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The Seaview Inn
   

from A Circle of Three by A. Valentine Smith

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Chapter 9: Shoe Shopping

Shoe shopping. She had two great new friends in Sandy and April, a new experience for Mandy, and they were out at the mall shopping for shoes. Mandy was real pleased with herself. She looked down at the shoes she was modeling and did a little twist of her feet as if she were Dorothy showing off the ruby slippers for the first time.

Mandy looked up, and her glance roved from girl to girl. Before all the craziness with discovering a whole new world of Magik, Mandy had been pretty much a loner. The redheaded teen had friends, but they were few and far between, and they were picked on in school as much as she was.

Mandy’s gaze rested on the tall, dusky blonde. April. I’m glad she stuck up for me when that jerk Courtney bullied me, but that’s the only time she knew I existed. Mandy’s thoughts traveled a million miles away from the shoe store. Memories flashed rapidly through her mind: Courtney attacking her on top of the Brenton Point tower, Seeds of Despair messing with her mind, asking Vaughn to the dance, Policeman’s parade, rain that never seemed to stop, Purgatory Chasm, Sandy, April, Vaughn at the chasm cliffs.

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Change… everything had changed, and now the girls were inseparable, held together by something greater than friendship. April is so much more confident than me. I’m going to be like her someday. I hope it’s more than the Magik that makes her want to be my friend.

Mandy’s attention was diverted from April. As she turned her head to look at Sandy, a stray strand of flaming red hair fell out of alignment on her head and blocked part of her sight. She smoothed it away without a thought. Sandy — class brain; we practically had to drag her here. It’s like she doesn’t get shopping. I wonder what she’s thinking about now?

 

Sandy glanced down at her shoes from where she sat. She had to sweep a lock of blonde hair from her eyes. Sandy was both pleased and disappointed in the shoes she was trying on. They were fashionable — black leather, work boot–like shoes with thick, knobby soles, the kind of soles you found only on hikers at one time. In fashion? Yes. Comfortable? No. She looked down at her feet again. The soles were thick. Not as thick as platform shoes, but Sandy was forcing herself to try these shoes before the more sensible flats she normally wore. The first time she tried on a pair, she almost twisted an ankle standing up.

Penny loafers, now there’s a comfortable shoe. Super old-fashioned, a shoe that my mom would choose for me without a second thought. Thank God companies like Faded Glory still make ’em. Back in elementary, she’d gotten her first pair from her favorite aunt, Penny. I lucked out with Aunt Penny being my Magik teacher. Good thing Mom’s not Magikal. Sandy shuddered. The thought of her mom bossing her around during a Magikal lesson was not pleasant.

Sandy looked down at the gold medallion swinging on its delicate chain around her neck. Penny had given it to her. A thin filigree of gold formed a numeral one captured within a paper-thin ring of gold. She looked at her two friends. Each had a necklace like hers. Mandy was the newest of their group, and her pendant held a numeral three. April, Sandy’s best friend, had a numeral two within her circle of gold. Sandy looked down at her shoes again and then at the pair April was trying on.

I wish I could be more adventurous, like April, she thought. Sandy glanced at her friend, who was seated next to her and was slipping her heel into the newest, hottest running shoe on the market. She’d try them on, parade them in front of the floor-level mirror, and eventually settle on something more affordable. The white canvas shoe had only the faintest hint of a lip to circle the back of the heel. It was more of a slide with useless laces than a real shoe. Sandy swiped at the lock of hair that had fallen again into her eyes. April, too, had to sweep a long lock of blonde hair out of her eyes as she bent to work on the sneaker laces. Dirty blonde, that’s what they’d call it, but you’d better not let April hear you say that.

Mandy, standing across from them, was already testing the feel of shoes very similar to Sandy’s, except that the soles were even thicker. And they were an awful two-tone — some wannabe small-time shoe company trying to start a new trend using a retro theme.

Mandy has that innocent look, Sandy thought. Gosh, talk about looking way too wholesome. A little too innocent, if you asked me. There comes a point where innocence becomes vulnerability
and dependence.

“Tell me again why we’re trying on shoes,” Sandy asked. “The last dance of the school year is over; there’s no event in sight this summer; and we really don’t have the money for this. At least I don’t.”

“Lighten up, Sheperd,” April replied. Don’t you know how to have fun?”

