The Running Shoes

She stood at the upstairs window staring out, occasionally pressing her face close to the cool windowpanes. The street was lined with cherry trees, their blossoms covering the sidewalks and manicured lawns. Across the street sprinklers gently watered azalea bushes and pansies. Walkers occasionally stopped to admire the resplendent gardens. The neighborhood was home to the wealthy and privileged few.

She sat down on her bed. Standing so long tired her. All of a sudden she heard a rumble and raced back to the window. A big brown UPS truck had stopped at the driveway and was lumbering its way up the steep incline. Clapping her hands in excitement, she squealed with delight.

“Oh, goody,” she thought. “I can’t wait! It has finally arrived!”

With that, she heard a knock.

“Hurry! Hurry!” she said in a whisper.

Her husband of 42 years got up from his worn out chair and shuffled to the door. She could hear muffled voices as he exchanged pleasantries with the delivery man. She strained to listen, hanging over the railing. Finally, the door closed, and she could hear a box being placed on the kitchen table.

“It’s here,” he shouted toward the stairs. He sat back down, turned the volume up on the TV and continued watching his ball game.

She was so excited, she could hardly make her way down the steps. She wanted to run, even jump the steps, but her body, frail from cancer, kept her at a much slower stride as she took each step slowly and deliberately. It seemed to take forever. She held onto the railing and reached for the wall as she guided herself.

“Open it,” she instructed him. He looked up, disinterested, but did as he was told.

“Hurry, hurry,” she said impatiently. “I’ve waited a long time for these.”

He peeled back the layers of packaging to reveal a shoe box, one holding white New Balance running shoes.

As if a vault at Fort Knox had been opened, she clapped her hands and exclaimed, “They are beautiful! I love them!”

She couldn’t help but stare at how white and perfect they were.

“Help me put them on NOW,” she told him. He was used to her tone directing him to do this or that. After all, she was the wealthiest woman in town. He knew his place.

The shoes felt oh-so-new and comfortable. They reminded her of all the years she ran at the beach, in New York, at all the places she had traveled. She hated her hometown. Yes, these shoes were going to take her places. She just knew it. Like the old PF Flyers, she dreamed about running faster and jumping higher. They were her magic ticket out.

“Are you done with me?” he asked. He was tired from all this fuss over a stupid pair of shoes. He wanted to sit back down.

She waved her hand, dismissing him as she made her way toward the living room. Oh, how strong she felt now! She glanced at a photo on the mantel taken years ago. In it, she was walking down Fifth Avenue in New York, her favorite place to be — fur coat on, her hands full of shopping bags, and wearing her New Balance shoes!

Giddy with excitement, she tried to pick up her pace as she made laps around the coffee table. It didn’t take long before she became winded, though, and sat down on the white sofa to admire her white shoes. She laid her head back and dozed.

When she woke up, she found herself in a room that wasn’t her own. She was lying in bed, sheets up to her neck, feeling woozy.

“Where am I?” she asked her husband. He was nodding off in a chair next to her.

“Hospice,” he grumbled. “You know that.”

Puzzled and a bit confused, she drifted back off to sleep. Before he went home that night, he made sure her covers were neat and tidy and that she had plenty of water by her bedside. Hearing her mumble something, he glanced one last time and saw her feet sticking out from under the covers. She was wearing her New Balance shoes. He carefully tucked her shoes under the covers and left. He felt good about that; he knew she would need those for her journey.

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