. And while part of her wished he would take his shoes off too, there was something scandalous about being the shoeless girl at the table. A few times, Erin hooked her big toes in the loop of Ryan’s shoelaces. She almost pulled them loose, but decided it would be more fun if Ryan did it to her.

After dinner, Ryan excused himself to go to the bathroom. Erin returned her stockinged feet to her side of the booth, rubbing her silky feet together. For some reason, she felt more exposed sitting alone at the booth, so she swept one foot to the side, looking for at least one of her shoes to play with. When she felt nothing but carpet and air, she swept both feet in a circle around her, trying to find her shoes, but nothing was within reach.

Ryan returned to the booth at last, sliding into his bench. Erin looked across the booth at her cousin and smiled. “I can’t find my shoes,” she said quietly.

“Oh,” Ryan said, laughing. “I sort of kicked them out of your reach while I was rubbing your feet.”

“Well, that explains that,” Erin said, reaching her feet out and resting them on Ryan’s shoes again. “I’d rather put my feet on your shoes anyway.”

“I can tell,” Ryan said with a smile of his own.

Eventually, Ryan nudged Erin’s wedges back across the table, and she grudgingly slipped back into them before she and Ryan left the sushi bar. Ryan walked Erin to her car, where he hugged her and gave her a peck on the forehead. “Let’s do this again,” he said as he walked off toward his own car.

Erin was on cloud nine. The date night felt like a test, and Erin felt like she had passed. She checked her phone when she got home, and spent the next two hours texting Ryan, occasionally sending a photo of her silken legs and feet stretched across her bed. Ryan’s replies made Erin smile, and she wished there were more potential from their connection.

But there was still the week ahead. Erin met up with Ryan for lunch a day later, this time pairing the wedges with dressy gray slacks, a red top and a black blazer. Erin regularly spent hours lunching and studying at Panera, but as she and her charcoal-suited cousin took over a booth for their own, she felt like she had matured ahead of schedule. And as she felt Ryan’s shoes under the booth, tugging at the thick soles of her wedges and sliding them from her socked feet, she felt the same sense of anticipation that she loved about their dates. Long after their sandwich trays were empty, Erin and Ryan sat at the booth playing a clandestine game of footsie in the shadows. Ryan brought Erin back to his office for the afternoon; while he was in a meeting, Erin kicked her wedges off under his desk and traipsed around his private office in her jet-black trouser socks. The feeling of being shoeless in his office was thrilling; Erin stood at the door, wanting to stroll across the office to see if anyone noticed her lack of shoes, but she behaved, waiting patiently for Ryan to return. And when he did, he looked down at her black silken toes, barely visible under her slacks, and smiled as he closed the office door.

The day after that, Erin went shoe-shopping, sending Ryan pictures of her potential purchases for him to approve. She settled on a couple new pairs of pumps. She had hoped to meet Ryan for dinner that night, but he had a late commitment, so instead Erin walked around the mall, breaking in her new shoes. A couple hours into her shopping, Erin stopped for a cup of coffee and to rest her tired legs. As she crossed one leg over the other, she felt her new shoe pop from her stockinged heel. She stared at the dangling shoe for a moment, enjoying the sensation as the shoe hung from her toes. Erin took out her phone and snapped a couple pictures of her foot to send to Ryan.

Erin suddenly realized that the guy sitting across the coffee shop had stopped working, and was watching her shoe dangle. He was a little older than her, probably younger than Ryan, trying to focus on his laptop, but his focus had clearly been broken. Erin raised her crossed leg, trying to shift her shoe back onto her foot. Instead, the heel just dangled, and the guy across the coffee shop peeked up from his laptop screen. Erin bounced her foot lightly, making her pump swing from her toes. The guy kept watching. So did Erin. It was sort of mesmerizing, elegant.

Erin sat there finishing her coffee, dangling her shoe. She liked the feeling, but at the same time, she felt stressed, worried that her shoe would go flying off her toes. Erin curled her toes, and her new pump slipped free and landed on the carpet below with a thump. The guy across the room perked up at the thump of her shoe. Erin stretched her toes, and the guy watched, riveted. She could have just taken her shoe off and gotten the same stare.

“New heels,” Erin said, smiling in the guy’s direction as she reached down for her shoe. She slipped the heel back on, stood up, and gathered her things, returning to the mall for a little more shopping before dinner.

Erin had a family dinner out that Friday night. She wore a new teal-blue sweaterdress and opaque black tights with a pair of black heels, and her parents both complimented her on how mature and put-together she looked. At the dinner table, though, Erin slipped her heels off, and wished she had Ryan across the table to play footsie with her. When her parents left for a bathroom break after dinner, she texted Ryan, “I’m at the table and I took my shoes off. I miss you.”

On the ride home, Ryan texted back: “I miss you too. Come to my place maybe?”

“I could do that,” Erin replied. And so when they got home, Erin hurriedly made up an excuse about seeing some friends, rushed to her car, and took off for Ryan’s apartment.

Erin knew where Ryan lived, but she had never been to his place. And as she climbed the stairs, she felt a bit nervous. She stopped in the hall and made sure her sweaterdress was pulled down, that her hair was straight. At last, she was at the door, and knocked softly.

“Come on in,” Ryan said. “It’s unlocked.”

Erin opened the door and walked in. She unbuttoned her coat and hung it up by the door. She was going to slip her pumps off, but she wanted Ryan to see them first. “Should I take off my shoes?” she asked.

