Cherrie Mack Lover of Dominant Males & Snarky Heroines

My Sister’s Shoes Excerpt

Allie pulled her long hair up on top of her head and tied it. She had put off cleaning for three days, and it was only a matter of time before Adrienne would say something. After scooting out of the luncheon early, she had decided to clean up before Adrienne came back. She was probably shopping anyway. She hardly missed an opportunity to stop and buy something lavish, and Allie had a hunch she’d reward herself very well for
attending the luncheon.
As she finished her cleaning routine, she compensated herself with her favorite cup of peppermint tea. As she blew over the surface to cool it down, she smiled. Ah … the first sip is always the best. Until she heard the chatter. It was a sound Allie knew well, and it told her Adrienne wasn’t alone. Trudy, the evil queen mother, accompanied her daughter home from a hard afternoon of shopping, no doubt. Allie placed her tea cup down on the table without so much as taking a sip and looked longingly at the steam as it rose into the air. Why couldn’t she become like the smoky water and float above all the hot water down below? She pushed her chair back from the kitchen table and walked into the front room.
Both women held more shopping bags than they could handle and had been laughing at the expression on the driver’s face as they made him carry their purchases to the car. Very mature! Trudy smirked at her. “Where did you disappear to?”
“I had cleaning to do.” So sorry I ruined your gloating time.
“I should say so. This place was quite untidy this morning. I think my daughter has been very generous to allow you to live here while you study for your boards, but you will need to practice some discipline. Set up a schedule. It might help.”
“I’ll take that under advisement.”
“Well, good. Before you start to contemplate, I would like some coffee, strong and black,” Trudy retorted. Turning her attention to her daughter, her tone changed to sugary sweet. “Would you like a cup of coffee, dear?”
Adrienne was searching through her shopping bags. “No, Mother, I wouldn’t. It wrinkles you. Where is the bag from Tiffany? I want to try on my new watch.”
As the two women searched through the day’s purchases, Allie went into the kitchen to brew a cup of strong, black coffee. She ground double the amount of the strongest coffee beans she could find. She giggled. This should knock her into orbit. But just as fast as she smiled, she frowned. The little hairs on her arms stood up as Trudy’s shrill voice echoed through the kitchen. “So? Did you open the little black box yet?” Without turning to face her, Allie shook her head. “Not yet.”
“What are you waiting for? Aren’t you dying to find out what Gregory has left you? I, for one, am quite curious. Believe me dear, it was a shock to him when I confessed Adrienne to be his biological child. But I never thought he would cut you out of the will.”
Allie swung around and leaned on the counter. “He didn’t cut me out. The will wasn’t up-to-date. It stated that everything would go to charity if he didn’t have an heir. I wouldn’t get anything anyway. Besides, I don’t care about the money.”
“Oh? We all say we don’t care, honey. You and your self-sacrificing martyr routine make me sick.”
Allie held out her coffee mug. “I’m sorry you feel that way. Here’s your coffee. Can I get you anything else?”
“No. Why don’t you go clean something?”
* * * *
Allie had been studying when she heard Adrienne screaming for her. “Allie! Allie, quick!” Running into the living room, Allie found Trudy lying on the couch, flat on her back. “What’s wrong?”
“My mother says her heart is racing. I called 911 already, but she looks worse.”
Allie’s eyes went wide. “What? I’m a nurse—almost. Why didn’t you call me sooner?”
“I told her not to,” Trudy snapped. “Don’t touch me, Allie. You’re not a nurse yet. Besides, you’re used to people dying. I refuse to die.”
Allie rolled her eyes. It figures.
As the paramedics arrived, Adrienne’s actress came out of hiding. “Please. My mother is sick. She’s all I have in the world.” A paramedic rushed to her side. Allie interjected, “I think she just has a mild case of—”
“Excuse me.” The paramedic pushed her aside. “Don’t worry, miss. We’ll take care of her.”
“Thank you. Thank you so much,” Adrienne said in her fake breathy voice.
Allie sat on the end of the couch as they tended to Trudy. Watching the scene unfold had her stomach in knots. The emergency personnel decided a trip to the emergency room was the best course of action, allowing them more time to fawn over Adrienne, no doubt. In a whirlwind of activity, Allie was once again left to clean up the mess.
* * * *
After carrying the packages to Adrienne’s bedroom, Allie was left holding the bag from Tiffany. She stared at it and then let her curiosity get the better of her. Inside the signature blue bag, she discovered a diamond-encrusted watch. She blew out a breath and sank to the luxurious carpet. Why should she get everything? And all Allie had received was a little black box that she refused to open. Allie was running her fingertips over the diamonds surrounding the face of the watch when the phone rang.
Grabbing the receiver, Allie sighed. “Hello,” she said unenthusiastically.
“Hello, Allie. This is George downstairs. There is a Mr. Zach Brady here looking for a Miss A. Chadwick. Shall I send him up?”
Sometimes people think I’m a Chadwick. “Did he say Allie or Adrienne?”
“He didn’t specify, miss. Shall I inquire?”
