I apologize for taking such a long time to update this. I had a bit of writer's block and of course, I was finishing Truthful Deception. Nevertheless, here it is! Please let me know what you think.


Shoes

Hope was futile. She knew the magic would keep building inside her until she was forced to release it, one way or another. What would they do, Arrey wondered, to a princess who had not come forward when called?

Pushing the back door open with her elbow, Arrey made her way to the cupboard and stored the dishes away. Sighing, she brushed herself off and looked around the house. The dishes had been the last of her daily chores and as much as she wanted to, she could not force herself to clean the bedrooms for the third time.

It was only noon. Her chores had gone by faster than usual and even Eric, her little brother, wasn't around to distract her, wandering around in town.

Arrey wondered whether it would be worth it to go and look for him or if she would be risking exposure in the crowded streets. She hadn't been out of the house in almost two weeks, except for last night, and that fieldtrip hadn't exactly gone smoothly.

Arrey realized suddenly how much she missed the village center with all its wonderful shops and wares. She missed bumping into old friends whom she hadn't seen in a while. She missed the cries of vendors, the sweet smells of the bakery and florist, the riding stables with the gentle horses she loved so much.

She missed freedom.

Looking down at her tiny, callused hands her vision blurred as tears welled up in her eyes. Why her? Why did the stupid magic have to pick her?

A sharp rapping at the door startled Arrey and sent her heart pounding in her throat. She made herself relax and slowly went to open the door. Every time someone came to call, Arrey couldn't help but be afraid someone had found out it was her and the palace guards had come to drag her off.

With a shaking hand, she turned the knob and pulled the door back. The sight of Janie standing there was more of a relief than it should have been. Especially, since Arrey knew that she would have to answer some very tough questions in less than thirty seconds.

Sure enough, Janie didn't even Arrey time to blink before she started on her rampage.

"What happened last night? Where did you go? Do you have any idea how long we were looking for you for? Start talking!" she finished.

"Janie, is there anyway we can pretend last night didn't happen and just go on with our lives?" pleaded Arrey.

Janie didn't even respond, only making enough of an effort to move her facial expression into one that clearly said Arrey had no choice but to explain.

Arrey heaved a sigh, but she had rehearsed her excuse enough last night before falling asleep that no nervous expressions, restless hands, or downcast glances would give her lie away. Not that much of it was a lie.

"Janie, I hadn't been feeling well all day, and it really caught up with me last night…" Arrey began.

"You couldn't have just mentioned that instead of flying out of the tree without a word and taking off to who knows where?" interrupted Janie.

"Well excuse me for not wanting to get sick in front of everyone!" Arrey retorted. "Next time I'll just stay put!"

Janie bit her lip. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know…"

"Just forget it. I'm sorry I got angry, guess I'm still not better," mumbled Arrey and going back into the kitchen to start preparing lunch.

Behind her, she heard the rustle of Janie's gown as she moved to follow her, and strangely the whisper of bare feet. Arrey turned and smiled for the first time in days.

"You're not wearing shoes again are you?"

"I hate the shoes my mother makes me wear. Not only are the ugly but they hurt!" complained Janie, flopping down into a chair at the scarred kitchen table. "I much rather go barefoot for the rest of my life."

"So what happened to the shoes this time?" Arrey asked. It seemed like everyday Janie's mother bought her a new pair of high heels and without a doubt, something always ended up happening to them.

Of course, Janie wasn't stupid enough to just throw them out. Each pair simply disappeared after a few days with a reasonable explanation that even her strict mother could not find fault with.

"Nothing yet, I'm running out of ideas," said Janie dropping the shoes in question onto the table with a look of disgust. Arrey went over to inspect them.

Normally, the shoes weren't always that bad. But Arrey could see why Janie would feel the need to creatively dispose of this pair.

They were at least four inches high, much too high to walk dignified and not to mention comfortable in. And they were bright yellow with a huge orange flower set into the junction of straps that crisscrossed over the toes.

Arrey made a face. "Do you even own a dress that goes with these?"

"That's what makes me nervous. I don't as of right now. But I have an awful feeling one is coming soon," said Janie, a horrified expression on her pixie face.

"So what options is there this time?" Arrey asked, using her forearm to brush the shoes closer to the edge of the table so she could being to slice her recently harvested vegetables.

"Well," began Janie tapping her chin with a wicked gleam in her eye. "I'm thinking that accidentally stepping into a pile of horse manure might do the job."

Arrey's hand paused the knife in its downward motion, her gaze locked onto Janie's face.

"What?"

"Horse manure? You couldn't come up with a better, maybe less disgusting way of getting rid of the shoes? I mean after all, they haven't done anything to you to deserve that kind of treatment," laughed Arrey, going back to chopping the carrots.

"Not yet maybe, but I'm not intending to give them an opportunity. Horse manure it is, the sooner the better!" cried Janie, punching the air in victory. The two girls laughed, the sound making the dust motes swirl and dance in the thick sunlight pouring from the skylight.

"Why don't you just tell your mom you don't like them instead of wasting all that money?" pointed out Arrey once their laughter had stopped.

"Don't you think I've tried? She doesn't like my taste in accessories. My mother's too caught up in the past," she grumbled. "She won't even let me try on this one pair that I've been dying to get."

"Oh, what do they look like?" asked Arrey, glad that the conversation was veering in the opposite direction from last night and looked like it would stay that way.

"They're light baby blue with little gems set into satin straps," explained Janie wistfully. She held out her dirty, barefoot admiring it at every angle as though trying to envision herself with them on.

"Sounds pretty."

"They're beautiful! And so much better than this pile of garbage," she said, flicking the pair on the table.

Her motion upset one of the shoe's balance and sent it tumbling off the edge of the table. Arrey's reflexes kicked in and she stooped to catch it. The shoe landed in her palm and she tightened her fingers around it to bring it back to the table's top.

Tossing it towards the other one, she went back to scooping the vegetables into a bowl.

"So, why don't you just stand up to you mother for once and go buy the shoes?" asked Arrey, continuing the conversation. When Janie didn't answer, she looked up puzzled.

Her friend was staring at the recently saved shoe with a mixture of wonder and confusion on her face. Arrey's gaze followed suit and what she saw made her heart stop.

Sitting next to the ugly yellow, flower adorned shoe was the baby blue, gemstone emblazed one matching Janie's description right down to the satin laces. The gems flaunted themselves in the sunlight so there was no denying that they were there in place of the flower.

Arrey looked up in horror, her eyes locking with Janie whose face was still frozen in the same expression. Her heart pounded in her throat and a million different excuses ran through her head. None of them were good enough.

Her secret was out.