My mother had a pair of red shoes that she never wore but placed in a clear plastic box at the top of her closet. She never hid them but enshrined them. On tiring days after work, her feet aching in flats, she’d sit on the bed with the closet door open, rubbing her swollen ankles and telling me she’d wear those heels someday, maybe to the opera or to dancing or to my wedding.
I was five at the time and couldn’t picture a groom. I didn’t dream of cakes or white wedding dresses and it wasn’t until ten years later, when a boy tried to kiss me, that I realized why I never did.
She threw the shoes away when I turned 30, still single, and when she had a bad fall that kept her bedridden for weeks.
“I’m sorry,” I said, placing a vase of primroses at her bedside.
She touched the petals, playing her fingers over where the sunlight did. Then she turned to me, looked at me, really looked for the first time in a while, and smiled.
“No, I am.”