“Nah, keep them on,” Ryan said.

Erin stepped out from the entryway into the living room. Ryan’s place was well-furnished for a bachelor pad, and surprisingly neat. He was reclined on the couch, alone, watching a hockey game on television. He was still in his slacks and dress shirt, his collar loosened and his tie missing. “Hey, Erin,” he said, sitting up and leaning forward.

“Hi,” Erin said, walking over and sitting on the couch. “I like your apartment.” She crossed her left leg over her right, pointing her foot at Ryan and tucking her right foot against the couch.

“Thanks,” Ryan said. “It does the trick for now.” He paused. “I like your sweaterdress.”

“Thanks,” Erin said. “It’s brand new.”

“And the heels?” Ryan asked.

“Not new,” Erin said, stretching her foot to model the simple pump for Ryan. “They just don’t get worn often.”

Ryan reached down and cupped his hand around Erin’s calf, sliding down to the heel of her pump. “I wanted to take them off,” he said, pulling the shoe from Erin’s stockinged heel.

“Ooh,” Erin said as she felt her shoe slide from her foot. She wiggled her nylon toes. It may have been the sexiest thing Ryan had done yet. She wanted to slip her other shoe off, but Ryan clearly wanted to do it for her.

Ryan set the empty shoe on his coffee table, then got up and walked to the kitchen. “Do you want something to drink?” he asked. “I have a bottle of Moscato open in the fridge.”

“Okay,” Erin said. She tried to peek into the kitchen from the couch, but her view was poor, so she stood up instead. Balancing on her left tiptoes, she walked one-shod to the kitchen, leaning against the wall as Ryan gathered two wine glasses and a corked bottle of white wine.

Ryan stopped as he closed the fridge, his eyes meeting Erin’s before darting downward to her feet. “That’s a good look for you,” he said.

“Up or down?” Erin asked, starting with her stockinged foot arched on her toes, then relaxing and landing her foot flat on the floor.

“As long as that shoe’s off, I think either way works.”

Erin smiled. Walking around Ryan’s office in her stockinged feet had been an inappropriate thrill, but there was something exciting about only wearing one shoe. Just the walk from the sofa to the kitchen had been a challenge of grace. “I kinda like it,” she said as she followed Ryan with careful steps back to the sofa.

At the sofa, Ryan set two glasses on the coffee table. He turned on a movie before picking up the wine bottle and uncorking it. Erin crossed her feet at her ankles, sliding close to Ryan on the leather couch. Ryan reached for a wine glass, but at the last second, he instead grabbed Erin’s empty left pump.

“That’s my shoe,” Erin said, laughing.

“I’ve always wanted to try this,” Ryan said, pouring some wine into Erin’s black shoe.

“Oh, my God,” Erin said through laughter.

Ryan set the bottle down on the coffee table and held up the shoe. “To cousins,” he said, pretending to toast, then he lowered the shoe to his lips, taking a sip of wine from the heel of Erin’s shoe.

Erin was amused and flattered and embarrassed. “Ryan,” she managed, still laughing at the absurdity.

Ryan set the shoe down on the coffee table. “Tastes like pleather,” he said, laughing. “No, really. Maybe it’s your feet, but I think it’s better this way.”

Erin was curious and picked up her shoe, tipping the heel to her lips and taking a sip of wine. Erin liked Moscato, but Ryan was right; from her pump, the wine tasted better. Maybe it was just the thrill of the forbidden. “Maybe we should get another glass,” Erin said, sliding her right leg up onto the sofa.

“Maybe you just want out of that extra shoe now,” Ryan said, reaching down and slipping Erin’s other pump off her foot.

“Pretty much,” Erin said, trembling as her right pump dropped to the floor. “I kept taking them off at dinner, but I didn’t have your feet to rub on.”

Erin and Ryan shifted on the couch, trying to settle on a position, at last just sitting close to each other, with Erin rubbing her feet up and down Ryan’s legs. Erin felt relaxed and comfortable, and toward the end of the movie, she felt herself nodding off. During the credits for the movie, Ryan got up, returning with a glass of water for Erin.

And there they sat on the leather sofa, as the credits rolled on the TV in front of them. Erin folded her legs onto the sofa, flexing her stockinged toes and brushing Ryan’s thigh, as if to beg for a foot rub.

“When do you go back to school?” Ryan asked hesitantly.

“Tomorrow,” Erin said. “I guess I’m sort of looking forward to it.”

“It was nice having you in town,” Ryan said.

“It was nice being here,” Erin said, grinding her toes into Ryan’s thigh, wiggling one foot into his pant pocket.

“So where do we go now?” Ryan asked.

“What do you mean?” Erin looked over at Ryan.

“Well, you’re going to be back at school,” Ryan said. “I’m gonna be back here.”

“I can send you pictures,” Erin said, twisting her legs to wiggle her feet into Ryan’s lap.

“I know,” Ryan said. “But pictures are a tease. I kind of want these instead.” He began kneading Erin’s feet.

“Aww,” Erin said. “Me, too. I mean, I want your massages.”

Erin and Ryan sat in silence as Ryan rubbed Erin’s feet. At last, Erin said, “Ryan, we are cousins.”

“I know,” Ryan said. “I like having you in my life, too.”

“Me, too,” Erin said. “I just feel bad stringing you along.”

