Nick and Amy have been married for seventeen years and for most of those years Nick has owned the same two pairs of dress shoes; one brown pair, one black pair, nearly identical for work, weddings, and any social mixers that required dress pants. But the sole on one pair has worn clean through, and the heel of the other pair flaps wildly with each step Nick takes though he has glued it too many times to count. Amy, sensing an opportunity to launch her husband into more current fashion, is quick to toss his outdated shoes into the trash and schedule a date night. Dinner and drinks first, before a trip to the department store, she thinks is the best way to loosen up Nick and his purse strings.
“Stella, honey,” Amy calls over her shoulder to her sixteen-year-old daughter as she gathers up her purse and keys, “there’s a pizza on the way for you guys. Make sure your brother and sister get their homework done and take showers. I’m not sure when Sophie last bathed, but she’s on the verge of dreadlocks so make sure she uses the good conditioner. Dad and I will be home late. We’re going to dinner and then to the mall to pick out some new shoes.”
“Sophie’s ten. Why can’t she shower on her own? And there’s no way Dad’s buying new shoes.” Stella rolls her eyes at her mom.
“Oh, yes he is. His old shoes are in the garbage, so he has no choice.”
“You mean those shoes?” Stella raises her eyebrow at Amy and points to the kitchen. Giggling, Stella saunters back into the living room where her siblings are watching television.
“No,” Amy hisses as her head swivels toward the kitchen. Sure enough, both pairs of garbage shoes she buried in the bottom of the trash bin just two days ago are on full display on the countertop. Nearby is an economy-sized tube of Extra Strength Heaviest Duty Superglue and Amy stomps her foot. “No! No! No! Nick, no!”
At the sound of his name, Nick bounds down the stairs and plants a kiss on her the side of her mouth. “Ready for our hot date?” he asks, wagging his eyebrows at her and reaching around to grab Amy’s butt.
“Nick, are you kidding me with those shoes?” Amy pushes his hand away and gestures toward the broken down, mangled piles of pleather heaped on the counter. Squinting closer now, Amy realizes the sad, cracked shoes have a thick layer of shoe polish rubbed into them. “Nick, did you polish them?”
“Yes, I did. And to be honest, I’m not sure we even need to go shoe shopping. I’ve worked some magic, and they basically look as good as new.” Picking up one shoe, Nick gestures to it the same way Vanna White does with a new car on Wheel of Fortune. At that moment, the heel of said shoe flops down toward the floor, like a guppy mouth agape at Nick’s attempt to salvage it.
“Nope. You’re buying new shoes,” Amy jabs at the dangling heel with her finger before Nick yanks it out of her reach. “Even if that glue holds, you bought those shoes right out of college. They are old and hideous, and I’m embarrassed for you and those shoes. I can’t let you glue your twenty-year-old shoes back together and feel good about being married to you. I’m sorry.”
“Is it because the tassels fell off?” Nick frowns. “Because I found one of them in the bottom of the garbage and I think I can sew it back on. I just need to find a needle and thread.”
“Oh my God, no!” Amy slams her hands on the kitchen counter. Inhaling deeply, she reaches out to take her husband’s hands. “Babe, it’s time for you to buy new shoes. I know you like to use up what you have, but these shoes have lived all the life they’re going to live. They’re dead. They wanted to die. Let them die, Nick.”
“I feel like you’re rushing me into this.” Nick frowns and gingerly places his beloved shoe next to its mate on the counter.
“Really?” Amy picks up her purse and heads for the back door. “Nick, every time it rains, your socks get soaked because you have no soles left on the brown shoes. It’s been that way for at least two years that I know of. How much more time do you think you need to prepare for this moment?”
“I’ll bet I can get them resoled for less than new shoes would cost,” Nick says, following her, as he taps at the screen of his phone, a last-ditch effort to find a shoe store who dabbles in magic.
“Oh no,” Amy remarks, snagging the phone from his hand. “Babe, your shoes are ugly. Like really, horribly, hideously ugly. Resoling can’t fix ugly. Get in the car.”
“I’m doing this under protest, you know,” he pouts as he slides into the driver seat.
