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Those Blue Shoes

by Joanna M. Weston

book cover When Meg tries on a pair of blue shoes in Edward Swann’s Prince Albert shoe store, she is whirled into another life and another time. She meets Hannah who demands Meg’s blue shoes because, she says, they are hers. Meg faces danger from Hannah, fear, and difficulties at home, because she wants to rescue Laura and Derry who are trapped in Hannah’s world. She must hang onto the blue shoes in order to get home again.

Chapter 1

The sign over the store said ‘Edward Swann — Shoemaker and Artisan’.

Art — is — an. Meg rolled the word around as she pressed her nose against the window. A pair of blue shoes behind the glass caught her attention. She needed new runners but she wanted these — the pale blue ones with wide silver buckles.

A shadowy man in a pale-coloured shirt moved in the darkness at the back of the room. One arm rose and fell repetitively.

Art — is — an, art-is-an-art... she liked the sound of it. There were other, more popular shoe stores in Prince Albert, but she had come here because she was curious about the sign. She cupped her hands round her face to cut out the reflection of bare trees across the road tossing in the April wind, the river and the traffic.

Mum had said, “Buy strong, hardwearing runners.”

Ben, Meg’s fourteen-year-old brother, had grinned at her across the breakfast table.

“And make sure they’re a bit big to allow for growth,” Mum continued, “you don’t want to buy new ones again too soon.”

But Meg wanted brand name shoes like Tonya, the girl who had beaten her for the Grade 5 trophy in the Music Festival last month. She wanted the most expensive runners in the store.

She wanted the blue shoes.

She wished she had won the lottery, or found $1000 in the gutter, or found buried treasure. They had to be careful with money.

Dad had died of a brain tumor a year ago, just after Meg’s eleventh birthday. Her twelfth birthday had been quiet; she hadn’t wanted a party.

Meg kept Dad in a separate, special, place in her thoughts and tried not to think of his death. Sometimes, alone in her room, she cried with the pain of losing him.

Not being able to buy the shoes she wanted made her briefly angry with him for dying. Yet how could she be angry with someone she loved?

Meg twisted the stud in her right ear and tried to curl her toes: her shoes were too tight, too small, even with one toe worn through.

Her breath clouded the glass and she could no longer see the blue shoes and wiping only smudged it. The wind pulled at her hair and tugged at her parka. She shivered and went to the door, which needed a hard push to open.

A bell jangled as she entered, almost tripping on the worn step. The wind caught the door and whipped it shut behind her.

The smell of leather caught her unawares; she sniffed deeply, loving the rich aroma, feeling enfolded by its warmth.

Then, clenching her fists in the pockets of her parka, she looked around. A full-length mirror beside the door reflected her short wiry figure. A beam of light touched her tousled dark hair, grey eyes and snub nose, while her green parka gleamed dully.

The soft light of the shoemaker’s work-light shone yellow through the haze of dust disturbed by Meg’s entrance. Edward Swann continued to hammer at a shoe on the last.

The dust tickled Meg’s nose. Daylight had lost the struggle to reach the middle of the room through the shadowed windows. Shelves filled with shoes, boots, and slippers, some in boxes and some not, covered the walls.

Two doors were dimly visible in the back wall behind Edward Swann. The angled shelf in the window stood in front of a large table piled with yet more shoes and boots.

Edward Swann paused and put his hammer down on a rickety round piano-stool that stood at one end of the counter. His face gloomed out of the shadows, light reflecting from half-glasses and bald head.

“Well?” he said.

“I need some shoes.”

“Try them on then.”

Meg looked around. “How do I find ones that fit?”

“Just look. You’ll find them.”

Meg wanted him to help her but he seemed preoccupied so she left him alone. She sensed that his eyes followed her.

She glanced over to the display window, then picked out a pair of running shoes and tried them on. They were so big that her feet slithered and slopped in them.

Meg tried other shoes but found none that fitted, or that she liked. Maybe she would have to go to another store after all.

“Try the blue ones.” Edward Swann spoke from behind the counter.

She went to the window and caught a glimpse of the maple trees on the other side of the road, their branches bending to the harsh wind. Beyond them the North Saskatchewan River flowed brown and serene on its journey to the Arctic. Over all, the sky hung grey and weighted with snow.

Meg leaned over the shelf but couldn’t quite reach the blue shoes. She wanted them, hankered for them. Why did she have to have sensible, serviceable runners? She craved those blue shoes. She climbed on the table, sat sideways, and put the shoes on.

The room spun around her — or was she spinning? Walls, table, shelves, dissolved into the spinning. She cried out.

Light spun, dissolved into mist, solidified.

A girl called, “Derry, Derry, where are you? Hannah wants us and she’s angry.”

Copyright © 2006 by Joanna Weston

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