“You’re not stringing me along,” Ryan said. “I know what I’m doing.”

The mumble of the television and the sound of Ryan’s hands on Erin’s tights were the only noises in the room. Erin felt like they both knew what had to be said, and they both knew what response they would have, so there was no need to ruin the moment.

At last, Erin got up and gathered her shoes. She slipped on her right pump first, then her left, her sole feeling cool and moist as the few drops of Moscato in her shoe soaked into her tights. Erin disliked having wet feet, but the feeling this time made her smile. As Ryan walked her to the door, Erin gave her cousin a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“For what?” Ryan asked in a hushed tone.

“For this,” Erin said as she stepped into the hallway.

Ryan smiled wistfully as he eased the door closed.

Erin took a few steps from the door, then paused. She went back to Ryan’s apartment door, slipped off her pumps, and left them at the door. And then Erin padded down the hall in her black tights, ready to drive home.

Erin smiled as she rubbed her feet together. Ryan deserved so much more than a thank-you. Erin and Ryan kept texting after she returned to college, but Ryan lightened up a little on his flirting, and Erin only sent the occasional photo of her shoes and feet. They were cousins, after all.

In many ways, though, Erin was a changed woman. Her attention to her wardrobe, and particularly her shoes and hosiery, was Ryan’s lasting legacy. It probably did not help that as a graduation gift, Ryan had sent her a pair of expensive Wolford stockings, her first Wolfords (and, she thought as she rubbed her right foot in the arch of her left, certainly not her last). And she had had success at finding boyfriends who would indulge in her shoeplay habits, though Brady fell short on that list. Erin was growing bored with his lack of interest. Love her, love her feet, she thought.

* * *

Erin looked over at Ryan’s girlfriend Lilly in the chair next to hers, as Lilly played with her white-stockinged feet. She was smart, sweet, and shoeless. Ryan had deserved a girl like her, and at last, he had one. He was the happiest he had been in a while, and Erin could see why.

“He’s only a little more discreet now,” Lilly continued, laughing. “We were at my nonprofit’s holiday party. I was wearing these four-inch heels and the insole started to come apart, and my feet were killing me. So naturally I started complaining to him.”

“Well, that’s unfair to him,” Erin said. As she said that, she glanced across the room, where Ryan was talking to Brady. Ryan looked over at just the right time. Erin flexed her toes back and forth and smiled at her cousin. Erin knew a little something about being unfair to Ryan. Ryan’s eyes met Erin’s for the slightest instant, and he smiled back.

“I had no idea!” Lilly said. “But I got a foot massage out of it in the middle of the party. And afterward at the coffee shop.”

“And a boyfriend out of the whole thing.”

“Which means foot rubs any time I ask for them,” Lilly said, glancing across the room, rubbing her feet against one another as Ryan looked over.

“Best thing ever,” Erin said, sighing as she rubbed her shimmery stockinged feet together. Lilly really wanted a pair of Wolfords now.

“Pretty much,” Lilly said, smiling.

Ryan and Brady, their conversation falling quiet on the other side of the room, went back downstairs, leaving Lilly and Erin alone in the sunroom. The girls talked for a little while longer. Erin eventually asked to try Lilly’s slingbacks on, which she did, taking a few steps around the sunroom. Lilly rubbed one of Erin’s glossy tan heels with her toes, but decided she preferred being shoeless a little longer. “They’re not that uncomfortable,” Erin chided as she kicked off Lilly’s slingbacks.

“It’s not your shoes, it’s my feet,” Lilly said, standing up and kneading her toes into the carpet.

“You really don’t like shoes,” Erin said, laughing as she slipped her own heels back on.

“It’s not that,” Lilly said, blushing. She lowered her voice. “I just really want Ryan to rub my feet right now.”

“Ooooh,” Erin said, reading between the lines. “Or maybe when you get home?”

“Well, yeah,” Lilly said, smiling as she reached down to pick up her slingbacks.

“Lucky girl,” Erin said, laughing.

The two girls headed downstairs, where Ryan was actually giving a couple uncles and aunts hugs. Ryan glanced at the stairs and smiled. “Lilly,” he said. “Good timing. I was wondering if we should head out soon.” He paused. “So we can get to your parents’ and all.”

“Sure,” Lilly said, playing along. Her parents were hours north, but no one else in the room knew that.

As Ryan said some more goodbyes, Lilly walked around the couch and found her purse, set next to her empty flats. She picked up her ballet flats and inspected the soles, making sure there was no grass stuck to them. Surprisingly, they were clean. She could easily have worn them around the house. But as she wiggled her toes, she was glad she hadn’t.

Lilly carefully fit her slingbacks into her purse and slipped her soft feet into the ballet flats. The flats felt uncompromisingly stiff and pinchy in her toes. Lilly considered walking to the car in her stockinged feet, but the shoes would make her feet feel even better when they ultimately came off on the ride home. There was a little thrill to an uncomfortable shoe, even a flat.

After saying goodbyes to Erin and Ryan’s sisters and Ryan’s dad, Ryan’s mother opted to walk them to the front door. “I’m glad you got to come down, Lilly,” she said as they worked through the kitchen and dining room again. “It’s a pleasure and you’re quite a sweet girl.”

“Aww, thank you,” Lilly said. “It was a pleasure meeting you, too.”

“Hopefully you’ll be back soon,” Ryan’s mother added.

