It started with a pair of lousy, rotten, decomposing sports shoes.
I checked the time on my watch as I rounded the corner of the track, starting on my last lap. With only a minute left before I had to pack up, I sucked in a deep breath before sprinting the final torturous round.
Sometimes, I don't know why I even do this to myself.
Increasingly going faster, my breaths came out short and more rapidly. With droplets of sweat lining my eyelashes and my brain going into automatic shut-down, probably from the lack of oxygen pumped there, it was hard for me to see the people around me. Laboring past the final corner, I gave a last kick-off and burst of energy for the last hundred meters.
Correction, the kick-off was…literal.
My feet came into contact with something, or rather, someone. Sheer momentumkept me going. I guess I hit somewhere crucial, if the animalistic howl is a measure. I turned around to see who my victim was.
Not to snigger of course, just to offer sincere condolences.
I wish I did not. Now I totally, hundred-and-one percent believe in karma.
The world was swept out under me and the last thing I saw was the sky before I started smelling an unworldly combination of…
Hmm…do I want to know?
After the shock of crashing to the ground wore off, the next sense I registered was a strange airy feeling surrounding my right feet.
Not good. Not good at all.
I stayed still and sprawled spread-eagle on the track with my face in the dirt. Mentally debating my next move, I could practically see the angel and devil debating in my head.
"What do I do now?!"
Well...you could just turn around, apologize like the good girl you have been brought up to be, offer to pay for medical fees, find your missing shoe and go home.
Nah, just give him the birdie and run away like the bad girl you want to be.
"I agree with you devil, I don't think I can face him. But I'll need to find my shoe!"
Good point. Then I guess you'll still have to show him your face.
Hey! Do not use his name in vain.
"Yeah…after this I will slit my veins. If I make weird faces, do you think he can recognize me?"
I started pounding the track at this point, but froze in mid-strike when I heard a deep voice above me.
"Hey! I do not mean to interrupt your…er…very private conversation with yourself. But, would you like to have your shoe back?"
The next few moments will, hopefully, remain a hazy memory for the rest of my life. I contorted my face into a weird shape, shot up, stared into a pair of amused blue eyes, noticed my battered shoe in his hand, snatched it with one hand and ran like my life depended on it.
Well…actually just my ego.
And yes, if you were wondering, he was laughing as I hobbled my way to the locker room.
I pushed open the glass door to the indoor pool to be hit by a strong smell of chlorine. Entering into the actual pool area, I scanned the stands and the area leading to the field for my cheerleader stepsisters. There were only so many places you can find a cheerleader.
Spying a rubber ducky lying near the edge of the pool, I inched towards it, blatantly ignoring the sign that says "keep off the edge". Remaining still, on relatively dry ground I stretched out towards it. Rubbing my toes together in anticipation in my slightly over-sized sports shoes, my fingers inched towards the rubber duck's neck. Just as I closed my fingers over it, I felt myself being hurled forward.
Only the top half of me entered the pool, but my shoes just had to go all the way.
I stared at my shoes, floating on the surface of the water a meter away and slowly starting to absorb for all it was worth.
Trust me to do all this for a stupid ducky.
"Hey! What are you doing?"
I stopped short at the sound of the familiar voice. Sure enough, a pair of deep blue eyes stared at me as he helped me up. Gulping at the sight of his muscular chest, still dotted with glistening drops of water, I stammered out an answer.
He inclined his head to the side in question. Staring at my wet state, the rubber ducky in my hand and my shoes currently sinking to the bottom, he finally made the connection. Laughing outright, he took his towel from around his neck and toweled my hair. I felt my face heat up.
"I'll get your shoes for you."
He jumped into the pool, dived, and surfaced with my shoes. Climbing out from the pool, he turned my shoes over and chucked lightly as a small waterfall of water emptied out.
"You know…you should get a new pair of shoes."
"Well…my stepmother will never allow. And I can't help it that my stepsisters have such big feet."
He smiled gently at me as I wrinkled my nose and rubbed it to get the water out.
"That's my coach's son's rubber ducky you are strangling right now."
I stared at the rubber ducky for a moment before thrusting it at him.
"I don't want it anymore!"
