PROMPT: Select a favorite quote (or quotes) to inspire you and find a creative way to include it in your post. Respond with poetry, prose, a memoir, nonfiction, or an essay.
My Pretty Boots
“In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”
My pretty, dark brown, horse-hide boots – smooth fur on the outside, warm fluffy fur inside, trimmed with white and red leather, with two big white dots above the ankles, which look like eyes open wide watching my every step – they are fit for a princess from a fairytale. I had bought them in an art and craft shop in Zagreb, not knowing then what an all important role they would play in our lives apart from keeping my feet warm.
That morning looked like any other February morning in Paris. Cold and grey. Miserable.
After leaving Serge at the “jardin d’enfants” in that grey somber building (by now he was quite used to it), my main task for the day was to look again for a job. I hated it: so many knock-backs when I applied for a job as a nanny, just because I wanted to bring my little boy along, have worn me down.
“We have our own children, Madame. We don’t need your child”, was the curt answer.
But we were running out of money rapidly, and Sasha was still waiting for that promised engineering post. So, there I was strolling down Boulevard St. Germain, observing my outgoing breath being transformed into little clouds of vapour, feeling the cold air brushing against my chilled cheeks. My winter coat with fur underlay, fur hat, fur neck wrap, fur-lined leather gloves and my pretty horse-hide boots kept me warm.
Comfortably warm, yet feeling dark and cold inside as if the freezing air touching my cheeks was freezing my soul. What will become of us? What if today I don’t get a job?
What if ….
“Excuse me, are you Ika Stojic? “
What’s that? It can’t be real…I must be dreaming…
No, no… I’m sure I heard a female voice behind me.
Who on earth is that, in the middle of Paris, calling me by my name in my mother tongue, in a voice I have never heard before?
I didn’t need to turn my head, she had already appeared by my side.
“Yes,” I said hesitantly, puzzled even more, because the young woman was a total stranger to me.
“I recognized the boots”, she said. “Someone from Yugoslavia, I thought, then I had a better look and recognized you. “
This was rather spooky. Was I in a fairytale? Who was this stranger? Was she a good fairy or an evil spook?
“You don’t know me, but I know you. My sister went to primary school with you. “
She mentioned her name. I knew the name, but couldn’t find a face for it.
“Oh “, said I.
“What are you doing in Paris?” she asked.
I was careful not to reveal too much, but I did say I was here on holiday with my husband and son, and possibly we might stay abroad for a while.
“Actually, I’m looking for work “, I ventured casually.
“Really?” she must have found it odd, knowing my parents were well off.
“I think I might help you. I’ll come and see you in your hotel tomorrow if you wish. “
I didn’t know whether to trust her or not, but the situation we were in did not allow me to knock back her offer.
“Sure, that’ll be nice”, I said with half a smile.
When I told Sasha about the bizarre encounter, we both decided to be on our guard, not to reveal anything about our plans to emigrate.
She came as she promised. Dressed in black from head to toe she could have been a witch. The hat she was wearing was one of those fashionable fake-fur mushrooms.
“Imagine my luck, I found it rolling in front of me carried by the wind.“
Oh, really? Was it luck, or perhaps shoplifting? We definitely had to be on our guard.
She was neither ugly nor pretty, with sallow complexion and no make-up. Her gloomy appearance did not match her vivacious manner.
“I used to work for an American family in Val d’Or, not far by train“, she said.
“I cleaned the house and minded the children. I’ve just found another job. I think she might be looking for someone. Here you are… her address and phone number.”
“Thanks. Yeah, I’ll give her a ring. Why not? ” I tucked the precious piece of information into my pocket.
Freda C. was a pretty, slender blonde with a pronounced limp, a dislocated hip from birth, which did not spoil her appearance at all. She was warm, gentle and calm, and I felt immediately at ease in her company. I wore the same clothes and my pretty boots as on that day on Boulevard St’Germain when a stranger’s voice called my name. I looked smart.
Freda listened to my story: our plan to emigrate somewhere far away from communists, our present dire situation, the possibility of being thrown out of France in two weeks’ time when our tourist visa expired, and that I was keen to do any work as long as I could bring my three-year-old son along.
She took me on twice a week to clean their house and mind their four children from seven to two years of age. My little boy was of course welcome.
God bless Americans! They like other people’s children.
Our train trips to Val d’Or were happy ones in anticipation of spending a day in a friendly warm house, where my little boy played with the children and we were both fed wholesome home-made food.
On my second visit to Val d‘Or, Freda told me about her American friend who might be willing to offer us accommodation in exchange for child-minding and French lessons, but she would like to meet me first.
“Doris is a bit nervous with people “, Freda explained.
Freeeee accommodation??? Who was sending us this life-saving gift?
When I met Doris, she fortunately liked me, and the following week we moved to Garches.
So, were my pretty horse-hide boots charmed?
Was I a princess from a fairytale?
Was all this a mere coincidence or part of a higher plan we don’t understand?
Who was pulling the strings, and what part did our decisions play?
One could not but marvel at the unusual unfolding of events.
Opportunity beckoned and we had the courage to grab her by the lock of her golden hair as she was passing by. That was all, perhaps. Yet I’d like to think it was also part of a higher plan we don’t understand – our destiny.
©Irina Dimitric 2012. All rights reserved.