Shoes. That’s all I could think of that day. I looked at every girl’s feet and saw flat black skimmers with no heel, clunky red slip-ons, and high-up boots.
Then Kelly came swinging down the hall on the way to gym class, wearing sleek black ankle boots with silver laces. She glanced at me, then down at my feet. She said something to Allie. Ally turned around, looked back at my feet and snickered.
I kept moving, not even glancing up in case one of them turned around again.
That’s it, I thought. I’m not wearing these grubby jogging shoes another day. My heart felt like a lump in my chest. Doesn’t really matter, I tried to tell myself. I’ll never be in their crowd anyway.
After school, I hurried home. Oh, good. Mom got her car back from the shop. I burst through the door and dropped my Eighth Grade math book on the counter. “Mom! Mom!”
She came out of the office, a worried look on her face. I could see the computer screen behind her filled with a report she was writing for work.
“What’s wrong, Suzy?” she asked me.
“Mom, I’ve just gotta have new shoes.”
She looked cross. “Oh, Suzy. Stop being so dramatic. I thought you had a crisis.” She turned back to the computer.
“Mom, it is a crisis. Look at these clodhoppers. I can’t wear shoes like this to school!”
Mom glanced at my feet. “They do look pretty bad, honey. We’ll go to the mall Friday and get you a new pair.”
“Not Friday, Ma! Now,” I pleaded. Hot tears spurted down my face. “The kids were laughing at me today.”
“Okay, honey. Let me finish this up. Then I’ll pop something in the oven and run you to the shoe store.”
We stopped at Sears first. They didn’t have anything I liked.
“Just try these on,” Mom urged me, picking up a pair in my size.
I squirmed. “Mom! Nobody wears loafers any more. Forget it!”
Further down the mall, I saw a pair of leather boots I liked in a shoe store window. I tugged on Mom’s arm and pointed.
“Suzy, those are eighty dollars! I can’t afford to spend that kind of money on school shoes.”
We went into another store and looked over the displays.
“Maybe those,” I said, pointing to a pair of clogs.
We sat down and a saleslady came over. She asked my size and came back with a pair in orange.
“No way!” I muttered.
“Just try them on,” Mom urged. “Then we can be sure what size you need.”
They fit okay, but the color was awful. The saleslady went in the back, and came out with three boxes of shoes.
“I don’t have that one in your size in any other color,” she said, and started taking shoes out of the boxes.
Mom gave me That Look so I played along. I put a pair on, walked in them and shook my head. Just not right. I tried on the other shoes but they weren’t right either.
By the time we hit the fourth shoe store, Mom said she’d had enough. “If you can’t find a pair here, we are done,” she said in her I-mean-business voice.
I finally settled for a pair of flats with a brass buckle. They weren’t right either, but I knew if I didn’t take them, I’d be back in grubby jogging shoes for the next six months.
We walked to the parking lot in silence.
After she started the car, Mom turned to me and said, “I don’t get it. You wanted shoes so much and you couldn’t find a thing you liked. What is it with you?”
She was right. I bet I looked at a hundred shoes and none of them was really right.
“I guess I just don’t know who I am, so I don’t know what I want.”
Mom laughed and gave me a quick hug. “Oh, Suzy. I remember those days. It’s tough to be a teenager, isn’t it?”
I grinned. “Yeah, Mom, it is. Especially when you’re shopping for shoes.”
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