The boots were a tight fit; too tight for Kel’s liking. Leaning back on the ottoman he stamped his heel on the ground a couple of times and turned his leg in the mirror.
“I really like ’em,” he said to Marian’s surprise. His drawl was deep and cautious. Kel was sexy when he was out in public.
“One more up?” said the attendant. She stood with the shoehorn in her hand, hipshot, her long blonde hair like a fountain cascading down her shoulder.
“No,” said Kel, “I like ’em a little tight like that.” He grunted as he forced the boot off, returned red-faced and inhaling deeply through his nose. “That’ll be it,” he said, smiling, placing the boot back into the box his attendant held open, but he was ignoring Marian, she was waiting to the side with both her children dangling from her, and he couldn’t see her or the children. As he pulled his old worn boots back on a girl walked in who Marian recognised—full-figured, dark brown hair, full, darkly-painted lips and large, almost neonatal eyes that gave her a winsome aura; but there was also something insidious and knowing—Marian followed her with her eyes.
“Oh, it’s you,” said Kel, pushing himself to his feet. He talked as he paid for his new boots.
“Yes,” said the neighbour, “it’s me.”
She hitched up her dress—the same from their affair in the darkroom—and exposed her black lace underwear. Marian covered her children’s eyes, then turned, but understood what was happening just behind her—it was all extrasensory—the electricity, the hum of some hostile energy, and her own energy increasing in frequency, in pitch and tone, the fear she felt, the sadness and distance from anything light or good. Her children were by the vending machine outside, pushing the buttons, the shop’s door closed, and they were in so much danger, so terribly vulnerable and naked, like beacons in a dark outside space to which the ghouls and ghosts and alien things are perpetually drawn, like soft and living transmitters of their innocence.
Marian clawed her way back to waking consciousness, confused and distressed, waited for her body to become mobile again—first toes, wiggle wiggle, foot, head, arms. She rolled over to Kel’s side of the bed and put her hand on the sheet where she expected his sleeping body.