“Of course,” Amy nods knowingly.
During dinner, Amy doesn’t dare bring up the topic of shoes. Instead, she orders Nick back-to-back gin and tonics while she sips at her own glass of wine and lets him chat away about Fantasy Football, work, and which furnace filter is the best value for the buck. Anything to avoid the topic of shoes.
But eventually their plates of pasta are cleared away, and it’s time for part two of the plan. Sliding a credit card across the table to the waitress, Amy sighs and whispers a silent prayer Nick will go along willingly.
“Baby, I am feeling good,” Nick murmurs and slides closer to his wife in the booth. “That second drink was an excellent idea. Are you sure you don’t want another glass of wine?” Leaning in to kiss her lips, he wags his eyebrows at his wife.
“Subtle, babe,” Amy whispers, kissing him back. “But we have one more stop, so let’s get moving.”
“What? We’re not going home and taking advantage of this buzz?”
“Nope.” Amy slides out of the booth, tugging Nick’s hand until he’s standing beside her. “But if we can make this next stop quick, I promise to make it worth your while when we get home,” Amy says over her shoulder as she bends over to sign her name to the credit card slip the waitress brings back.
“Deal,” Nick says and swats her behind. The waitress, catching the intimate gesture, flushes crimson and snatches the receipt and scurries off, probably to tell her fellow waiters about the gross, old couple making out in her booth.
Outside, Amy guides Nick across the parking lot toward the mall where she knows the department store is having a storewide sale, making it the perfect place to find new shoes at a price that won’t give her husband an aneurysm. As an added bonus, she has a forty percent off coupon tucked into her purse, the extra incentive she knows she might need to get Nick to buy two pairs of loafers.
The department store doors slide open, and the pleasant floral scent swirls around them. The click of Amy’s heels echoes loudly as she weaves her way through the children’s department, dragging Nick toward the escalator that will take them up to the dreaded shoe department.
“I doubt we’re going to find anything here I like, you know?” Nick turns to Amy and frowns. “And I’m definitely not spending a ton of money here. Everything here is probably ridiculously overpriced.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. All shoes are fifty percent off right now, so I’m sure we’ll find something,” Amy pats his hand reassuringly. “I’m just asking you to keep an open mind. Stay relaxed. You can do this. We just need to choose two pairs of shoes.”
“Two? We didn’t agree on two pairs!”
“I’m done talking about this with you. We’re getting brown and black shoes. Don’t be a baby. The shoe department is over there.” Amy points across the room as the escalator deposits the two of them on the next level.
Nick doesn’t answer, but she hears him grumbling incoherently behind her. She decides to ignore him. The smell of leather wafts under Amy’s nose, automatically causing her blood pressure to spike, and she breathes deeply in and out. This is going to be no easy feat. She turns to face her husband, and his face is contorted into a mix of horror and dread. Sympathetically she takes his face between her hands.
“Nick, it’s going to be fine. Let’s start with brown loafers. Choose five shoes you like, and we’ll try them on. We can do this, baby. We can do hard things.”
He nods and focuses his gaze on a shelf of shoes behind her. Pausing only a beat, he marches confidently over to the display and picks up a loafer triumphantly.
“This one!” he shouts a little too loudly, a jubilant grin plastered on his face.
“What fresh hell is this?” Amy mutters under her breath as she tries to put the kibosh on the eye roll she can hardly contain. He’s found the one damn loafer in this store almost identical to the broken-down loafer sitting on their kitchen counter back home, right down to the hideous tassel.
“What? These are great!”
“No. You can choose these shoes again when we come shopping again in twenty years, but you have to pick something different today.”
“May I bring you anything to try on?” A goateed man in a fitted navy suit appears from a back room.
“My wife says I can’t try these on,” Nick holds the shoe in front of him and drops it into the man’s hands. “According to her, they’re hideous.” As the salesman fumbles with the shoe, all their eyes are forced down toward the floor only to see he’s wearing the same exact shoes in black.
“Well then,” he huffs testily and turns tightly on his heel to march back behind the counter, his skin turning pink beneath his white collared shirt. “I’ll just give you some more time.”