“No, that’s okay, George. Send him up.”
“Will do.”
Allie smoothed the stray hair away from her face and looked down at her clothing. She was a mess. Did it really matter that she smelled like cleaning products? Probably not. It was probably for Adrienne anyway since she wasted no time in changing her name. The buzzer sounded, indicating the arrival of Zach Brady. When Allie opened the door, she was stunned.
Zach Brady stood at least six feet two and towered over her petite five feet five height. Chiseled features of a distinguished nature and a prominent cleft in his chin threw Allie’s heart into overdrive. It began to pound so loudly in her chest that she clasped her hand over it for fear he would hear the thumping. Oh, my Greek God!
“Can I help you?” she asked as she desperately tried to look appealing. He gave her a smile that sent flames shooting through her body and landing in the pit of her stomach. And then he looked past her as if she wasn’t there.
“I am looking for Miss Chadwick. Perhaps you can let her know Mr. Zach Brady would like to speak with her.”
When his gaze met hers once again, she stammered, “She’s not here at the moment. Can I leave her a message?” She recognized the look of disappointment in his expression.
He sighed and held out a shoebox. “Can you please give her this box and tell her that Mr. Zach Brady feels she deserves these beautiful shoes. Tell her that she is not only beautiful on the outside but on the inside as well.”
Seriously? Her sarcastic smirk was evident, but quickly changed to complete mortification when he said, “Are you permanent or are you from a service?”
She stared at him. Was he serious? Did he really think she was the maid? “Part-time, but I’m always looking for more hours,” she said without thinking it through. Why would she say such a stupid thing? Maybe because you’re gonna need a job?
“I see. Please make sure she gets them. I attached my business card. It has my personal cell phone number on the back.”
“Sure. I’ll make sure she gets it.”
“Thank you. And your name?”
“My name is Alli … son.”
“Thank you, Allison. That is a beautiful name. By the way, I hope I’m not being offensive, but I’m actually looking for someone right now. If you need some extra hours, maybe we can work something out. I can speak to Miss Chadwick if you’d like.”
“Uh … she doesn’t share well. Not her employees, anyway. Can I call you on the side perhaps, and maybe we can arrange for an interview?”
“Sure. Sounds great. Don’t wait too long, though. I’m kind of all over the place, and my house gets quite unorganized.”
“Sure. I’ll call soon.” Like never.
“It was nice meeting you, Allison.” And with those last words, Zach Brady left Allie standing in the doorway holding a shoebox in one hand and her heart in the other.
* * * *
Allie sat on the couch, and although she tried to keep her attention on her laptop, her gaze kept coming to rest on the shoebox. What kind of man shows up at a woman’s door with a gift of shoes? My kind of man. But they were meant for her stepsister, Adrienne. A peek wouldn’t hurt, would it? Allie rose to her feet and circled the box as she tapped her chin. This had to be done very delicately. She narrowed her eyes and picked up the house phone.
“Hi, George, it’s me, Allie. Can you do me a favor? When you see my wicked stepfamily, can you give me a heads-up? Yep. Just one ring is all I need. Thanks, George. I’ll bring you that cigar you love.” She hung up and rubbed her hands together. Laughing at her own antics, she dove in, carefully unwrapping the shoebox so as not to disturb too much of the paper.
The box read Manolo Blanick. Huh! If she were a maid, these shoes would cost her at least four or five weeks of salary. But she wasn’t a maid, nor did she have enough money in her savings account to pay for one of these shoes, let alone a pair. The beautiful box was lined with pink paper, and resting inside was a pair of shoes that would do Cinderella justice. The black pumps were embellished with crystals. The cluster of gems lay across the toe, draping up the side and jutting out to resemble a swan’s wing. Allie held one up and gazed at its sheer perfection. This was the dreamiest shoe she’d ever seen. Who would wear this shoe? And where?
As a mental image of Adrienne dancing in these shoes with Zach Brady came into her mind, her heart sank. It was just another thing Adrienne would have that she would
not. There was no place for this shoe in her future because she was on the wrong end of a family. Sighing, she gingerly wrapped the shoe back up and didn’t disturb the other. When she placed the box on top of the glass entry table, she cringed. Allie didn’t want to feel sorry for herself, but she did.
She searched her memory for a time when she was truly happy, but those days seemed like a dream. She stared at the shoebox and took a deep breath. Determined to forge ahead with her day without another thought about Zach and those damn shoes, Allie went back to her studying. When the sound of the one ring signal on the house phone caught her attention, she shook her head. The bitch is back. Allie picked up her things and went to her bedroom.
* * * *
Patiently she waited. “Ahhh!” And there it was. The excited scream could be heard a mile away. As she walked into the living room, she saw Adrienne fall to the floor, tearing into the shoebox with no more regard for its contents than that of a clumsy little girl. Glad I was so careful.
Allie pouted her lips. “How is your mom?” A smiling Adrienne pulled the shoe out and held it up. “She’s fine. They kept her for some tests, but she’ll be coming home in the morning. I couldn’t stay. I have a date with gorgeous Dr. Keith Curtis tonight. Maybe you can go by later?”
