Squire’s Isle Created by Geonn Cannon

The Right Shoe and the Left Behind

The Right Shoe and the Left Behind

by Geonn Cannon

http://www.geonncannon.com

Copyright © 2018 Geonn Cannon

Summary: A ghost from the past is waiting outside Camilla Fereday’s door…

NOTE: The amazing artist Rita Fei (who is responsible for the Trafalgar & Boone cover art) posted an original piece of art that made me want to write a story around it. Two years later, I actually did! Check out her stuff on her site! The story’s inspiration is under the cut!

If it hadn’t been raining, Camilla might have seen her earlier. She couldn’t say what she would have done differently… if she would have crossed the street and kept walking, or ducked into the pho shop on the corner to ‘wait out the storm’. But she kept her head down as she approached the front door of her townhouse, more focused on getting her keys from her purse with one hand so she wouldn’t have to drop her umbrella.

Camilla was aware of someone standing near the door but assumed it was another resident waiting for an Uber or watching the rain. Just as she stepped into the halo thrown by the light over the door, the person reached out and touched her arm. She tensed, too startled to react violently even though the keys in her left hand and umbrella in her right would make perfect weapons.

In the space of a blink, she realized she knew the person staring back at her. The blonde hair was much shorter, and the baseball cap-hoodie combo was a far cry from the forest green school blazer they’d once worn, but she would have recognized those eyes anywhere. Even after eleven years, those eyes had never been far from her memory.

“Olivia?”

“Hey, Cam.” The smile hadn’t changed either. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Camilla shook her head. She finally remembered to blink. “Uh, no. No, I wasn’t…” She noticed Olivia’s right hand was in her coat pocket. It seemed like she was holding something. A gun…? She dismissed that thought as crazy. “I just didn’t expect to see you… here. That’s all. I… uh, h-how are you doing?”

“Can we go inside? It’s kind of soaked out here.”

She couldn’t think of a polite way to refuse, but she also couldn’t bring herself to agree verbally. She nodded and fumbled with the keys again and stepped into the entryway. Olivia crowded up behind her and Camilla’s mind again went to the gun thought. Goosebumps erupted on her arms even though she knew Olivia was probably just getting in out of the rain. She swallowed the lump in her throat, unlocked the door, and stepped inside.

I could slam the door before she follows me in, she thought.

But Olivia was already over the threshold. Camilla closed the door behind her as Olivia drifted out of the foyer like she’d been blown in by the storm. She disappeared into the darkness of the living room. Camilla put down her purse and umbrella, then followed. She turned on a lamp, which made Olivia appear in front of the window like Marley’s ghost. It was all she could do not to gasp even though she’d known the other woman was there.

“So this is your place.” Olivia’s eyes slowly panned across the fireplace, the framed photos on the wall, the furniture. “All of it? The whole building?”

“Uh, yeah. It’s not as big as it… as you think it is. It’s three floors, but they’re n-narrow.”

Olivia finally looked at her again. “Oh.” Her hand was still in her pocket. “You look good, Cam.”

“Thank you.” She rubbed her hands together. “What are you doing here, Liv?”

“Straight to the point.” She walked in front of the couch, moving closer to where Camilla stood. She tucked her bottom lip into her mouth, a quick flash of pink when she wet it with her tongue. “I’ve been thinking a lot about back then. The old days.”

Camilla’s voice was much quieter when she said, “That was a long time ago.”

“Yeah. A lifetime.”

Olivia stared at her, holding her gaze until Camilla was forced to look away. The silence hung between them until it felt almost physical. The rain pattering against the windows was just on the audible side of white noise, a hum that only reinforced the fact neither of them was speaking.

“A drink, I can… Do you want something to drink?”

Olivia held the stare for a second longer than was comfortable. “Sure.”

