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Mary Janes

She wore homemade dresses and store-bought black patent-leather shoes (Mary Janes), and she loved her shoes, the crescent of white anklet sock that showed between the toe and the strap, and how that crisp contrast drew attention to her feet (and away from her dress), and she loved how her Mary Janes provided entrée into an exclusive circle--a world of pretty girls wearing pretty things--so that at recess she was one of the girls who jumped rope and worried about whether or not the boys on the monkey bars could see the reflection of her underpants in her shoes' shiny patent-leather; and she loved, best of all, the click of her Mary Janes against the worn linoleum in the girls' bathroom, the acoustics in that room amplifying and rounding the tone of her tread, giving it the elegant pitch of an old soft-shoe routine, and how, in the girls' bathroom, she might really be Rita Hayworth: beautiful, impetuous, and destined to marry a prince; and so, when her kindergarten teacher, Miss Pritchard, asked her to show-and-tell her most prized possession, who could blame her for choosing her Mary Janes, for carefully slipping off first the right shoe, then the left, and presenting them to her class like a pair of onyx slippers?

©Stephanie Harrison, first published in Northwest Review