“I do, and it’s not necessarily torturing myself looking at things I can’t buy. Don’t you think we should get summer jobs before we blow what little money we have? And, oh, by the way, don’t call me Shepard. Using my last name makes you sound like Courtney.”

“And that’s a bad thing?” All three girls started when they recognized the voice. Mandy actually jumped a little and backed away a step. The owner of the voice turned her head around from the back-to-back row of customer seats. Raven-black hair parted to reveal the thorn in the girls’ sides: Courtney.

The air suddenly swirls. The store’s lights seem brighter; the colors of the decorations and shoes seem more intense; and even the air seems to crackle with Energy. Courtney must be Magikal, Sandy thinks. Aunt Penny has got to believe me! She glows way too much to be otherwise.

As quickly as the glow appears, it disappears. Sandy blinks. Was it real? Did she glow? Something’s still wrong. Everything’s still too bright, too loud, too intense.

Sandy looks at April and sees the same thoughts in the tall teen’s facial expression. April’s eyes say, Stay sharp — don’t drop your guard.

Sandy’s eyes are drawn to a small box of obsidian black, carelessly tossed on the chair next to Courtney, as if it had spilled from her purse. Courtney’s long-fingered hand had just pressed a button on its surface. A pager, Sandy guesses. Figures. Little Miss Rich Girl probably has every electronic toy that money can buy. Courtney’s next words jar Sandy from her thoughts.

“Oh, that’s right — it is Bad. Badder than any of you wimps will ever be. What’s with the cutesy matching necklaces? Some kinda dweeby club?” Courtney rakes her eyes from golden pendant to golden pendant as she appraises each girl in turn.

Sandy stands up to face Courtney. She defensively tucks her medallion into her blouse and fastens up the top button. Mandy takes another step backwards, looks down, and covers her pendant with both hands. She turns red, making it difficult to see where her hairline ends. April, already a leg up as she laced the running shoe, rests a hand on her knee and looks like she’s going to vault the chairs that separate her from Courtney. Her medallion swings freely forward.

Sandy notices the shoes that Courtney’s trying on: black, shiny, spiked-heel leather boots that rise up the calf. Kinda trampy and totally inappropriate, Sandy thinks. And the color matches her energy. A strange mix of disgust and envy fills Sandy. The feeling is unsettling, to say the least. Why would I admire something that flashy?

“Back off, Courtney,” April spits. “We had enough of you at the last dance.”

Courtney gives April a smile, a wicked smile that grows from the smallest of smirks to a long thin line
of maliciousness.

“Look here, sis.”

“Don’t call me sis! There’s nothing even remotely similar between you and me!” April’s hands are balling up into fists. Sandy sees the warning signs and puts a hand on her friend’s arm. This isn’t the first time that she’s kept April from mixing it up with Courtney.

A moment of silent reflection, during which Courtney’s face betrays a calculation of what she’s heard. This irritates her, Courtney thinks. She stores a mental note, gives April a “You’re not worth it” look, and casually slips off the boots. She throws them, with no regard, near their box, for the store’s clerk to eventually pick up. Slipping on her own shoes, Courtney stands, picks up the numerous bags full of purchases from trendy stores, and walks toward the exit to the mall. With a turn of her head, she says one last thing, “Be seeing you around... sis.” Her glance slashes across the other girls, and she says, “Prescott... Sheperd.” She nods minutely at each teen in turn as if saluting. Then she turns her head around and saunters out.

After she left, everything turned back to Normal. The lights no longer seemed so bright; the shoe store’s colors returned to their muted pastels; and the air was no longer charged. Mandy still covered her medallion with both hands. She watched Courtney for every step of the teen’s exit from the store. Mandy’s breaths were still shallow and rapid, her heart beating fast.

“Ignore her,” Sandy said. “Let’s get something to eat. Oh... Mandy, don’t forget, your second lesson’s coming up real soon. I hope you’ve memorized the Four Deflections.”

“Uh... sure... yeah,” stuttered Mandy. She was still looking at the exit.