Camilla fled into the kitchen. The light here was much brighter but, in among the stainless appliances and the gleaming tile, Olivia’s faded jeans and raggedy sneakers looked even more out of place. Camilla opened the fridge and stared at her options. Guinness, orange juice, kale smoothies. She also had a few cans of root beer, which seemed more Olivia’s style.

“Water is fine,” Olivia said.

“Are you su– okay.”

She let the fridge door close and went to the sink. Olivia leaned against the counter in front of the dishwasher. Her damn hands were still in her damn pockets. Camilla filled one of her glasses with tap water and tried to wade through the sudden flood of memories she hadn’t thought about in years. Well, months, at least. She saw a much different Olivia. Her hair, long and silken, not this short and shaggy mess poking out from under a cheap cap. Camilla handed the glass to Olivia, who took it with her left hand but didn’t take a drink.

“Looks like you’re doing pretty well for yourself.”

“I’m doing all right. How about you?”

Olivia smiled and met Camilla’s gaze. “Come on, Cam. You really have to ask that?”

“I didn’t… I don’t want to, uh…”

“You don’t want to judge me? Well, judge all you want.” She held her hands out to either side and looked down at herself. “These aren’t shabby chic name brands. This is the real deal, Goodwill, five-shirts-to-a-pack fashionista. The whole thing probably cost less than those shoes of yours. Hell, the whole outfit probably cost more than my car.”

Camilla blinked rapidly. “Liv…”

“I didn’t come here to talk about money,” Olivia suddenly growled, ducking her head so the brim of her cap covered her face. “Fuck, why do I keep talking about money?”

“I… I don’t know…”

“I just didn’t expect this. And I spent a long time in the rain waiting for you to come home, and I guess I got pissy. I thought you would be home at seven o’clock so I was standing out there for two hours. I’m lucky no one called the cops.”

Camilla said, “I went out for drinks with some people from work.”

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me. It’s not like you knew I was coming.” She finally looked at the water in her hand, took a drink. “I’m sorry. I just didn’t expect you to have a place like this. I’m not here because I’m mad at you.”

“I’m glad.”

Olivia’s right hand was still in her pocket. Camilla moved to the other side of the kitchen. It didn’t create much space between them – they were still within arm’s length of each other – but at least it created the illusion of separation. She crossed her arms over her chest and stared at the backsplash above the counter. She hated that tile. Olivia drained the glass and put it down on the counter. Camilla looked down at the floor, at their shoes. Steve Madden pumps, and a pair of work boots scuffed and stained with frayed laces.

There was a time when they’d both worn identical black flats. Part of their uniforms, along with plaid skirts and white blouses under forest-green blazers. Seeing Olivia brought back the smell of the hallways, the sound of slamming lockers echoing off tile and brick. It also brought back other memories, scenes she hadn’t allowed herself to dwell on for a long time.

“I don’t have much cash.”

Olivia looked up as if snapping out of her own reverie. “What?”

“In the house, I mean. I keep a little on-hand to tip delivery drivers or whatever. A few bucks. But I left most of my cash at the bar. I can get–”

“You think I’m here for money?”

Camilla was flustered. “I-I don’t… I don’t know.”

Olivia pushed away from the counter. She shook her head and went back into the living room. “I should have known. I should have expected this from someone like you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean, someone like me?” Camilla pursued her.

“It’s sad, really. Money is the meaning behind everything, right? Everyone is out for money.”

Camilla said, “It usually turns out to be the case. Money is usually why anyone does anything.”

“Some people are out for sex, too.”

“So you want to fuck me?”

Olivia stopped. She wasn’t quite in the foyer, but the light from the lamps and the kitchen didn’t reach her. The security light outside passed through the round glass of the front door and framed her like a Renaissance painting. She turned to face Camilla and stared at her.

“You’re the one who said it,” Camilla said, her voice stronger than she felt. “Money or sex. You already said you aren’t here for money, so…”

“Do you think I’m here to collect on the debt?”

Camilla shrugged. “Well.”

