Iain browsed the selection of shoes at the specialty shop in the High Street, looking for something both functional and stylish. He needed a good set for work, now he’d been given the promotion. Scanning the rows, he sought ones which might indicate he had taste and class without implying superiority.
Just as his gaze landed on some elegant black shoes, a sales associate appeared at his elbow. She had very light brown hair, fair skin, and a dusting of freckles across her nose. At first, she appeared to be quite young, but on closer study, Iain was unsure of her age. It could have been anywhere from eighteen to forty. For half a minute, he could have sworn her ears were pointed, but when he tried to have a better look, they appeared ordinary. He backed away a pace, his skin prickling and an unsettled feeling rising in his chest.
“Looking for something in particular?” she asked.
“Just something for work, er—” He eyed her name tag. “—Fawn.” Unusual name, he thought.
Fawn arched a pale eyebrow. “I can show you some lovely ones. Follow me.”
Iain didn’t dare question her; there was something commanding in her tone despite the layer of sweetness. He trailed after her into a back room of the shop. Inside, boxes and boxes of shoes were lined up on every wall. Fawn waved her hand at a chair in the center of the room, and Iain sat.
“Take off your trainers,” she said, and he obeyed. “First, I’ll measure you up, and then we’ll choose the perfect shoes.” She knelt in front of him and slid the ruler against his foot. “Tell me a bit about yourself.”
“Erm…why?” Iain peered down at her.
Fawn huffed. “It’ll help me know what sort of footwear you need. What are you called?”
“Well, Iain, perhaps it would be better if I asked a few questions. Married?”
“No.” Iain’s face grew hot. He wasn’t sure how Fawn would take his relationship status. Come to think of it, he wasn’t sure how he took it either. Not lately, anyway.
Fawn sat back and peered up at him. “Would you care to expand a bit?”
Iain sighed. He wasn’t likely to see her again, so he decided there was no harm in giving her the truth and risking her judgment. “I’m with two people, a man and a woman. Before you ask, yes, they know.”
“Ah,” she said. “It sounds like there’s more to the tale than you’re letting on.”
His gut twisted. “They’re both lovely people, really. It’s just…sometimes I’m not sure they see me at all.” He intentionally didn’t add his feeling no one saw him.
Fawn’s lips curled into a tiny smile. “Well, invisible Iain, I believe I can show you just the pair you’re looking for.” She rose to her feet. “Stay there, and I’ll bring them to you.”
She walked the length of one wall, studying it. At last she made an aha sound and stepped up on a stool to reach. A moment later, she was back in front of Iain with a box. She removed the lid and handed it to him.
Inside lay a fine pair of black dress shoes. They were polished, so reflective Iain saw his own image quite clearly when he took one in hand. He very nearly said no, as he wasn’t convinced gleaming shoes were appropriate for his job, but he humored Fawn and tried them on anyway. The moment his foot was encased, the shoe molded to fit him. He was sure he saw a flash, but he attributed it to the reflection of the exposed ceiling bulb. He drew on the second shoe.
“Go ahead,” Fawn told him. “Walk around for a bit.”
Iain stood, flexing his toes inside the shoes. They were one of the most comfortable pairs he’d ever had on, and he enjoyed the cushioning sensation as he took each step. These would be ideal for all the walking and standing he had to do. His only hesitation was the mirrored surface. Sitting down again, he intended to pull them off straightaway and return to browsing the outer part of the shop. He tugged at the laces, but they remained knotted. Frowning, he tried to take the shoes off without untying them; they wouldn’t budge.
A slow panic crept up Iain’s spine. “I can’t get them off!”
Fawn’s smile widened. “These shoes will help you, Iain. Trust me.”
“Just how in hell am I supposed to do normal things with these on?” he demanded. “I can’t sleep or shower like this!”
“No worries,” Fawn said. “Once you’ve paid for them and brought them home, they’ll be like any other pair.”
He scowled. “What if I didn’t want these? I can’t even try something else.”
“These are the shoes you want. You’ll have to take my word for it—I know shoes.” Fawn held out a hand to him. “Come. I’ll finish the sale.”
Iain huffed and followed her to the front of the shop. “This is probably against the law, you know. It can’t possibly be legal to sell shoes to customers by preventing removal.”
Fawn only smiled serenely. “I’ve never had anyone return a pair unsatisfied.”
He bit back a retort about how this was going to be a first for her because he wasn’t keeping her strange shoes. She completed the sale and handed Iain a bag with the empty box and his trainers inside then bid him goodbye. Iain restrained himself from stomping out of the store. He’d paid a good amount more for them than he’d planned, and not even the comfortable fit eased his mind. He only hoped Fawn was right and the shoes were as amazing as she’d promised or else he’d be back to get a refund.