Jerry locked the car and turned to Susie. ‘So, where are you going and when do you want to meet up?’
‘I’m going to look for the shoes first but don’t worry about meeting up – you’re coming with me!’
‘But I was going to watch a bit of the match!’
‘Well you’re not now, so come on. I’ve a lot to do.’
Jerry sighed. He had learned the hard way that arguing with his wife just didn’t work. Somehow or other, he would end up paying, and paying for her shoes was bad enough, never mind getting on the wrong side of her. He followed her out to the street.
‘I’m not putting up with you sulking all day, Jerry!’
‘I’m not sulking.’
‘How do you expect me to concentrate if you’re sulking?’
‘I’m not sulking!’ Jerry envied men who could stand up for themselves. He wondered what would happen if he dared to walk away. Perhaps if he waited until she was in the shoe shop, she wouldn’t notice him slipping away?
‘Come on, Jerry! We haven’t got all day!’ Susie pushed open the door of the nearest shoe shop. ‘Sit down there and help me choose!’
Jerry groaned. He knew she intended to keep him firmly in her sights. Flopping down onto the uncomfortable stool, Jerry awaited his fate.
She arrived in the form of a helpful assistant.
‘Good morning, Madam. How can I help you?’
‘Hello, I’m looking for shoes to match this dress.’ Susie scrolled through the pictures on her phone before thrusting it under the assistant’s nose. ‘That one there. I’m going out for cocktails with my husband’s boss.’
‘That dress is beautiful! Perfect for cocktails! Is it by that up and coming designer from Meath?’
‘Yes, it is! How did you know?’ Susie was impressed.
Jerry wondered if he could take out his phone discreetly and keep up with the match live-updates. As he tried to slip it out of his pocket, a glare from Susie stopped him. With a sigh, he resigned himself to perching uncomfortably on the stool and trying to look interested.
‘I saw it in a magazine the other day. That colour will suit you perfectly. I’d never be able to afford a dress like that.’
‘It was a bargain! I got a great deal on it!’
‘Did you? I saw it priced at five hundred euros.’
‘Yes, I know but it was marked down in the sale and I got it for four hundred and fifty euros!’
Jerry’s coughing fit momentarily distracted the two women.
‘What’s wrong with you now, Jerry?’
‘How much did you pay for the dress?’
The women rolled their eyes and turned to a display shelf.
‘I think those heels would suit the dress very well.’
Susie looked doubtful. ‘I’m not sure, perhaps that pair there?’
‘Oh yes! They would look amazing with the new dress!’
Now it was Jerry’s turn to roll his eyes.
‘Would you like to try them on?’
‘Yes, and maybe that pair there too.’ Susie pointed to another pair like the first pair.
‘I’ll fetch them from the storeroom.’
As the assistant went out the back of the shop, Jerry cleared his throat. ‘Er, why can’t you try on that pair right there?’
Susie looked horrified. ‘Try on shoes that have been on display? Whatever are you thinking?’
Privately, Jerry was thinking that it would have saved a lot of time and effort but obviously, he was missing something. He decided to hold his tongue.
The assistant reappeared with two shoe boxes. Susie sat down beside Jerry and watched almost reverently as the assistant opened the first box. Slipping off her own shoes, Susie slowly slid her left foot into the new shoe. Jerry watched as she flexed her ankle, trying to see the shoe from every angle.
‘How does it feel? Is the size alright?’
Susie nodded at the assistant. ‘It’s perfect!’
The assistant wordlessly handed her the other shoe.
Jerry breathed a sigh of relief. That had been much quicker and easier than he had feared. He watched as Susie slipped on the second shoe and then stood up. She stayed still for a moment or two, enjoying the look and feel of the shoes then began to walk up and down the shop, checking them out in the many strategically placed mirrors.
‘Oh, they look wonderful!’ The assistant beamed. ‘Now, here are the others for you to try on.’
Susie sat down once again, pointing to another pair on the display. ‘Can you bring me those to try as well?’
Both women turned to look at Jerry.
‘What’s wrong now?’ Susie glowered at her husband before turning to nod at the assistant.
‘You said they were perfect! Why are you trying on more now?’
The women exchanged sympathetic glances.
‘They are perfect but I’m not sure if they’ll go with the dress.’ Susie explained patiently before turning once more to the assistant. ‘While you’re getting those, you might as well bring out the red pair too.’
‘Of course, Madam. What about that blue pair? Would you like to try those too?’
Jerry thought his brain was going to explode. He stood up to go and get some fresh air.
‘Where are you going now?’
‘You’ll be here all day! I’m going to watch the end of the match. Text me when you’re finished.’
‘Sit down!’ Susie dismissed his outburst. ‘Oh look! These are lovely!’ She opened the second shoe box and glanced up at Jerry. ‘Sit down or you’ll distract me! Don’t you realise how important this is? I have to get the right shoes!’
Jerry was about to say no but the flinty look in her eyes stopped him. Deflated, he sank back heavily onto the stool.
‘Now Madam, I also brought this black pair for you to try on. They won’t go with the dress but they are beautiful shoes.’
Both women ignored Jerry’s strangled gasp.
Susie lost track of time as she slipped her feet in and out of the shoes. Jerry’s aching back found no relief as he shifted on the hard stool. He watched helplessly as pair after pair was pronounced perfect and then discarded in favour of the next pair.
Other customers came and went and Jerry found himself wondering why only his wife seemed unable to make up her mind. The assistant was kept busy but Susie didn’t seem to notice.
The pile of shoes around them grew steadily until Jerry thought there mustn’t be a pair left in the shop that Susie hadn’t tried on. The assistant was determined to make a sale and kept placing fresh boxes beside them in between serving the other customers.
Finally, Susie sighed and reached for her own shoes.
‘Well, have you decided on a pair?’
She looked at him in surprise. ‘This is only the first shop! You can’t expect me to make up my mind before I’ve seen everything!’
‘What do you mean? You’ve tried on every shoe in the shop! There’s none left to try!’
‘Not here, there isn’t, but there’s another shoe shop a few doors down. We’ll try there next.’
Jerry could almost feel the blood draining from his faced. ‘Another shop?’
‘Of course! You want me to be happy, don’t you?’
Jerry was sure the only thing he wanted just then was to go home and pour himself a large whiskey.
‘Well? Don’t you?’
Suddenly, Jerry knew he had to get away. He walked quickly towards the door. He had to force himself to keep control and not run out of the shop.
‘Where are you going?’
‘What do you mean, home? Get back here this minute!’ Susie struggled to put her shoes on.
Jerry reached the door and as he put his hand out to open it he felt as if something was pulling him backwards.
He awoke with a start and glanced at the pillow beside him. He was alone. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he swore that he would never again complain about being single.