Flo Heatherfuss could not find her shoes. They were medium-heeled, strappy and red with little silver buckles on the front.
“Mother, have you seen my red shoes?”
“No, dear. Where did you last leave them?”
“In the closet by the front door. A few nights ago. They’re no longer there.”
“Mmm… I don’t know. Do you think Maddie could’ve borrowed them?”
“She wouldn’t dare.” Flo's nostril's flared.
“Well, ask her and see.”
“Okay. Is she here now?”
“No. She’ll be in tomorrow at ten. She’s scheduled to do the windows then.”
Clad in her favourite Italian-fan socks, Flo rummaged in her shoe cupboard and chose a pair of navy loafers to go with her slate-grey coat. Slamming the front door after her – still annoyed at not finding her silver buckled shoes – she left for the Hairy Bean pub three blocks away from her mother’s townhouse. At thirty-four years old, she was tall, lean and brunette with a no-nonsense demeanour. She had a purposeful stride although she had no real purpose going to the pub other than to sip a cool lager.
Who should be sitting at the far end of the bar but Reggie Wanderlust, someone she once dated briefly. Flo tried to pretend she didn’t see him and ordered a beer but Reggie came up to her stool and said, “Hullo, Flo. Didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Uh, hi, Reggie.” Flo kept her eyes on the shelves of bottles behind the bar but Reggie made to sit next to her. She coughed, held out a hand and said, “Hope you don’t mind but today I would like to be by myself.”
“Oh, I see. Very well.” Reggie moved four stools away and sat down with a glum expression. He ordered a slice of quark cake from the bar-owner Harry Bean.
A football match from the national league was showing quietly on the battered television set in a corner of the bar. Flo looked at the screen once in a while as she drank her cold beer. Then the door creaked open and someone shuffled in. Startled, Flo realised it was Heinrich Hundfutter, the man who worked three cubicles away from her desk at her office. He sported a shock of dark hair and his features were well balanced and pleasant. At first, he did not recognize her and then he did a doubletake.
“Oh, hi. You’re Flo, aren’t you, from the office?”
“Yes, I am. Hi, Heinrich. Are you a regular here?”
“Yes… no. Well, I come here once in a while, I guess. Hey, may I sit here?”
Flo avoided looking at Reggie, who was intently studying them while shovelling cake between his crackly lips, when she said, “Yes. Wouldn’t mind if you did.”
Suddenly she felt bashful and knew not what else to say. Luckily for her, Heinrich complimented her on her sky-coloured form-fitting dress with a V-neck. She said thanks and blushed visibly. All this was caught the attention of Reggie, who looked morose despite the deliciously moist cake which was fast disappearing from his plate.
Flo was feeling flushed and nervous; she wasn’t sure why. Heinrich kept the conversation going, talking about the latest news at their workplace. She was hardly following the conversation or holding up her end, merely giving nondescript ums and ahs to punctuate Heinrich’s chatter. After a while, he started giving his watch little sneaking glances which did not escape Flo’s notice.
“Are you waiting for someone?” she asked with a wrinkled brow, hoping the answer would be no, but - alas! - he said yes. Apologetically he added, “I’m supposed to meet a friend here, but she’s late.”
As the evening wore on, the television droned and Reggie, having now ordered a slice of Harry’s popular poppyseed cake, kept up his observation of Flo and Heinrich. Flo, in the meantime, focused her attention on the beautiful sunflower Harry had placed in a tube-like black vase.
The door of the pub swung open every so often and handsome Heinrich kept swiveling his head to see if his date had arrived. Flo started to feel disconcerted. She hoped that his date would never come, but then again he was already distracted, no longer the attentive man he was at the beginning of their chat. She noticed he wore the kind of cotton-knit sweater that she liked, with the collar tips of his shirt tucked under the high U-neck. He also wore a rather pleasant cologne which she could detect above and beyond the stale beer and faint rancid oil smells of the place.
The bar was filling up with half-smart-looking men and women in high heels. Finally, the door creaked open one more time. Both Henry and Flo turned their heads to look. Henry smiled and Flo frowned. The attractive woman breezed in and gave Henry a peck on the cheek. She noticed Flo and said hi coolly.
Flo could hardly say a civil hullo in return for she was looking at the young woman’s feet, the toenails of which were painted a brilliant red – to go with the silver-buckled strappy red sandals that Flo had been searching for earlier in the day. Heinrich’s date was Maddie Suess, the part-time househelp of Flo’s mum. Flustered and speechless, Flo left the pub. She passed a pond and felt like the weeds mired at its edge - the reflection was almost exactly like the real thing.