 

Courtney was a good distance away when she stopped to look back at the entrance to the shoe store. The three teenage girls she had just tormented were little, distant figures near the front of the store. It’s incredibly weird, she thought. I know I saw Mandy and her dork of a boyfriend, Vaughn, fall from the cliffs into Purgatory Chasm. They should have died. I wonder. Did saying “I’m sorry” somehow help to save them. Naw! That’d be too strange. People would think I’d lost my mind. She looked back at the trio. As supposedly popular as Courtney was in school, she was shopping alone.

 

Where does she come off calling me “sis”? April thought. I shouldn’t let Sandy hold me back. On the other hand, for a couple of seconds, there was a weird glow around Courtney. If she’s Magikal and knows how to use it... I doubt it’d be for Good.

“C’mon, time’s a-wasting. Anyone up for a slice of pizza?” Without waiting for a reply, April kicked off the running shoes she was trying on, slipped on her old pair, did a speed-tying of the laces, and headed for the exit. Sandy looked down at the running shoes April had kicked off. Bending down, she neatly slipped them into the box that belonged to them. No matter how steamed she is, we don’t need April acting like Courtney.

At the threshold between the store and the cavernous mall, Mandy stopped the other two. “Wait. Let me call Aunt Candace and let her know that we’re almost done.”

“When’d you get a cell phone?” Sandy asked.

“I didn’t. I’m borrowing Aunt Candace’s phone.” Mandy flipped it open and dialed her aunt’s home. A steady set of ringing beeps sounded in her ear. “No answer. I’ll try her later.”

“This is getting old,” April said. “I hate borrowing our folks’ cars or relying on rides. Can’t wait ’till one of us gets her own car.”

 

In the center of the mall, with a good view of the distant shoe shop entrance, sat an attractive woman in her early forties. Having arrived earlier than anticipated, she’d sat on a bench and cracked open a well-worn paperback in one hand. The commotion toward the front of the shoe shop had caught the corner of her eye, and she’d looked up in time to catch a dark-haired teenage girl leaving.

The air around the seated woman swirls, dragging fallen leaves from the real trees planted behind her into a counterclockwise maelstrom. The mall lights become very bright, and the smell of imitation butter from the nearby popcorn cart becomes greasily overwhelming.

The woman on the bench is Mandy’s Aunt Candace, and she clearly sees a glow enveloping the raven-haired girl. I don’t know her. This can’t be good.

The three girls soon followed the dark-haired teen’s exit. A tinkling noise at her feet diverted Candace’s eyes. A sparkling tear-shaped diamond earring lay on the floor. Without thinking, she bent down and reached for it.

“OW!” came a unison call as Candace and a strange woman banged heads together. Letting the pain subside for a second, Candace reached up and handed the expensive bauble to the stranger. “Is this yours?”

“Yes, thank you. Although, I could have done without the collision.” She extended a gloved hand. “I’m Adrienne.”

The seated woman took the hand and shook it. “Candace.”

Adrienne looked toward the shoe shop. “I couldn’t help noticing you glancing over at my daughter. Do you
know her?”

“The young lady who just left that shop? No, I don’t, but she seems to know my niece and her friends.”
Candace gestured toward the gaggle of girls heading for the mall diner.

“I believe they are classmates. I’d like to know more about her friends — a mom thing. I feel like I’ve neglected my daughter’s social life, lately, with all the Newport societies to which I belong.”

“Really? I don’t think Mandy’s ever mentioned her. What is your daughter’s name?”

“Courtney... Courtney Taberton. I don’t understand her attraction to shopping malls. I’ve told her over and over that there are much finer shops in Boston. We could take the shuttle from the island airport and be in Boston in no time at all, or even the high-speed ferry to Providence. There are some shops there that meet our standards.”

 

Oblivious to the two women, Courtney walks rapidly away. She looks at her reflection in a store window and sees a glow surrounding her. Damn thing’s malfunctioning again. I thought Filomene said that scientist knew what he was doin’.

 

Candace glances over her shoulder at the rapidly retreating back of the dark-haired teen. There is no mistaking the glow. A thought forms in the mind of the seated woman. She slowly stands and looks Adrienne in the eye. “I’ve been wanting to know more about my niece’s friends, too. Since they’re classmates, maybe this invitation will not appear too bold. Mandy’s having a birthday party on June fourteenth.”

Adrienne initially folds her arms, but she glances at her now distant daughter. She unfolds her arms and looks Candace in the eye. “We’d be delighted.”

 

God Bless America© 2003 Timshel Literature