“Believe me, if I planned to do that, it wouldn’t have taken me over a decade to show up.”

“Well, you must want something from me.”

Olivia stared at her. “You don’t have anything I want.”

“I find that impossible to believe.”

“Impossible? Really.” She laughed and shook her head. “Why, because your bank account is fat or you have some French dude’s name sewn into your jacket? You work your ass off at a job you can’t stand to get those things. I have a job I love. It doesn’t get me a townhouse or designer shoes, but I like my place and my shoes are comfortable as hell. Are yours? Or are you dying to take them off? It must suck to wear them for, what, ten hours a day? Twelve?”

Thirteen, Camilla thought, if you count going to the bar after work. She remained silent.

“Fuck it.”

Olivia reached her right hand into her pocket. Camilla hadn’t noticed when she took it out, and now she was yanking something out and swinging the hand up toward her.

“Please don’t!” Camilla said, raising both hands to protect her face, cringing back toward the kitchen.

Olivia froze. She frowned at Camilla’s reaction, then understood it. “Oh, fuck you,” she snapped.

She threw what she was holding onto the table behind the couch. Camilla could see that it was a piece of thick paper, postcard-sized.

“You can go to hell, Cam. God, you thought I came here to hurt you? You honestly think I…”

“What is that?”

Olivia picked it up and stepped forward to press it hard against Camilla’s chest. “It’s an invitation. But after this whole little deranged reunion, feel free to just throw it out. I figured that was what you’d do anyway, but I thought if I hand-delivered it, you would… you might… you know what, never mind. This was a huge, huge mistake.”

Olivia turned and went back toward the door. Camilla looked at the invitation. It was gorgeous, with gold cursive lettering framed by a silver border. “The York Gallery is proud to host a showing of artwork by OLIVIA JUELL on March 18th, 7-10pm.”

Camilla said, “You’re still doing your art.”

“Yeah, I’m still doing my art.” Olivia stopped at the door. “I’m a barista and a delivery girl, but technically I’m an artist. This is going to be my first show. I knew you still lived in the city, so I thought you might want to know about it. You don’t have to go.”

“I never asked you to take the blame,” Camilla said, her voice so quiet the rain almost drowned her out. “Everything happened so quickly after that, I didn’t know… there was never…”

“I know,” Olivia said.

She could smell the sharp, chemical stink of Mr. Isaksen’s cologne which permeated his tiny office. There was a window and a dying flower that hung in his window. She could feel the sting of tears in her eyes as she realized her entire future would end with the next words she said, and there was nothing she could do about it. The black cloud of Miss Woods to her right was so tangible she thought if she looked she might see the English teacher lurking in the corner, another phantom visiting her.

“This is a very serious offense, Miss Fereday.”

“Why did you do it?” Camilla asked.

“What?”

“No one asked you to take the blame. The only reason you were there was because you happened to be outside the library with the rest of us. You could have just gone back to class when it was all over.”

Olivia sighed. “Long answer or short answer?”

“I don’t care.”

Olivia pulled down her hoodie and drifted back into the living room. “I hated that school. I hated wasting my time there, all the fucking classes that bored the hell out of me, the other girls. I hated that they were trying to make us all identical. All four of us dragged into the office were dressed in the same damn uniform, like a bunch of dolls. Kelly was overweight, Anna was black, you’re Hispanic, I was a blonde Barbie doll, but we all looked exactly the same. It bugged the hell out of me. And I looked at you, and I saw your were about to cry because you knew they’d kick you out. I saw how much staying there meant to you, and I guess… it was in my power to make that happen for you.”

Camilla said, “But you could have gone to jail. Or gotten a criminal record. If Ms. Donaldson pressed charges…”

“But she didn’t.”

“She could have!”

