Souls, Shoes, and Thieves
Cordelia panted, her heart pounding so hard that her chest ached. The intense young man was following her. He said he wanted to help, but with her memories scrambled and the images of horror and pain rushing through her, she didn't know what to think. She didn't know how to think. She could feel, and her feelings pulled her toward the young man, but they pulled her toward Angel as well, and he had turned into a monster. He was part of the horror that she could see every time she closed her eyes. She was just so confused.
"Can I help you?" A stiff voice asked the question, but from the tone, Cordy wasn't wanted here. She looked around at the expensive shoes and the starched clerk and the well groomed woman who sat in one of the chairs with a graceful foot propped on a stool waiting for the clerk to fit her.
"I..." Cordelia stopped. What should she say? She was looking for sanctuary from people who were all insisting that they only wanted to help?
"Darling!" the woman in the chair rose up and swept toward Cordelia, just accidentally pushing the clerk out of the way. "I'm so glad you caught up with me. I was so sorry to hear how that dreadful airline lost your luggage. First class used to mean something, but now...." She waved a hand airily. "Do give us a second, dear," she said to the clerk in a voice that dismissed him. For a second, he looked from one of them to another, and Cordelia knew that she didn't fit in here. She didn't have a dime in her pocket, and she somehow knew that these shoes cost more money than she could ever hope to hold in her hands at once.
"Of course," the clerk said after a second. "Call me when you're ready." And then he backed away, the way people might have once backed away from royalty. Cordelia looked at the woman trying to decide if she was royalty or if they truly knew each other. She had an English accent, and Cordelia wasn't English... at least she was fairly sure she wasn't English. When she thought of England, it made her think of tea and dusty books and glasses, and none of that really fit her image of herself.
"I'm Sophie," the woman whispered before she kissed Cordelia on each cheek like a long lost relative. "I've seen that haunted look often enough to know that someone is out there, aren't they?" she leaned in close and spoke like they were best friends sharing a secret. Cordelia looked at the glass door, but the lights inside turned the glass into a mirror that reflected her own image back at her. She was haggard and tired, and she didn't fit in this place with beautiful shoes and this beautiful woman.
"You should sit down," Sophie said firmly as she pulled Cordelia toward the chairs. "So, what should I call you?"
Cordelia noticed that the woman didn't ask for her real name, which was comforting because Cordelia only knew what the others told her, and she wasn't sure she trusted any of them. "Some people told me it was Cordelia, but they kept calling me Cordy," she told Sophie.
"Told you?" Sophie tilted her head to the side.
Looking around, Cordelia realized that she wanted to tell someone, she wanted to talk to someone who didn't claim to know her and who wasn't trying to tell her how to feel and who to trust. "I can't remember," she said softly. "I can't remember who I am, and every time I close my eyes, I can see horrible things coming."
"It's not an investigator, is it?" Sophie asked. Cordelia looked over in confusion, but Sophie just patted her hand. "Never mind. Go on. You can't remember. So, have you seen a physician?"
Cordelia shook her head. "At least, I don't think so. But I didn't hit my head, I had something so terrible in there that I can't remember anything but little bits and pieces and none of them make any sense. And now everyone I used to know keeps trying to tell me what to feel, and it's not fair." Cordy expected the woman to call the police, or whoever you called when someone went totally crazy, but instead she just kept patting Cordy's hand.
"Oh, sweetie. That's not a fair deal," Sophie agreed with her. "That's the thing about life, though, isn't it?"
"What? We all lose our minds at some point?"
Sophie stopped patting her and gave a wry smile. "Well, perhaps not. But it throws curveballs. It takes away choices we want, but then it leaves us with others. Like you. You have no past, no baggage, no relationships." Sophie leaned close. "No responsibilities."
Cordy looked at the woman trying to decide if she was being serious or just really having fun poking the crazy amnesiac.
