Wise purchase or rash decision?

I wrote this short story back in 2008 as an entry for a competition. I recently found it again so thought I’d share it with you.

Sally felt the first wet splash against the back of her neck and just knew this day from hell was about to get worse. She hadn’t thought to put her umbrella in her bag this morning. But then, when she had set off for work earlier in the day, she had felt on top of the world and the prospect of it raining hadn’t even entered her head. Today, according to her horoscope, was meant to be the day her future plans started to come together. She had interpreted that as meaning that her long promised promotion was going to happen.

Everyone in the bank knew that the appointment to the Junior Manager position was due to be announced today. Sally had gone up for it along with only two other candidates. Charmaine everyone knew was unlikely to get it. She wasn’t a popular employee and the post needed someone who could get on with all the staff. That left her other competitor, Giles. Giles was more popular but not exactly the Bank’s hardest worker. He spent quite a bit of his working day flirting with the female employees and Sally couldn’t see him knuckling down and getting on with such a responsible position. That left her and she knew she was well liked, worked hard and had the added bonus of being told by her boss, Geoff, that promotion would soon be coming her way.

            Earlier that day she’d skipped into the Bank’s lobby feeling absolutely invincible. Instead of the usual 20 minute wait for a lift she’d stepped right into one that was almost empty and ready to set off for her office on the 16th floor. Her fellow employees had all greeted her with smiles and hellos and life had felt good. She’d sat down in her little cubicle in the open plan space and straight away had settled down todo her usual work.

She knew that the announcement about the job was due to take place at lunchtime so there was still time to show her boss that he was making the right choice. Time went quickly as she had a lot to do. She’d looked up briefly and smiled after about half an hour as Giles arrived. He was half an hour late and then spend the next hour or so flirting and chatting before even thinking about settling down to do some work. The job was definitely hers. After all who in their right minds would choose him over her?

            Around 11am two men in suits, who she had never seen before, and Giles’s current girlfriend, Amanda, walked through the area and headed for the two private offices at the back. One office was empty and reserved for the successful candidate so they must be going to see her boss who worked in the other, larger one. She hoped they wouldn’t hold him up for too long as she was dying to hear whether or not she’d got the job.

Her hopes weren’t answered as they all stayed in there until 2pm. She hadn’t dared go for lunch in case they finished and so she was starving hungry and getting really grouchy by the time they left. What annoyed her even more was the fact that her boss left with the two strangers and so she still didn’t know when she’d find out. And why on earth was Amanda still in the office?

            She didn’t have long to wait to find out. Shortly after the three men left Amanda came out of the office and asked everyone to go through to the boardroom as she had an announcement to make. As she shuffled out of her cubicle Vanessa, a colleague, whispered “I guess this is it Sally, don’t worry, you’ve got it in the bag although I don’t know why SHE is making the announcement”. Sally mumbled her thanks and hoped she was right, but, deep down in the pit of her stomach she felt a rumble of unease. As soon as they were all gathered Amanda started.

“Thank you all for coming in. I guess you’re wondering what’s going on. I know you had been expecting Geoff to announce the name of the new Junior Manager by now.Well I’m sorry to say but Geoff is no longer with the company. Unfortunately he has been found to be embezzling money and has been taken into police custody pending further investigations” With that the whole room erupted with everyone gasping and talking at once about how surprised they were and what would happen next. “Okay, okay I appreciate this will have come as a shock to some of you but settle down now” As she said this Sally wondered why she’d said it would be a shock to “some of us”, especially as she’d looked straight at her as she’d said that. “You will also want to know what’s going to happen now. Well the bank has asked me to step in and take over this office until something more permanent can be arranged. They also think it will help stability and morale if you have a Junior Manager who you all know during this time. There is a suspicion that Geoff may have had an accomplice so, unfortunately, the police are going to have to do some more investigations before they can be sure he was working alone.”

Sally’s uneasy feeling was growing now as Amanda, once again, looked directly at her when she talked about the possibility of an accomplice. The bank may have seen her good working relationship with Geoff as something more than innocent and suspected her of being in on his wrongdoings.

Amanda called for hush and then, in the space of 2 minutes, spoke the words Sally had started to dread were coming. “Without further ado I have great pleasure in announcing the name of your new Junior Manager. He will be with you to help get through the next few difficult weeks and I’d like Giles to step up here and accept our offer”

Sally couldn’t breathe, the room felt like it was closing in on her and everything faded out as she took in those words. Not only did she not have the job but she strongly believed that the bank suspected her of working with Geoff in whatever his illegal activities had been. How could this day have gotten this bad, this quickly? She sat down and put her head between her knees as she really felt like she was going to faint. She stayed there for 5-10mins and, just as she was starting to feel better, she heard Amanda’s voice break through her thoughts.