“I hope so too,” Lilly said.

As they stood in the foyer hugging and kissing, Lilly noticed there were some things littered on the floor by the stairs. She looked down and saw a few pairs of sneakers from some of the little cousins who had shown up since they got there. Some of the kids had gone upstairs to the playroom overlooking the water. Among the shoes by the stairs, there was a pair of shiny white Mary Jane-style shoes. Lilly smiled.

After one more hug and kiss, Ryan and Lilly strolled out to Ryan’s BMW, gleaming in the sunlight. Ryan opened the door for Lilly, who slipped into the passenger seat gracefully. Lilly wasted no time in slipping off the ballet flats, folding her right foot under her left thigh by the time Ryan climbed in the driver’s seat. Ryan looked over at Lilly, and Lilly just grinned as she wiggled her toes. “Hi, honey,” she said with a smile.

Ryan and Lilly drove back to the city, the roads mostly empty while people gathered with their own families. The two talked about Ryan’s family, about Lilly’s chat with Erin, about Ryan’s conversation with Brady. Lilly called her parents from the car to wish them a Happy Easter. And, of course, Ryan rubbed Lilly’s right foot as they drove north.

Before long, they were back at Ryan’s building, never even having discussed where they were going. Lilly slipped her flats back on and gathered her purse and coat as they got out of the car. The building lobby was quiet as Ryan and Lilly walked through and stepped into an open and waiting elevator.

In the elevator, Ryan smiled at Lilly as he pressed the button for his floor. “Thanks for coming with me today,” he said.

“Of course,” Lilly said. “Thanks for introducing me to your family.” Lilly slipped off her right flat and rubbed her foot on Ryan’s ankle.

Ryan smiled. “I’m glad you enjoyed them,” he said, reaching his arm around to Lilly’s waist and rubbing her side and hip. Lilly felt Ryan’s fingers trace over the purple satin ribbon she wore as a belt, finding the top waistband of her tights under the fabric of her dress. Lilly trembled ever slightly as she leaned in toward Ryan, still balancing on her left foot as her right toes caressed Ryan’s ankle.

“They were really nice,” Lilly finally said. She felt Ryan’s hand glide down her hip and to the back of her thigh, and as he rested it there, Lilly stood on her tiptoes on her left foot, the back of her shoe popping from her stockinged heel. On her tiptoes, though, Lilly felt out of balance, so she returned her right foot to her shoe, landing her toes on the sole of the empty flat as she now stood leaning into Ryan. Ryan pulled Lilly closer to him, but as he felt Lilly searching for grip in her shoes, he instead shifted his body closer to hers, allowing her to find her balance on her tiptoes.

The elevator glided to a stop at Ryan’s floor and the door slid open. Lilly, still balancing on tiptoes standing in her shoes, slid her toes forward, her heels crushing down the backs of her ballet flats. She looked up at Ryan and smiled as he held the door for her. And after she stepped into the hallway, Ryan emerged from the elevator, clasped his hands around Lilly’s waist and leaned down to kiss her. Lilly slipped her right foot from her flat, catching her toes on the crushed back of the shoe before sliding her foot back in.

Ryan and Lilly started walking down the hall toward Ryan’s apartment door. “You know, when we were in the sunroom after dinner,” Ryan said, “I sort of wished we had the house to ourselves.”

Lilly wrapped her free arm around Ryan’s waist as they walked, leaning into him. “It took you that long?” she asked.

Ryan kissed Lilly’s forehead as they walked. “Well, maybe not,” he said.

“It didn’t feel like it,” Lilly said, smiling.

“Oh, yeah,” Ryan said, blushing as he unlocked the door to his apartment.

Lilly stretched up on her tiptoes and kissed Ryan as he swung the apartment door open. There was a chair just inside the door, and Lilly reached in mid-kiss to drop her purse and coat on the chair. “That’s better,” she said, turning herself toward Ryan and reaching up to clasp both her hands behind Ryan’s neck. Ryan hugged Lilly and leaned down, and the two embraced in a kiss. Lilly stretched up on her tiptoes, stepped out of her ballet flats, and kicked back her right foot, curling her toes as they kissed.

Ryan stepped forward a bit, nudging Lilly to take a step or two back into the apartment. As they made their way inside, Ryan tripped briefly and looked down to see Lilly’s empty flats. “I feel like this has happened before,” Ryan said, still hugging Lilly.

“They can stay outside,” Lilly said, smiling as she tiptoed backward into Ryan’s apartment.

Ryan smiled back and leaned in to continue their embrace as he nudged the door shut, leaving two lavender ballet flats on the welcome mat behind them.
Posts: 27
Joined: Wed Oct 05, 2011 2:42 pm

Re: Old Series

Post by thieph »

Part 3 – Speed Dating

“You’re really going through with this?”

Erin Sullivan read her cousin’s last text message as she lingered outside the door of the hotel. “How bad can it be?” her thumbs pressed into the glass of her iPhone.

Ryan’s response came quickly. “I don’t know. I never tried it.”

Erin sighed. Of course, Ryan had never tried speed dating. Dating had never been a problem for Ryan. In fact, Ryan’s current girlfriend was a big part of why Erin was single once again.

Erin walked into the hotel, looking ahead at the signboard that directed speed dating visitors to the outside patio. She stopped in the lobby for a moment. “I tried to dress down, haha,” she texted Ryan. One of her ill-fated ex-boyfriends had lamented once that she was too high maintenance, so she decided not to wear one of her pretty designer dresses. Those could wait for later.

But Erin had come straight from the office, so she was anything but dressed down. She was wearing a pale mint-green blouse, with the mid-length sleeves set off by ruffles over her shoulders. It was a top that looked best without a sweater or a blazer, and this day had been warm enough to get away without either. She had paired the mint blouse with a charcoal-gray wrapped tweed skirt that flared out into a playful ruffle just below her knees. A pair of black four-inch peep-toe pumps completed the ensemble. It was a serious look with a hint of whimsy, and it left no suggestion that Erin had spent a ton of money on the outfit.

“You’re wearing Wolfords, though,” Ryan responded.

Ryan knew his cousin too well. Erin smiled at her cousin’s reply, and at the shimmer of her stockinged legs, a shimmer that no lotion could replicate. “Duh,” Erin typed back. “A girl has standards.”

“Good thing I’m not there, then,” Ryan replied, adding a smiley face to his message.

Ryan was probably right. Erin’s older cousin had a hand in crafting his little cousin’s sense of style some years ago. And while Erin had always bent it to her needs and tastes, Ryan’s guidance was always at the core. If not for Ryan, Erin would not be wearing designer tights that cost as much as her top and her pumps together.

“It’s time,” Erin texted back. “I’ll let you know how it goes.”

“Good luck, cuz,” Ryan’s answer flickered before Erin slipped her phone into her purse.

Erin pushed open the tall glass door to the hotel’s patio, took a deep breath, and stepped outside.

Speed dating had been Ryan’s suggestion, but the breakup was Erin’s idea. Erin had dated Brady for a few months. Brady was tall and good-looking and eight years Erin’s senior. He had a good job, a nice car, and a family place on Martha’s Vineyard. But after a few weeks of fun dates and good sex, Brady had settled into a different routine. He was boring, self-centered, and obsessed with image. He acted as if somehow, his family’s money required higher standards.

Erin was already at a crossroads when the two arrived at Erin’s family Easter gathering. Cousin Ryan was there with his new girlfriend, Lilly. Unlike the people their family usually dated, Lilly was not wealthy herself, but she was classy, humble, and kind. She fit in well, and she was definitely a good match for Ryan. Erin and Brady met up another time with Ryan and Lilly not long after Easter. In Lilly, Erin saw so many of the reasons why she had become disillusioned with Brady.

And so Erin broke up with Brady. Brady’s reaction was one of inconvenience, as if finding a new lover were a business transaction. Erin was pretty sure Brady had checked his emails while she was spilling her heart out. Either way, she was single again. But few of her social circles overlapped with a pool of prospective boyfriends.

Instead, Erin found herself on the lushly-decorated hotel patio, signing in for something she only vaguely understood. The gist of it was simple: she and the other speed daters would get five minutes to chat, one-on-one, before moving on to the next person. If they both clicked, and both reported that they clicked, they would get each other’s contact information. If it were only one-sided or a complete dud, neither would hear from the other again.

It couldn’t be any worse than the bar pickup attempts she was used to fending off.

Most of the other speed daters were getting a drink beforehand, so Erin went to the outside bar and ordered a beer. As she sipped her beer, she took note of the other speed daters, or at least who she assumed were speed daters. The event had been targeted to young professionals, but Erin thought most of the men looked to be in their thirties, with a couple she was certain were closer to forty. One of the younger men had rolled up his shirtsleeves, revealing vibrant tattoos inked on his forearms. He had to be some kind of graphic designer or creative type. Erin felt nervous.

At last, the host called the speed daters together. Erin stood with the other women, sizing up the competition as she half-listened to the host explaining the rules. Most of the women looked a bit older than she did; a few looked younger. One or two looked like they had come straight from college. Most were professionally dressed, but a couple had styled a nice blouse with jeans and pumps. And there was at least one woman who looked like she was trying way too hard.

As Erin stood there, she felt a familiar ache in her right foot, at the base of her little toe. Erin’s right pump had been bothering her earlier in the day, too. Usually, she just tried to ignore it. But after lunch, she had kicked off her one shoe and sat on her foot in her desk chair. Now, the pain from the narrow shoe was back. Erin wiggled her heel loose from her pump and slipped her foot back, just enough to curl her toes a few times before stuffing her foot back into her shoe. She only had an hour, and it would mostly be sitting.

At last, the group split up, with each woman taking a seat at a table to start. The men would rotate from table to table. Erin sat at her table and poured a cup of water, wishing it were beer or wine or something better, but she figured they didn’t want people making drunken fools of themselves in a date setting.

Erin’s first speed date walked over and took a seat. It was the inked artist type she had seen earlier. “Hey, I’m Jesse,” he said, extending a hand.

“I’m Erin,” Erin said as she shook his hand. “That’s a lot of ink.”

“Yeah,” Jesse said with pride. “I hate having to cover it up all the time.”

Erin studied the artwork more intensely. It looked to be scenes from a videogame, or maybe a movie. “What do you do for work?” she asked.

“Oh, I’m an artist,” Jesse said. “Well, I work for an advertising firm, anyway.”

Jesse went on, and Erin felt disinterested. He was nice, but not really her type. Five minutes breezed past. As Jesse asked, “Do you have any tats?” a bell rang.

“No, I’m not really into tattoos,” Erin answered, as another voice called out “Five minutes is up, time to switch!”

“Nice meeting you, anyway,” Jesse said. “Good luck.”

“Thanks,” Erin said. “You too.”

Jesse got up from his chair and moved to another table, as another man came over. Erin had noticed him earlier, too. The hint of gray in his temples and goatee suggested he was at the older end of the young-professional set.

“Hi,” Erin said, smiling.

“Hi, I’m Dan,” the older man said.

Dan looked old, older than Brady even, and Erin was unsure of how to bring up the topic. “You don’t look like the speed-dating type,” Erin said, wondering how he would take it.

“I’ve never done this before,” Dan said. “But I got divorced a year ago, and it’s time to get back on the horse.”

Erin felt a little regret. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I just got out of a relationship myself.”

“How long were you married?” Dan asked.

“Oh, we weren’t,” Erin said. “It was only a few months. But we just didn’t work.”

Dan smiled. “Well, now it’s your chance to date a real man for a change,” he said.

Erin cringed at the pickup line. Yeah, plenty of dating commentary was pre-packaged, but some of it was so transparent. “Oh, I’m pretty sure he was a ‘real’ man,” Erin said, trying to keep her conversation light.

“That’s what all the younger women say before they’ve been with an older man,” Dan countered.

Two prospects in, and Erin’s speed-dating experience had already gone to awkward. As Dan extolled the virtues of dating an “older” man, Erin tried to look politely interested, or at least polite. If she had wanted to be hit on by a forty-year-old, she could have just joined an online dating site. At least she wouldn’t have had to wear uncomfortable shoes, she thought.

As Dan got up and left the table at the next bell, Erin sighed a quiet sigh of relief. She looked down at the ground under her table and quickly slipped her right foot from her pump, stretching her toes and curling them tight a few times. There was a tablecloth draped over the front of her little table, so no one could see her stockinged foot, and she considered just sitting on her foot like she had done at work. But if she had to put her shoe on, it would be a project. Besides, she had another date coming to the table. Erin stuffed her foot back into her pump and crossed her ankles under the table as she extended her hand.

After Jesse and Dan, Jeremy was a welcome prospect. Jeremy was thirty and, at least in the first few seconds, he didn’t confess to having ex-wives or kids or a criminal history or a daddy fetish. Erin found conversation easy with him, even if she didn’t feel swept away by his personality. As they talked, Erin felt a tiny cramp in her right ankle, so she uncrossed her ankles and stretched her right leg out, rotating her foot. As she did, she felt her shoe brush against Jeremy’s leg.

The contact took Erin back a month or so, to her double-date with her Ryan and Lilly. Easter had left Erin reconsidering her romance, and the double-date started off in the same fashion, with Brady glued to his cell phone during dinner. At least Ryan and Lilly were conversational as always. While they were waiting for dessert, Brady wordlessly left the table for the bathroom. Erin looked at Lilly, who looked back with sympathy in her eyes.

Erin stretched her legs out under the table, trying to relieve a cramp in her ankles. She would have taken her shoes off if they weren’t buckled T-strap pumps, and if Brady wouldn’t have complained when he found his girlfriend shoeless at the dinner table. As Erin rotated her feet, though, she felt something soft brush against the exposed side of her foot. It was the distinct, wonderful feeling of nylon against nylon.

Curious, Erin peeked under the table. Diagonally across from Erin, Ryan sat with his legs stretched out comfortably. Next to Erin, Lilly sat with her long black-stockinged legs stretched out as well. Lilly’s left foot was tucked into Ryan’s right pantleg. Her right foot, pointed like a ballerina’s, rubbed Ryan’s other leg. The three-inch heels Lilly had been wearing were empty, toppled on their sides under the table. Erin’s eyes met Lilly’s. “They’re brand new shoes, and I’ve been wearing them all day,” Lilly whispered.

Erin understood. Watching Lilly rubbing her nylon feet over Ryan made her recall her own game of footsie with her cousin years ago. Erin’s shoes were new too, but it was less the discomfort and more the thrill of teasing her date under the table with her shoes off. Even after Ryan and Erin had set hard boundaries to their relationship, Erin had never been above playing footsie with her cousin. Watching Lilly’s little feet at work, she felt envious.

“Sorry,” Jeremy said, breaking Erin’s reverie.

“What?” Erin asked.

“I think I bumped your foot under the table,” Jeremy explained.

Erin felt warmth in her cheeks, and the sensation of trousers against the top of her foot. In fact, Erin had done the bumping. But apparently Jeremy was not into it. “Oh, no worries,” Erin said, returning her feet to her side of the table.

The awkwardness of the moment aside, Jeremy was nice enough, Erin thought as he got up to head to the next table. If only he had been more receptive to Erin’s unconscious footsie. Erin arched her feet, sliding them from her shoes long enough to curl her toes before stuffing her feet back inside. Thinking about her dates with Ryan had been enough to make her shoes just a bit more uncomfortable.

Marty was next at Erin’s table, and he seemed a lot like Jeremy, nice and straitlaced but maybe a bit boring. Straitlaced and boring still beat the first few prospects, though, Erin thought. As they talked, Erin slowly slid her right foot forward, hoping to find one of Marty’s feet in range. At last, she felt her shoe nudge something, and in response it moved back. Erin stretched her foot out a few more inches, again feeling her shoe nudge another shoe, but again it moved.