"After all the trouble you went through?"
"Precisely because of all the trouble I went through. And, I owe you one. Thanks for saving my shoes."
"No problem. But you still owe me for kicking me yesterday."
I stared at him open-mouthed. And all along I had thought that I had successfully concealed my identity.
"Your weird faces didn't really work. Besides, your shoes are kind of hard to forget."
I grinned sheepishly at him and piled his tower and the rubber ducky into his arms. Grabbing my dripping shoes, I waved goodbye to him and high-tailed out of the place.
Just when I thought that I could fully exploit the joys and benefits of being female, and actually change the detested pair of rotting sport shoes I wear everyday, fate has to turn around and bite me.
The strap of the high heels dug into my heel, and I winced as I tried unsuccessfully again to wrench both my feet out of the drain. It does not help that I can't bend over to unbuckle the heels or I will definitely fall flat on my face. Glaring at my heels and accepting the fact that they are probably permanently stuck between the grills, I tried to find a comfortable position to rot in for at least the next half and hour – the time needed before the first couple comes out to do the…er…ritual for the night.
I heard a scuffle behind me. Thinking that my peers were finally ahead of action plan for the first time in their life, I shouted.
"Lovebirds! Over here!"
Footsteps grew louder as they approached me and when I looked up from my last struggle with the heels, he surveyed me with a pair of amused eyebrows.
I am assuming you know who he is.
"Why do I always find you in awkward positions? No pun intended," he smirked, informing me that he definitely intended.
I groaned. "If you do not stop being lame right now, I am going to become lame."
He sniggered and bent down to look at my high heels, presently both jammed in gaps between the metal grills. He grabbed my foot and attempted to pull it out. After eloquent cursing on both our parts, he looked at me in mock sadness and announced.
"I'm afraid that your shoes are going to be permanently on display here. I feel your grief."
"Yeah, yeah, I can see that you are all torn up."
He reached out and unbuckled my shoes. I stepped out of those killer heels and collapsed onto the ground in relief. He chucked at my over-dramatic flop onto the ground.
"This is the third time you owe me."
I mock glared at him before unexpectedly grabbing his hands and going down on my knees.
"Oh please! At this rate, I will never be able to repay you. Give me the grace of a fourth favor and with that, my life will be yours."
"Okay, wait here!"
He dashed off to the parking lot and returned a few moments later with a plastic bag. Sitting down beside me, he turned to me and retrieved a box from the bag. Glancing up, smiled shyly at me and opened the box. He took out a pair of new Nike sport shoes and grinned at me, waiting for my reaction. Catching my look of confusion, he took the right shoe, lifted my right foot and slotted it right in.
"Does it feel comfortable?"
"Yes! I'll return it to you tomorrow."
"Do you like it?"
"Do you like me?"
His face split with a smile at my enthusiastic response and fell right after with the uncertain after note.
"So…is it a yes, or a no?"
My heart started beating just a little faster. Fine, a lot faster at the meaning behind his words. Unable to fully believe what I had just heard, I ventured a question.
"Did you ask me a question?"
He stared down at his hands, wringing them together in nervousness before scratching his head in an attempt to occupy himself. Finally, he released a huge sigh and grabbed me by the shoulders and looking dead straight into my eyes.
"Will you be my girlfriend?"
Cue angel and devil.
No! Don't say that. Play hard to get girl. Practice some self-restraint.
I pretended to ponder for a long moment, grinning inwardly at his mental anguish for my answer.
"Well…I usually go for guys with a more gallant approach towards proposals. That includes the whole go-down-on-knees tradition, soulful eyes, sweet words and profession of undying words!"
He rolled his eyes after releasing a huge sigh of relief before bending down onto his knees and holding the left side of the shoe up.
"My dearest darling princess, if this shoe fits you, will you be my girlfriend."
To hell with self-restraint.
I nodded earnestly, unable to suppress the grin spreading across my face. He slipped my left foot into the shoe and carefully tied the laces up. Taking my hand, he softly pressed a kiss onto it. Then, he jumped up and pulled me into a tight hug.
"So, can I keep the shoes?"
"I bought them specially for you."
Who needs glass slippers when you can have sports shoes?