Vicky was wearing new shoes.

They were gold gladiator saddles, weaving up her foot in a delicate series of loops that glimmered under the mid-morning sunshine. Impractical for the countryside, but she’d never wanted to come here anyway.

She stood on the porch, one foot outstretched, turning her ankle from side to side. The sandals matched her handbag perfectly, the two providing a neutral backdrop for her patterned dress.

The perfect outfit – if only she had somewhere to go. All this village had to offer was a petrol station that doubled as both a post office and supermarket. A rubbish supermarket at that: they didn’t stock Custard Creams.

The rest of the village was a series of almost-identical houses inhabited by almost-identical people. The type who took one look at her skin and asked her where she was from. Who couldn’t understand when she said she was British. Who asked if people knew of Pink Floyd “back home”.

(No, she’d reply sarcastically, we only got electricity last year. Still waiting on toilet roll, she’d add with a smirk.)

How her mother had grown up here without tearing her own hair out was a mystery. Why her mother had chosen to come back after the divorce…

Some questions were better left unanswered.

Her mother’s house was at the end of the road, two sides facing a long expanse of forest. Vicky stepped off the porch, grimacing when her footsteps stirred up a cloud of dust, gritty from the overnight rain. She hurried across the road to the grass, then took a tissue from her handbag to wipe her sandals clean.

She heard his chuckle before she saw him. Ted, the neighbour’s son, was lounging on a tree branch, arms crossed behind his head.

“Going somewhere?” His stare made her feel anxious, like her hair was out of place.

Vicky’s expression soured as she glanced at her mother’s house. “Anywhere but here.”

“That bad, huh?” He dangled his feet off the branch and jumped down. Her forehead came up to his nose. “I better come. In case you get lost.”

She rolled her eyes. “As if I could get lost here.”

The corner of Ted’s mouth curled up. “You’d be surprised.”

Vicky huffed but was secretly pleased when he kept pace with her. They strolled along the edge of the forest, circling the village, avoiding the potholes still filled with rain. A round trip would take ten minutes, fifteen tops. Twenty if they stopped by the station, but that would ruin her shoes.

But when they reached the first turn, Ted led her deeper into the forest. Pine needles pricked at the sides of her feet, the air heavy with the scent of mulch. Eventually the trees thinned and they came upon a set of abandoned train tracks.

Ted walked along the rail with his arms outstretched, eyes closed. When Vicky held back a giggle, he cracked open one eye.

“Harder than it looks,” he said. “You try.”

The train tracks were slicked clean by the rain. Vicky put one foot on the rail, felt it slip and slide beneath her. She managed to walk two paces before having to jump off.

“It’s not fair,” she protested. “My shoes have no grip, and my handbag makes it hard to balance.”

Ted smirked. “Now you know what to wear next time.”

“Next time?” Despite herself, her lips curled into a smile.

Maybe the countryside wasn’t so bad after all.

(Cross-posted from the Writers’ Discussion Group Weekly Writing Excercise.)

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