“Is that your foot?” Marty asked.

“My foot?” Erin replied, trying to sound innocent.

“Under the table,” Marty said. “I think you bumped my foot.”

“Oh, sorry,” Erin said. “I didn’t realize. I was just stretching. Long day.”

Strike two, Erin thought as she returned her right foot to her side of the table. Unfulfilled, she slipped off her pump and rubbed her stockinged foot on her shod left foot as they talked out the last minute or two of their time.

For the next few dates, Erin dipped her toe deeper into the footsie waters. If she felt encouraged, she would slide her right foot under the table until she found her speed date’s shoe. If he recoiled, she would try again. If he recoiled again, he wasn’t interested. Erin hoped at least one would play along with her. But instead, either they were unfazed by Erin’s flirting, or they were taken aback by it. One asked point blank if Erin were trying to play footsie. Naturally, she denied it.

And so went the evening. With only a couple dates left on the roster, Erin felt a bit let down by her experience. There had been a couple guys who were nice enough, but only a couple intrigued her enough to warrant a real one-on-one date. And there were others who were waving big red flags. The last guy had left before the bell rang, apparently feeling nothing. Erin was disappointed, maybe a bit confused. And to make matters worse, her toes still hurt, and her feet felt warm. She arched her right foot and popped her heel from her pump, the warm summer air feeling like a relief on her moist sole.

One more dating prospect sat down across the table from Erin. “You look like you’ve had enough,” he said.

“I do?” Erin asked. She had been trying to hide her disappointment and discomfort. She forced her shoe back on under the table.

“It’s okay,” the guy said. He was close to Erin’s age, maybe closer to Ryan’s, but it was hard to tell. “This whole thing is new to me.”

“It’s my first time,” Erin said.

“Me, too,” the guy said. “I’m Luke, by the way.”

“Erin,” Erin said, shaking Luke’s hand. “Do you think you’ll try this again?”

“Maybe,” Luke said. “I mean, I haven’t met anyone weird. Just no one I click with.”

“Then you’re doing better than me,” Erin said, laughing.

At last, Erin felt a bit of a connection. Luke was polite and open and more interesting than the other men she had been talking to. As they talked, she relaxed, and began absentmindedly rubbing her right shoe against something under the table. At first, she thought it was the base of the table, but then she realized the table had four legs. And then she realized what she was rubbing her foot against. It was Luke’s own outstretched foot. And, unlike the others, he hadn’t flinched or moved away or questioned it.

Erin slid her right foot along Luke’s foot, feeling the heel of his shoe catch in the instep of hers. Rocking her foot back on her tall heel, she hooked her foot behind his ankle, the toe of her shoe sliding under his pantleg. Erin could feel Luke’s ribbed dress socks through her nylons. She rubbed up and down gently, desperately wanting to slip her shoe off.

“So here’s a random dating question,” Luke said.

“Shoot,” Erin said.

“So you’re sitting with this pretty girl and it seems like you really click,” Luke said. “And as you’re talking, you can feel something rubbing against your shoe.”

Erin froze. She tried to look composed, but she felt like she had been caught. “Like under the table?” she asked innocently.

“Yeah,” Luke said. “I mean, it could be anything, but you’re pretty sure it’s her foot.”

“Maybe her legs are tired and she needed to stretch,” Erin said.

“Maybe,” Luke said. “I wondered if maybe she wanted to play footsie.”

“Maybe,” Erin said. “She probably wondered if you’d be into it.” She rubbed her foot against Luke’s ankle again.

“Who wouldn’t be?” Luke asked.

“Maybe she found a few guys who weren’t,” Erin said. She slid her left foot forward under the table as she rubbed the top of her right foot against the back of Luke’s ankle.

“Maybe it was because she was still wearing her shoe while she was doing it,” Luke added.

Erin sighed playfully. “Well, maybe she really wanted to take her shoe off, but she didn’t,” she said.

“Would she like some help taking her shoe off?”

“Well, yeah,” Erin said, leaning into the table. Suddenly she felt Luke slide his foot against hers, his shoe catching the top edge of the heel of her pump. Gently but firmly, Luke slid Erin’s shoe down her stockinged heel. Erin felt helpless as her shoe floated off her toes and clattered noisily on the brick patio. She gasped in surprise. She was impressed, and as she curled her unencumbered toes, she felt very turned on.

“How was that?” Luke asked.

Erin relaxed her leg, her foot falling to rest on Luke’s foot on the ground. She felt the smooth leather of his dress shoe against her sole and felt laces under her toes as she kneaded against his foot. “She is impressed,” Erin said, smiling as she popped her heel free of her left shoe under the table and slipped her left foot from her shoe.

“I thought your legs were just tired and you needed to stretch.”

“Well, that too,” Erin said, caressing Luke’s shoe with her silky foot, then curling her toes against his ankle. “I was sitting on my leg all afternoon because my foot was sore.”

“Sitting on your leg?” Luke asked. Erin could tell he was feeling around for her other foot with his free leg as she rubbed her foot on his left ankle.

“We do it all the time,” Erin said. “No one questions a girl who’s sitting on her foot. And it’s an easy way to hide taking off an uncomfortable shoe.” Erin was slipping her left foot in and out of her shoe, the edge of her pump tickling her soles and toes as she did so.

“Aren’t they all uncomfortable?” Luke asked.