"I adore putting on new identities. I can be a new woman in every city. I'm a socialite in London and a matriarch in Paris. It's like a game, creating a new person and truly becoming that person." Sophie smiled, and it dawned on Cordelia that she wasn't joking. "I work hard to forget who I was before I became the woman I created out of silks and new shoes and forged papers. But you... you can create yourself and never have anything to hold you back from becoming whomever you create."
Cordelia couldn't answer that. The idea was just too... strange. And given how strange her day had gone so far, that was a significant level of strangeness.
"I mean, who do you want to be?" Sophie asked. "Maybe you're a Giuseppe Zanotti Rocia Print." She held up a spiked heel with orange on the stiletto and a snake print covering the five straps that started at the toe and went up to the ankle. Cordelia frowned. They would catch someone's attention. And they were expensive. Expensive implied that she was worth the price. "Only $850," Sophie said in a sing-song as she tilted the shoe from side to side.
In those shoes, Cordelia would be audacious... outrageous. If that boy came up to her with his serious eyes, she would... she would do something incredibly bold. She would push him off the street into the gutter and tell him that he had no claim on her. That felt good, even in the privacy of her own fantasies.
"I could be a Manolo Blahnik boot," Cordy said slowly. She wasn't sure, but she thought she liked those boots. They were expensive and well-made and had a heel sharp enough to go through demon skin. And that was a very odd thing to know.
Sophie just put her Giuseppe Zanotti down and clapped with glee. "There you go. Quality and class. And you can put on a Manolo Blahnik and decide for yourself who you are. What kind of woman loses everything and walks out into the night in black Manolo Blahnik boots with a five inch heel?" Cordelia knew that answer. The woman who did that would be confident and strong. She could walk into any building in the world and expect someone to help her because she asked. People would do what she asked them to do.
"Or a Louis Vuitton," Cordelia said with a slow smile.
Sophie's smile widened. "Oh, they have a great little Chanel pump here. Open at the toe. Very stylish—the sort of shoe that tells men they are going to be buying you something very expensive if they plan to impress you."
For the first time, Cordelia felt something familiar tug at her. Making men impress her—she knew that. An image flashed into her mind. "I had a pair of Ferragamo, a reptile print, I loved those shoes." Cordelia frowned as she tried to figure out what had happened to her favorite shoes. They, along with the rest of her life, were gone.
"No memory of where they are?" Instead of looking at her with hope that she might remember something, Sophie's expression made it clear that she quite enjoyed the idea that Cordelia didn't have a past.
Cordelia smiled shook her head.
Sophie waved a hand dismissively, but her smile suggested that she liked the answer. "Well, that just means you have room in your closet for more. So, will you be a Roger Vivier," she held up a black heel with tiny straps, "or a Giuseppe Zanotti?" She held up the orange and animal print heel. Cordelia looked from one to another, but something kept her from reaching out for either. She couldn't pick a shoe, pick a life, pick an identify like choosing a pattern from a shelf. Could she? What about Angel and his claim that she had a destiny? What about money?
"I don't have money." She whispered the words, and these too felt familiar.
"Oh sweetie, money is nothing. Money is nothing more than paper that is caught and lost as easily as the breeze. Decide who you are, and let the rest just happen."
Cordelia looked around at the shoes and boots all lined up waiting for her. Was she the black, shiny boot with the tall heel? Was she the bright red heel with the snake print? Frowning at all the choices, Cordelia stood up, closed her eyes, and reached out blindly, inching forward across the sales floor.
"That's right," Sophie encouraged her. Cordelia's fingertips found soft leather folded into interesting shapes. She opened her eyes and found herself looking at a black ankle boot with a high heel and gathered leather at the top. So, she was Manolo Blahnik.
Cordy turned to look at Sophie. "What does it mean to be Manolo Blahnik?"
"You have a lifetime to figure that out, sweetie, but right now, I'm going to get the clerk, and then you and I are going to have some fun." Sophie smiled and gave a little shoulder shrug that suggested that she really was looking forward to fun. Cordelia couldn't hold back her own smile. She didn't need Angel or that strange young man who had watched her with such intensity. She just needed a new pair of shoes.