“Nick!” Amy hisses at her husband. “What’s wrong with you?”
“What? You’re the one hurting people’s feelings around here.”
“Can we just pick out some damn shoes, please?” Marching over to the wall of loafers, she scans the choices until her gaze lands on a fashionable pair of shoes. “What about these?”
“These?” She asks, pointing to another stylish pair. Amy takes the shoe off the stand to show Nick.
Exhaling loudly, she realizes this might be more difficult than she bargained for. Grabbing a handful of shoes off their displays, Amy strides over to the man in the blue suit called Jerome according to his nametag.
“Jerome, we need these in size eleven, please. And your shoes are perfectly fine. It’s just my husband has already owned those shoes for twenty years, and I want him to branch out. You know?”
Raising one eyebrow, Jerome stares Amy down. But Amy stares right back because dammit, her husband is going to buy new shoes today. She didn’t buy her husband drinks and promise him sexy-time later just to end up with the same damn pair of shoes because the salesman chose the most boring pair of shoes to wear to work today.
“Fine.” He’s the first to look away as he disappears into the back room.
“Babe, take your shoes off and let’s do this,” Amy orders Nick as she takes a seat on the bench beside him. He wags his eyebrows at his wife because she’s getting spicy and that’s how he likes her best.
“Sure,” he agrees, kicking off his sneakers, so one flings up in the air.
“Nick!” Amy points to his feet, a memory of him buying a package of twenty ultra-thick tube socks sometime before Y2K dances at the edge of her mind. The socks, more like leg warmers, bunch loosely around his ankles and Amy finds herself squinting at his thick feet calculating how he can fit those bricks into sneakers at all.
“Your shoes, Sir.” The salesman sets a stack of boxes on the floor at Nick’s feet before halting when he sees Nick’s socks. “Sir, will you need a nylon footie?”
“A nylon what-now?” Nick asks as he looks to his wife to translate Jerome’s unknown language.
“Yes, he will,” Amy answers in response to Jerome who has clearly had enough of the two of them today and stalks off to his post.
“What is the problem?” Nick flips the lid off the top shoebox and snatches out the loafer. “I’m not enjoying being the odd man out here. What’s he getting me?”
“Babe, you can’t try on dress shoes with Flashdance leg warmers on,” Amy explains with a giggle. “You’ll never get your foot inside even one shoe with that blanket wrapped around your foot. You were supposed to wear dress socks. Also, can we talk about these socks? Seriously, you’re killing me.”
“Leave my socks alone. I’ll buy the shoes, dammit, but don’t knock the socks.” Nick swats her hand away as she yanks at one of his socks.
“Here you are, Sir. Let me know if you need any other sizes.” Handing Nick a box, Jerome shakes his head dramatically before he’s gone.
“Even though Jerome has great taste in shoes,” Nick mumbles under his breath, “I’m starting to hate that guy.” He peels the socks from his feet as Amy reaches into the box to hand him a footie.
She hands Nick the wrinkled, raisin-like nylon, a smirk playing on her lips. Plucking it from her hand, he stretches it out between his fingers and furrows his eyebrows.
“What exactly am I supposed to do with this?”
“You put it on your foot.”
“This is not going to fit my foot,” Nick protests, crossing one foot over his knee so he can prove it to her. Wiggling his toes into the end of the footie, he yanks the fabric down towards his heel, and for one brief moment, it stays put.
“You’re Cinderella!” Amy cries out, arms raised in celebration. But as Nick flexes his foot, his untrimmed toenail slices through the delicate fabric and the footie instantly snaps and rolls up like a rubber band.
“Told ya,” Nick says, reaching for a second footie. This one he positions over his toes before he unravels the broken one to cover the middle of his foot. Then he drapes a third over his heel, so his entire foot is technically covered by a footie. “There. That should work.”
“Oh my God,” Amy sighs, thinking this is exactly how her fourteen-year-old son would behave in this situation. “Whatever, just try on a shoe.”
Nick stuffs his foot into the first loafer and kicks his leg out in front of him to get a better look. Repeatedly bending and straightening his leg like he’s making sure this shoe will work for his Rockettes tryout later, Amy finally glares at him.