It was supposed to be a prank, a way to get back at a teacher who treated every girl in her class like second-class citizens. She was critical and, often, just plain cruel to anyone who happened to be wearing a skirt. Camilla hadn’t often been a target of Devil Donaldson, but she’d seen enough classmates crying in the bathroom that she felt it was necessary to do something about it. She waited until school let out. There were only a couple of other students nearby – Olivia was one of them – but not enough traffic to risk anyone else getting hurt.

Camilla poured an entire bottle of water on the floor knowing Donaldson was the only person who would be traveling on this little hallway that connected the computer lab to the main hall outside the library. She burst through the doors right on schedule, long strides and chin up. She stepped on the puddle and her foot slipped out from under her. She flailed, slipped, and went down hard. She went down very hard. Her head cracked off the tile and her whole body went still.

She was taken to the hospital by ambulance, where it was determined she had a concussion. The librarian, alerted by Donaldson’s yelp, had come running in time to catch the suspects lingering in the area, gawking at the sprawled older woman. Camilla hadn’t even thought to flee, she was so stunned. She thought she’d killed her.

And then an hour later, sure that the final nail in her coffin was about to be hammered in, she heard Olivia say, “It was my water. I poured out my bottle because I knew Ms. Donaldson was coming through soon, and I thought it would be funny. I hate that bitch.”

“Why did you do it?” Camilla asked again. “Why would you take the blame?”

“I told you.”

“Then tell me again, because I don’t understand it.”

“Because I was fucking in love with you.”

Camilla looked away. Olivia looked at her boots. They’d never dated, but they kissed. An overnight trip, a rainy night like this one. Back of the bus. Olivia’s big coat draped over them both. There were quick flashes of light from streetlights they passed under, like a very slow strobe effect. Camilla played with Olivia’s hair. Olivia kissed Camilla’s cheeks just under each eye. Then, lips touched lips. Then hands moved and clothes were massaged and then rearranged. It was just the first of several clandestine meetings. It never evolved to actual sex, but Camilla had climaxed more than once, and she was fairly sure Olivia had as well.

“Liv…”

“Don’t. Okay? It’s been a long time. Whatever we might have… whatever it might have turned into, we lost our chance. If we even had a chance. I don’t mind. I would do it again. Falling on my sword to save you was probably the most noble thing I’ve ever done in my life. And look, it paid off.” She gestured at the house. “I didn’t mean to imply this was a bad life. It’s obviously a great life. I’m really happy for you. You should be happy for me, too. My life might not look glamorous, but I love it. I love the coworkers at my day job, but I absolutely adore the time it gives me to work on my art. I don’t want to fill all day every day grinding nonstop just so I can get a promotion and work harder in a slightly bigger office. That’s not for me.”

Camilla nodded.

“Uh. The show is, uh, next weekend. But the art will be on display for four weeks if you want to come when it’s not so crowded or… or whatever. I’ll get out of your hair.”

Once again, she turned to leave.

“They’re really fucking uncomfortable.”

Olivia looked back at her. “What?”

“My shoes. My damn eighty-dollars-on-sale shoes. I’ve been wearing them since seven o’clock this morning, and my feet are killing me.”

“Then maybe you should take them off.”

Camilla stepped out of her shoes and let her stockinged feet sink into the carpet. She curled her toes and couldn’t help smiling in relief at how good it felt. She did this every night, but she’d never taken the time to truly appreciate the bliss of it.

“Better?” Olivia asked.

“Getting there.” She looked at the window. The storm had gotten worse in the past few minutes. “Would you… do you want to stay? Until the storm passes. We can catch up.”

Olivia said, “Are you sure?”

Camilla nodded. “Yeah. I think it’s very overdue.”

Olivia hesitated and looked at the window as if debating whether it was worth the risk to go back out into the rain. Finally, though, she took off her jacket and unzipped the hoodie underneath. This time when she came into the living room, she didn’t look like she was spoiling for a fight.

“What the hell,” she said. “I don’t have anywhere else I need to be.”

Camilla smiled, relieved. “I’ll put on some coffee.”

She had a feeling it was going to be a long night.

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