“I-I don’t know. I have some things at Longwood to deal with, and I’m not sure I can—” Her stepsister shot her a disgusted look. “Really? You know, Allie, I’ve been pretty good to you. I never ask more of you than what we agreed. The least you could do is help out.”
Allie huffed. “Fine, Adrienne. I’ll go later this evening.”
“Just look at these shoes, Allie. Aren’t they beautiful?”
“You’re welcome, and yeah, they’re beautiful. You must have really impressed that guy with your…” dim “…wit.”
Adrienne looked at her as if surprised. “Guy? What guy?”
“The guy who dropped off the shoes. His card was sitting right on top of the box. He wanted me to give you a message.”
As Adrienne scrambled to her feet to retrieve the card, Allie delivered Zach’s message with a monotone voice. “He feels that you deserve these beautiful shoes. He said to tell you that you are not only beautiful on the outside but on the inside as well.”
Adrienne smirked at her. “Why, Allie, you surprise me. Do I detect a green-eyed monster?”
“No, not at all. I couldn’t care less.” Any man that is interested in you is clearly in a downward spiral.
“Well, what if I told you that Mr. Zach Brady is the son of a very famous playwright? Not that you would care. Anyway, his father just won a Tony, and Zach is riding his coat tails all the way to Broadway with his own show, ‘The Dignitaries’.” There’s a big opening night in my future. But you know nothing about culture and the arts, do you? You’re too busy hanging around death at Longwood—which, by the way, is how I snagged Mr. Brady.”
Allie tilted her head and narrowed her eyes. “What do you mean?”
“It seems he has an old great-aunt who is going to need hospice soon. Longwood,
with its access to the city, is naturally on the list of choices. I told him one of your sappy stories. You know the one when Mr. Sullivan croaked and you cried for days? He thought I was some kind of saint or something. Anyway, your sob story got me these shoes. And to think I put them on order weeks ago. Hand me the phone. I have to call to thank him.”
Allie’s mouth hung open. Hand it to you? I should throw it at your fucking head and hope it takes out a tooth! “Sometimes, Adrienne, you can be a real bitch.” She shoved the phone at her. As Allie walked into her bedroom, she listened to Adrienne’s lies. “Oh Mr. Brady, I don’t know what to say. I would have never afforded myself such a luxury. How could I ever thank you?” Ugh! Allie slammed her bedroom door.
Opening her closet, she sifted through the sparse clothing she had hanging inside. Her eyes scanned the floor, and she counted exactly five pairs of shoes. That’s it. At twenty-two, she had the belongings of an eleven-year-old. All the years of ignoring her dwindling social circle and appearance came back to haunt her. Pushing her clothing aside, she stepped inside her closet. She leaned up on her tippy-toes and pulled down an old hat box from the top shelf.
Allie held the hat box as if it were the most precious of all her things. Because it was. She placed it on top of her bed and got on her knees beside it. Pulling off the cover, she looked inside at its contents. This was her life. Every lunch note, every birthday card, every memory, she carefully preserved inside her hat box. It held all the things that truly made her happy.
She pulled out a note from her mother and traced the letters with her fingers. She managed a smile while her heart shattered with the memories of a woman who shaped her as a human being. As she pushed the old pictures and notes to the side, Allie located the three-by-five black box. It was the only thing left to her by Gregory Chadwick, and she had yet to open it. She held it in the palm of her hand and daydreamed that inside was a check for one million dollars or a valuable ten-carat diamond. But the fear of nothing of value inside had stopped her from opening the box every time. She was safer not knowing; that way she couldn’t be disappointed.
But Allie knew the time had come. She leaned on her elbows and stared at it. What if she opened it and it was something stupid? Or what if it were a rare gem? A cure for cancer? What? What could be more valuable than a company and a big, fat inheritance? Convinced that it was now or never, Allie reached for the key with shaky fingers. As she turned the lock, she whispered a prayer, “Please let it be something great.” And she opened the box.
Her breath hitched in her throat as she stared at its contents. The black velvet liner cradled an old, yellowed piece of paper. Afraid it would crumble, she was as gentle as she could be. She pulled the aging piece of paper out and placed it beside the box. Running her fingers around the inside of the box in case she missed something, disillusionment slowly crept its way into her mind. Unless this paper contained the winning lottery numbers, she was in for a big fat letdown.
Seeing it through, Allie used precision when opening the paper. It was as old as anything she’d ever seen. Written in a calligrapher’s hand was an address: 184 Mulberry Street, Little Italy, New York. Underneath it said “Prendete il mio Angelo.” Allie looked at the other side, but it was blank. That’s all there was. She hated herself for looking inside. She should have lived with the dream of not knowing for just a little longer.
Looking to the Internet for assistance, Allie typed the old message into the computer.
The message was written in Italian. Once translated, it meant “Take me to my angel.” Great! She picked herself up off the floor and put the paper back inside the box. Allie threw the box into her purse and decided to check out the address. After tonight, she’d never think about the little black box again.