“Mmm,” Erin said, nodding. She had tucked her right foot into Luke’s pantleg, rubbing her sole against his dress sock. “You can always get away with taking one shoe off. But you have to explain both.”

Erin was still pumping her left foot in and out of her shoe when something nudged her shoe. On the in stroke, Erin let her toes glide over the edge of her own shoe, finding Luke’s alongside hers. She traced the stitching of Luke’s dress shoe and rubbed her toes on his right ankle.

“Do you do this at work often?” Luke asked.

“Footsie?” Erin asked for clarification as she kneaded her toes against Luke’s ankles and calves.

“No, taking your shoes off,” Luke said.

Erin laughed. “Mmm, yeah,” she said. “It’s a terrible habit but taking your heels off and walking around your office in tights is like the second best feeling in the world.”

“What’s the first?” Luke asked.

Erin let a sly smile cross her lips as she hooked her stockinged toes through the loop of Luke’s right shoelace. “Taking your heels off under the table and playing footsie with a handsome guy, of course,” she said, tugging the shoelace until it came loose.

The bell had rung a minute or two ago, and both Erin and Luke had ignored the organizer thanking the remaining speed daters for coming. They continued talking, as Erin contentedly rubbed her nylon-clad feet over Luke’s feet and ankles. She loved the variety of textures, from the smooth leather of his shoes to his ribbed dress socks to his soft dress slacks. And Luke played along too, catching the toe of one shoe under her sole and rubbing her arch, and gently guiding her feet away from her shoes when she got near. Erin hadn’t played footsie like this in ages, and she was loving it.

But there was one thing. One thing that even Ryan had never compromised on in their scandalous footsie games.

“Luke?” Erin asked in a near-whisper as she rubbed her soles against Luke’s ankles.

“Yeah?” Luke replied, matching Erin’s quiet tone.

“If I asked you to, would you take your shoes off with me?” Erin kneaded her toes into Luke’s socks.

Luke thought about his answer. Erin kept kneading her toes, trying to will Luke into saying yes.

“I’m not really a shoes-off guy,” Luke said. “Especially not on this patio.”

“Oh,” Erin said, a bit disappointed. Though as she slid her toes down to the smooth sides of Luke’s dress shoes, she knew she had little desire to rest her silky feet on the abrasive bricks below.

“So maybe we should go somewhere with a little less brick, and a little more privacy.”

Erin smiled. “I’d love that,” she said.

Luke smiled back. “Me, too,” he replied.

The two sat, leaning in toward each other across the table, Erin still rubbing her feet on Luke’s shoes. She couldn’t wait to feel Luke’s socked feet against her own stockinged feet.

“I should hit the restroom first,” Luke said. “And I have to close out my tab at the bar.”

“I need to find my shoes,” Erin said, sweeping one of her feet under the table, trying to find her pumps.

“Should we meet in the lobby?” Luke asked.

“Sure,” Erin said, her toes finally finding one of the black peep-toe pumps Luke had gently nudged to the edge of the table. Erin slipped her foot into her shoe as she searched for the other.

At last, both shoes found, Erin wandered out to the hotel lobby as Luke settled up his bar tab. The speed dating people were long gone, and most of the hotel’s guests seemed occupied by evening plans, as Erin was the only one in the lobby. Her heels clicked on the tile floor, echoing through the lobby. Erin paused as she passed by a mirrored glass panel on the wall, critiquing her reflection as she stared back. She felt confident and excited.

Luke would be a few minutes, so Erin stopped at a pillar, leaning against it as she reached for the phone tucked in her purse. Almost reflexively, Erin reached her right leg out to the side and slipped her shoe off. Erin stretched her right foot out and looked down at her pretty stockinged toes, her painted toenails barely visible through the tan tights wrapping her feet. The toe seam of her tights was twisted ever slightly, but Erin resisted the urge to adjust it. She was just going to mess it up in a few minutes anyway.

Erin planted her silken toes on the tile floor, arching her foot to match her left pump, as she woke her cell phone. She flicked through a few emails before noticing she had a single text message awaiting. It was from Ryan. “How did it go?” he had asked twenty minutes ago.

Erin looked up and saw Luke through the glass doors of the lobby, heading her way. “I’ll tell you more later,” her thumbs keyed into her phone. Crossing her shoeless right foot over her left ankle, she looked up at Luke, wiggled her toes, and smiled.
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Joined: Mon Feb 22, 2010 3:54 am

Re: Old Series

Post by paradigm88 »

These were actually my stories - glad you enjoyed them enough to save them! I believe they're all still here in the Stories forum; I know at least a few are, I've never deleted them myself.

It looks like they've been slightly edited to insert one later story as an in-line recollection to another. I'm not sure who did that though. I honestly didn't realize how old they were now...it's been nearly 7 years!

I'm still writing, too! Though my latest story isn't really suitable for the board; I'd never really planned to share it and it's a clumsy 67 rambling pages, which is a bit scary for something off-the-grid. It's about a small-town librarian who wears Dansko clogs to cope with her aching dancer feet, but finds that she likes padding around the library in tights more. Therefore, there's not a ton of shoeplay; she's kind of a shoes-off girl.

I have, funny enough, thought about bringing back Lilly, Erin and friends for another story. It's a few years later, and they all get together for a double date night, where footsies (between the ladies and their husbands/boyfriends...and perhaps the ladies) come into play. But it feels too clichéd. We'll see.
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