|Leopard-skin Shoes, by Diane Jardel|
(A photo prompt
for the Cowbirder's Poetry and Flash fiction group #7)
"You can't go up on stage and get your diploma wearing those shoes!" Harrie hissed.
"But they're the only shoes I brought!" Jannah said.
“How could you not have brought something other than those beat-up, falling apart sneakers held together with duct tape? You weren’t planning on wearing those with a dress, were you?”
“I didn’t bring a dress.”
“You’re not wearing that threadbare flannel shirt!”
“I was going to.”
Harrie brought her royal blue Beetle around to Jannah’s dorm. “Come on,” she insisted, pushing Jannah toward the door, “We’re getting you some duds.”
“I can’t afford them,” Jannah objected. “And graduation is in an hour.”
“It’ll be my graduation gift; and it will be fun.”
“Yeah, like pulling teeth!”
“Oh Jannah!” Harriet sighed.
“If we have to go, let’s go to the Goodwill.”
Jannah picked out a jean skirt and loose blouse, but Harrie vetoed them. “Too casual,” she said. Instead, Harrie bought Jannah a classic shirtwaist dress in a leopard-skin pattern with matching shoes. Jannah blanched when she saw them.
Harrie did Jannah’s hair in a French twist and arranged the dress and shoes and produced a matching handbag that Jannah hadn’t seen her buy.
Jannah tottered up on stage, nearly twisting her ankle climbing the stairs in the unstable shoes. She clomped awkwardly over to accept the rolled parchment with its blue bow and shake the hands of all the dignitaries.
Then she fell down the stairs on the other side, landing in a heap at the bottom. The pins came out of her hair and it cascaded around her face.
A young man in the PhD section rushed over and lifted Jannah from the floor. Before he picked her up, she saw ratty sneakers and beat-up jeans under his gown. Then she looked up at his face. He had a sweet shy smile and hair that curled over the top of his ears.
As he carried her out the door, she said, “What about your diploma?”
“Those aren’t real,” he said, pointing at her now mashed tube of paper. “They mail the real ones to you.”
“What about your parents?”
“They couldn’t come. Yours?”
As he strode down the sidewalk away from the gym, Jannah laid her head on his shoulder. She wiggled her toes and the leopard-skin shoes fell to the ground. The young man took one look at them, leaned over, gave her a small kiss and kept walking, leaving the shoes where they fell.