“Sally, Sally. Are you okay?” Sally shook herself out her stupor and looked up. Amanda actually looked quite concerned for her. That was ironic considering she had been the one to shatter her world. She’d given her boyfriend Sally’s job and then compounded it by suspecting her of working with Geoff to defraud the company. She decided she’d imagined the last bit for a few seconds until Amanda spoke again. “I’m really sorry to have to do this now. I know you’re disappointed at not getting the job but believe me it had nothing to do with Giles being my boyfriend. However I have to tell you that you are suspended on full pay until the time the police have finished their investigations and will need to leave the building now. Please be assured that we are not implying any guilt on your part and, once the investigations have been concluded, you’ll be allowed back to work if they find you weren’t involved.”

Sally didn’t really remember much after that but she must have left the Bank and when she felt that first splash of rain she looked up and saw that she was still in the high street and was standing outside a shoe shop. Actually it was her favourite shoe shop and as she looked into the window she lost her breath for the second time that day. There, in the window was the most beautiful pair of shoes she’d seen in a long time. They were blue silk and had around a 4 inch stiletto heel . They were covered in the most amazingly vibrant red floral pattern and had pointed toes. They were absolutely exquisite. She so wanted to buy those shoes but did she really need them?

They were bound to be expensive and, without her expected promotion and the extra money that would have bought, could she really afford them? She remembered a conversation she’d had with her last boyfriend, David. His philosophy had been you only ever needed 5 pairs of shoes maximum. He owned a pair of trainers for sports and casual wear, a pair of sandals for holidays and a pair of black brogues which he used for work and more dressy occasions. According to him the only other shoes you’d need would be maybe another pair of brogues in brown, if you were fussy about colour matching, and a pair of walking boots, if you were a serious hiker. He’d nearly had a heart attack when he’d seen Sally’s collection. She’d already collected around 50 pairs in her 23 years and could totally understand women, older than her, who’d been known to own more than 100 pairs. It was so true what they said about men and women being from different planets! Her philosophy was so much more sophisticated than David’s had been. She’d tried to explain it to him but he just didn’t get it. Her explanation of shoes affecting your moods, for example the time she’d been wearing her “sex kitten” shoes (they were red patent leather and had really high stiletto heels and made her feel much more adventurous than she really was) and had somehow found the nerve to ask  a complete stranger if he’d have dinner with her. When she’d told him about that he’d laughed at her and said she was daft to have attributed that behaviour to the shoes. He’d just not got it and his explanation for what had happened had been that she’d just had a glass of wine and the alcohol had loosened her inhibitions. He also just didn’t get the idea that you needed a selection of different colours, materials and styles according to what outfits and occasions were involved. To him the choice was simple to her it was complex and needed a lot of care and attention because the wrong shoes could completely change her mood and look.

Anyways she needed to make a decision and move on because if it was going to rain she’d better get herself home before she got soaked. She stood and thought it through and finally decided she wanted the shoes but didn’t actually need them, especially as it looked like she might be unemployed at some point in the future.

Okay, decision made. She shook herself out of her thoughts and reluctantly moved on. She hadn’t taken more than three of four steps before she was suddenly thrown forwards as the heel on her shoes snapped off and she fell forwards scraping her hands as she put them out to save herself. She picked herself up and looked down at the wrecked shoe, could this day possibly get any worse? Well she had two options now didn’t she? She could snap the other heel off and walk home in flats or see it as an omen and go back for the shoes she’d just seen on the grounds that the universe was sending her a sign. No contest she thought to herself snapping the other heel off.

She turned around and almost ran back to the shop. She now felt she no longer wanted but needed the shoes if even only to end the day on a positive note after what had gone before.

When she entered the shop and asked about the shoes in the window she was delighted to discover they were on sale, the last pair and in her size. Finally some good karma she thought to herself. She tried them on, they fitted perfectly and with the labels removed and her broken shoes thrown away she exited the shop feeling like a whole new person.

Now she’d made the decision and bought the shoes she decided the very least they deserved was a quick outing so she decided to stop for a glass of wine before going home. After all, thanks to the suspension, she was a lady of leisure for at least the next few days and she might as well take advantage of that.

As she walked into the wine bar, she felt like a million dollars. It really was amazing what a new pair of shoes could do for you she thought. As she approached the bar she felt herself smiling and just at that moment a gorgeous guy smiled back at her and came towards her. Did she know him? He stopped and asked “I couldn’t help but notice you as you came in and wondered whether you would let me buy you a glass of wine?” Normally Sally would have politely declined but today was such a strange day and suddenly she found herself accepting his invitation. Several hours later she left the bar, with a date made to see the handsome stranger again. His name was Alain, they had both thoroughly enjoyed their time together and Sally had a strange feeling that he might be around for some time to come.

If she’d not bought those new shoes and, instead, hurried home on her broken ones she’d never have met him. Just went to show that a girl always needed a new pair of shoes! She chuckled to herself and headed home feeling ready to tackle whatever life threw at her. 

Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash