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Her Shoes The smell of mold hit Alana’s nose innocently, as she pulled the closet doors open

. All of the old clothes seemed to be staring at her poignantly, as if they were saying she did not belong there looking at them, moving them, getting rid of them. This was a familiar sensation, amongst all the weird feelings she had had throughout the last few weeks – the sensation that she should not be messing with this closet, pulling out these clothes, moving them around. She had the same sensation when she was just a little girl and went to her mom's closet to steal this one pair of high heels she loved, so that she could play dress-up. Alana could still remember when she was just a child, waiting patiently for her mom, Cecilia, to be occupied elsewhere, so that she could sneak into her bedroom and steal clothes, make-up and that pair of shoes she loved so much. Smiling to the closet, Ally felt her heart sinking. That phase did not last long – after she grew into an adolescent, Alana was not as keen as before to wear her mom's clothes. It was common knowledge, when Alana reached her adolescence, that mothers could easily embarrass their adolescent children with the way they dressed – not so much because their style was bad, but much more because teenagers had a twisted perspective of reality that revolved around cliques and sad little standards that made them look like real-life Barbies and Kens – and her mom had been no exception to this rule. She can still remember clearly laughing at this burgundy dress her mom had; she wore it every year to family reunions. “You were creating your own personality, your own likes and dislikes,” her mom would explain to her in soft tones, creating excuses to her bad behavior. “The only way to learn is to make mistakes... That is why we go through adolescence; so that we have learned enough by the time we become adults that we will know where to focus our time for the rest of our lives.” She was probably right, like usual – her mom had this horrible tendency of always being

right. But the fact was that she was facing the same problem she had in pre-adolescence once again: did she like her mom's clothes, or not? Did she want them for herself, or not? As she stared into the closet – her mom’s closet - she understood how hard a decision that was. Her mom had been dead for three weeks. Yet, Alana had not quite grasped the idea that Cecilia would not barge in the room and scold her for intruding in the closet again. All of this was Alana’s, now – her mom's clothes, her jewelry, her make-up, her shoes, her books. It all belonged to her mother, and now she had to decide what to do with it, because the landlord needed the apartment to be clean by next week for a just-married couple that was moving in. “It is better to go through one thing at a time,” she decided, staring at the burgundy dress of her memories. “There are some pretty decent pieces in my mom's closet that I can sell to some thrift shop, and the rest can probably go to Goodwill.” Sitting on the floor cross-legged, Alana pulled out the first drawer from the closet and set it on her lap, staring at the contents. There were four neat piles of clothes, all ironed and well folded, a clear sign of someone that had been having too much free time and had been spending it in the Laundromat. Alana’s dad, Edward, had died two years ago, and Alana herself had moved out of their house over seven years ago, so her mom had a lot of spare time – that she spent cooking, volunteering and watching old movies (as well as ironing, apparently). Stopping and feeling her throat clog up, Alana wondered if she should have visited more – maybe with all that free time her mom might have liked to get more visits from her only daughter. But she had been so busy with work, her boyfriend, her friends, that she did not have much time left for her mom. The lump in her throat got a little bigger with that thought, so she took a long, stuttering breath and tried to focus on something else. She stared at the old, neat clothes, all well-taken care of, all nicely mended and worn out. Very slowly, memories started to emerge as she stared at her mom’s worn shirts – the memory of a

visit to Walmart where Cecilia had bought six tops for Ally to start school with the right foot, leaving behind that new pair of pants she had needed (“I can wash my old ones in cold water, so that they will last longer. You deserve these shirts, honey; you have been working so hard on your grades,” she had said back then), and the memory of the same pair of pumps that Alana used to steal from her mom, and all the times she had seen them being worn over the years while her mom kept on buying her new shoes. All the little motherly sacrifices Cecilia made for her came to life as Ally stared at those shirts. She could feel tears pricking the corners of her eyes, and she smiled at her mom’s motherly ways. She had given up a lot for her, and maybe Alana should at least had given up some of her dates to come visit her mom every now and then, even if it was just to say hi. The first tear streamed down, opening a humid path through the layers of make-up in the Ally's face, and it was soon followed by many more. Pulling a faded blue sweater closer, Alana breathed deeply the smell of her mom’s perfume and softener, and then put the shirts aside, finally noticing that it hurt too much to go on with this. Standing up, she crossed her mom’s little bedroom towards the shelf of books by the bed. Cecilia had had quite an impressive collection, most of it composed by multiple copies of Agatha Christie novels. Although for many people it would've been strange to own more than one copy of the same book, it wasn't for her mom – her mom and herself had a tradition based off of it, actually. When she was younger, her mother and her would sit side by side every weekend, each one with a copy of the same Agatha Christie book, and they would compete to see who discovered the killer first; she always won. As she stared at the books, and remembered thinking just a moment ago about how her mom was always right, Alana wondered if she had really won, or if her mom had let her win. The desperate urge to call Cecilia and ask for the truth suddenly emerged in Alana’s chest. As she reached

for her cell phone, she remembered that her mother had been dead for almost a month, and that if she had wanted answers to her questions she should have gotten them whilst her mom was still alive. The thought brought a cold wave down Alana’s spine. She stared at the books with more tears submerging through her brown eyes, and she could feel a sob growing inside her chest, longing to come out. She held it in with some effort. “I am not going to sob,” she repeated to herself again and again. “I am going to be all right. Most people have to go through this at one point in their lives, and all of them come out all right from it, so I will as well.” “What a lie,” she whispered quietly after a moment, stretching her hands to reach for a book in the shelf. Sitting on the bed, Alana stared at a copy of Murder is Easy through her tears. Most people did not come out all right from loosing their mothers, her mind kept telling her. People whose folks died were usually scarred, bitter, sad. Loosing a mother was like loosing your safety net, and it was not easy – or, even better, it was not even supposed to be easy. Closing her eyes, Alana brought the book to her face, and rested her forehead against it; she knew she needed to stop lying to herself, and that she needed to understand that being alone in the world was no easy task, and that it was ok to feel scared - but it was really hard for her to accept any of that. She had been avoiding thinking about her mother’s death throughout the last few weeks. Now that she was there, Alana just could not keep on lying; not when she was staring at her mom's few, but precious possessions, that now belonged to her. Still, the worst part were not these physical things she inherited, Alana wondered silently, as the tears continued to stream down her face. The worst part were all of the roles that were left behind. Cecilia had left Ally the role of taking care of her own life, and she left her the roles of volunteer for all of the things she had volunteered, and of care-taker in their extended family; Cecilia had left her big roles and small roles, and expectations that came from all directions. People suddenly expected Alana to be like her mom, to take her place in volunteering organizations, in donation lists from great causes, in circles of knitting on Tuesdays (“What do you mean, your mom never taught you

how to knit?!”). All of the invitations, all of the questions, all of the “Sorry for your loss” she had been hearing, it all suddenly invaded her mind, and in a surge of anger she threw the book against the wall, rising up and striding forcefully towards the closest empty box. One book after another, she emptied the shelf, moving angrily. “I am not my mother,” she kept on repeating to herself, a phrase that had been quite common in her mind during her adolescent years. She repeated the phrase like a chant, and followed it with many other angry statements: “I do not want to be her; I can not be her; I am not good enough to be her; I do not read enough books to be her; I do not have a big enough heart to be like her.” She felt like screaming at the world, or maybe at her mom, but instead she just threw the books in the box, feeling betrayed by her mother, who had promised so faithfully never to leave her. When she finished with the books, Alana pulled another box up and turned the contents of the drawer she had pulled out a moment ago into it, watching the shirts wrinkling with perverted pleasure. “I will give it all to Goodwill, I will throw it all away,” she told herself, ireful. She continued packing all of her mom’s belongings, throwing them inside boxes carelessly, blindly, angrily, until her hands grabbed something solid from inside the closet. The new texture felt funny against her trembling hands, and Ally turned her eyes to stare at the object instinctively. The sight was too familiar for her comfort. Her anger evaporated as rapidly as it had started, and she pulled the pair of shoes out of the closet, into the soft golden lights of the apartment. These were the same shoes she used to steal from her mom when she was a kid - a simple pair of black high-heeled pumps. The leather had started to peel a long time ago, and now the fabric underneath was perfectly visible through the discolored black leather of the shoe, giving it an antique feel that was not completely out of fashion, if Alana really thought it through. Her thin hands set the shoes down on the floor at their own will. She was standing up and trying them on even before

she could realize what was happening. Like in Cinderella, the shoes fit perfectly. They were worn out and comfortable, and the sole of the shoe fitted perfectly with her own foot's sole. She caught herself smiling as she stared at her feet, her mind slowly processing the idea that her mom and herself must have had exactly the same feet shape since those shoes fit her so well. She walked slowly from the front of the flat to the back, her steps a bit more confident with the thicker heels, a bit more relaxed with the added comfort. She could still remember trying to walk in these shoes when she was a kid, wobbling from one side to another because they were too big, because the heel was too high. Now they fit as if her mom had dedicated her entire life to shaping them, just so that they would be perfect for Alana later on. She turned around at the end of the flat, and as soon as Alana’s eyes caught the image of the boxes she had left behind, of the wrinkled clothes and piled books, her smile faltered. “What am I doing?!” she asked herself silently. It was her mom's life that she was boxing up and getting ready to give up. It was her mother's life efforts that she was so ready to dismiss, everything that her mom had worked so hard for. Slowly, Alana approached the boxes, the heels clicking rhythmically on the wooden floors. Her hands found their way into the box that had all the shirts, and slowly she weaved through them, folding the fabric correctly and piling it orderly inside. For hours, this was all she did. Alana went slowly through her mom’s things, piling them into the boxes neatly, labeling them carefully. When she was finally done, she stared at the bare apartment, wondering what to do next, feeling empty. She was not quite ready to give all of this up, she suddenly noticed. Alana was not ready to give up on her mother, or on the life she had led, or on the beautiful things she had done, so she lifted the boxes and took them slowly to her car, deciding to store them for a while, to look at them from time to time, to figure out what she wanted to keep and what she

wanted to give away. “I'll take my time,” she told herself, as she came up to the apartment to lock it up, after taking the last box down. She stared at the empty little flat, filled only by all the memories her mom had made here in the last few years of her life. Then, slowly, she stared down at her feet, still clad in the high heeled pumps from her childhood memories. “I'll take my time and decide which of her shoes I want to fill, before I give them to someone else.” Closing the door, she went down the stairs, back into her life. Her mom's heels clicked with every step she took.