Red by PGC Young

I’m going to cripple you.

I’ve piqued your curiosity, haven’t I? No, don’t turn around, it’s not someone real talking to you. It’s me, down here. That’s right, just on the shelf below the clunky blue velvets, to the left of the suede pumps. Here. With the calfskin leather and the mesh. And the dagger heel. Nice to meet you.

I meant what I said. I’m going to break your legs. But don’t think about that. Look at my points, my curves. Aren’t I voluptuous? You would look so good in me. So, woman, go on, think about it. Think about that black satin suit you bought last year but have never worn. You could wear it anywhere with me. I could be your excuse.

I see you looking at my price tag. It’s a lot, but think of the money you’re saving. I’m barely worn, but they’ve knocked half off my retail price. I’m a good deal.

Now you’re wondering who wore me before you, aren’t you? No, she didn’t have foot odor, if that’s what you’re worried about. Besides, even if she had done, it wouldn’t matter, because they cleaned me thoroughly in the shop, wiping the mud off my soles, glazing over my surface and repairing my cracks so that my red bottoms are almost as good as new.

Red bottoms? Yes, I’m double-red. Have you only just noticed? Why don’t you lean down, then you’ll see my soles better. There you go. Aren’t they just perfect? You can walk around with a man’s signature underneath your feet. That part comes free. It’s the tilt in your pelvis, the curve in your back, and the shortened tendons in your legs that you pay for.

Why did she give me up? What an insensitive question to ask. But it’s okay.

We’re just getting to know each other. You want to know where I come from. That’s fair. Well, she had quite a few pairs of heels, my last owner. But then she tripped over and sprained her ankle and said she couldn’t bear to look at me anymore, even though I wasn’t the one to do it. It was a pair of black peep-toes.

It’s unfair, isn’t it? She should have kept me. In some cultures, red is the colour of good luck.

No, don’t leave. Turn around. Ok, you’re going. You don’t have to buy me today. Take some time to think about it. You’ll want me tomorrow. You better come back.  You better fucking come back.

Thank you for buying me. I knew you would. It’s never more than a week before each pair of us goes home. That’s what makes the shop so interesting, really. The stock changes all the time, so I’m always meeting new shoes, hearing new stories. We’re diverse.

And I suppose I should say ‘happy birthday’. It is your birthday, isn’t it? I was watching you mark out the days of your calendar from inside your wardrobe. I enjoyed it when you tried me on a few times with your outfit. That was nice of you. Checking we – the black suit and I – get along.

I’m on your feet now. They’re warm. It’s nice to be out of that cupboard. Not to be rude, it’s just that I’m accustomed to finer company than what you have in there. Let’s go. Are we going to a party?

Don’t mind the wobble when you walk. It’s all part of the allure. Just put one foot in front of the other like you’re walking on a tightrope, like you read in the pages of magazines when you were a teenager. One, two, one two. Click, click, click, click.

Your front door slams shut and you have to hold the railing to climb down the stairs. It’s only a few steps. You can do it. Good.

Then we’re walking along the cobbled streets together. Cobbles were designed for men’s shoes, that’s the truth. It’s not my fault. Blame the cobblers. Just keep walking. The restaurant’s only around the corner. I know your arches are aching already, but you can make it.

Finally, the cobbles end and you step up onto the pavement. Your friends wave to you from the door. They’re waiting. You wave back. You should have looked at the floor.

I slide between the grate of a drain. Slip. Smack. Your body crumples like a magazine page.

Your head hits the ground, a blunt instrument. You open your eyes. There’s red around you. Crimson seeping away. Your ankle is burning. Someone takes me off your foot. Even in the state you’re in, you manage to spark a fire of self-hatred. To blame yourself for wearing me. Because you know, and everyone knows, that really, it’s your fault, not mine, not the fashion magazines’, not even Mr Louboutin’s.

You can’t say I didn’t warn you.


PGC Young is a 22-year-old writer. Her fiction has recently appeared in Mslexia and The Quiet Reader. Right now, she’s writing a feminist speculative fiction novel, and a crime novel set in Victorian London. She’s also studying with both Faber Academy and Curtis Brown Creative. On Twitter, she’s @pgcyoung.