“Is that helping with your decision process?” Amy hands him the other shoe. “Just try them both on and walk around.”
“Geez. Quit rushing me already!” Nick retorts, grabbing another handful of footies from the box and gets to work at covering his other foot. With both shoes on, Nick struts unnaturally back and forth across the carpet in front of his wife, turning on his heel so quickly he slides across the slippery carpet and loses his balance. “Uh oh. I don’t know if these are going to work out. They’re pretty slick.”
“Because you bob and weave and juke like that when you’re at work?” Amy asks, turning away from him, so he won’t see her laugh at him.
“It could happen.”
“Babe, that’s crazy. You’re not going to fall at work. More importantly, do you like them?”
Screwing up his face, Nick thinks hard about what his wife’s question. He shuffles his feet a few times before he begins to jog in place, alternating high knees and butt-kicks like their son, Peter, does for soccer practice. Mouth agape, Amy holds up her hands for him to stop, but he’s already moved on to squats now.
“Just making sure I can really move in these shoes, babe. I mean, I definitely couldn’t run in these if I needed to, so there’s strike two.”
“For the love of all that’s holy, Nick. Please, stop.”
“Amy, if I’m going to spend,” Nick pauses to turn the shoe over and check the price sticker and his eyes bug out, “geez, ninety-five dollars. Well, that’s completely ridiculous.” Without finishing his thought, he begins to pull loafers from the shelf to look at their price tags while the back of his neck flushes crimson, then purple in frustration. “Amy! Did you know that every pair of these shoes is at like one hundred dollars? That’s outrageous! My last pair of dress shoes couldn’t have been more than forty dollars.”
“Nick, I hate to break it to you, but that was 1998. Calm down for a second. Just breath. First, all the shoes are on sale.” Amy strides over to Nick and places her hands on his chest. His heart is racing, and for a brief second, she is filled with compassion for her cheap-skate life partner. She leans in to whisper in his ear, “And I have a coupon in my purse.” Letting her lips linger for a moment, she feels his body relax before he wraps his arms around her, holding her tight to him.
“Did you say coupon? You know what those words do to me? Do you want to get out of here?” he says huskily, pushing his groin toward her until she dissolves into giggles and pushes him away. Reaching for another box of shoes, Amy sees Jerome’s horrified face peeking out from behind the cash register.
“What can I say, Jerome? My man loves a good shoe sale.” Amy wiggles her fingers at him in a wave as he scowls and disappears into the back room again. Nick chuckles at his spicy wife as he flops down on the bench and kicks off the shoes. Six balled up footies fall to the floor as Nick sighs and reaches down to scoop them up so he can rearrange them on his feet once again.
“What about these?” Amy presents him with a pair of black dress shoes the salesman has included. With a frown of protest, Nick slides his feet into them and stares down at them.
“They’re lighter than my other black shoes.”
“What I mean is, I already have black shoe polish at home for my other shoes. But these look lighter in color, and I don’t want to buy all new shoe polish if I don’t have to.”
Amy throws her hands up. “Nick, how much does shoe polish cost?”
He shrugs. “Like, five bucks. And I know that’s not a lot, but it’s just the principle of it, babe. And look at this. When I bend my toes like this in these shoes, it makes this little crease in the leather. I think that means these would wear out really quickly. Right?”
“Honey, I love you. I really do. But you’re nuts,” Amy angrily stacks the boxes Jerome has brought to them. “Are you planning on walking on your tippy toes at work? Because that’s the only way those shoes bend like that. I think you’re being a pain in the ass on purpose. But guess what, husband? You’re buying goddamn shoes tonight. Two pairs. A brown pair and black pair. Without tassels. And we can stay here all night and do this the hard way, but you’re going home with two pairs of shoes. So, you can try to tap dance or jog or long jump in every last pair of shoes in this store to drag this out. That’s fine by me. But if you want this tonight,” Amy gestures toward herself looking Nick dead in the eye, “you’ve got thirty minutes.”
“Jerome, my good man!” Nick calls out as he gathers up the boxes around him. “Wrap these up for me. I’ll take them all.”