Because when I need a break from writing, I write

The Joan of Arc chapter is nearly ready to go to my wonderful advisor. I need to add the Shakespeare bits, and recheck my Latin translations. And I need some distance from it, to make sure that when I read over it, I'm not filling in the pieces that I just think are there.

So as a break from that, I wrote a quick piece of flash fiction. I keep a notebook of first lines and ideas that I might want to use someday, and as I was paging through that tonight,  I came across the first line of what became this. I hope you like it.

How Beautiful are Thy Feet With Shoes

The trouble with magic shoes, of course, is that they hurt. I knew that when I saw them.

My older sister, Elizabeth, as a reward for her kindness, was blessed so that jewels tumbled from her mouth whenever she spoke. Rubies that bruised her tongue and lacerated the tender flesh of her lips. Diamonds that fell to the ground, smeared with blood and saliva.

Elizabeth has not spoken in years.

But even without her example, I knew that there was always a cost for magic. If you are lucky, you pay in blood and bone. If you are lucky.

But the shoes were beautiful. And I am not.

The pain. Oh, the pain was like white hot knives dragging between the bones of my feet, catching on the tendons, slowing over the nerves. I tore the shoes off, flung them against the wall of my bedroom, and stood, panting, in front of the mirror that I had thought to admire myself in.

Even discarded, cast away, the shoes were the most beautiful things I had ever touched.

Perhaps, I thought, perhaps the pain was the price. A test. If I could endure, if I could be worthy, it would end.

I purged my memory of the image of Elizabeth learning to weep silently, so that she would not vomit emeralds with her grief.

I picked up the shoes, brushed the traces of dust from their cream leather soles, straightened the thin red straps, and slid my feet into them again. I, too, could learn to weep silently.

My ankles, I thought, as I stood  up, were more slender, my calves shapely, and the hollow behind my knee had taken on a pleasingly sensual curve.

I stepped forward, toward the mirror, and felt myself move differently, my joints more flexible, the muscles smoother beneath the satin of my skin.

And there I was, beautiful. I lifted my arms, began to turn, and felt exaltation replace the agony in my blood.

My blood. It coated the floor behind me, wet, red footprints that slicked across the polished maple of the floor.

The pain reasserted its presence then. I stumbled against the mirror, my sweating fingers smudging the glass.

I reached for the shoes, meaning to pry them from my feet, but my fingers had become so lovely, thin, and milk-pale. I danced my hands through the air like butterflies, and left the crimson shadows of my steps in my wake.

"Emma," she croaked, voice nearly broken from disuse, and amethysts fell like rain behind me, wine-dark with the payment of their production.

Astounded, I spun to face my sister, and the heel of my left shoe snapped off. I fell into Elizabeth's arms.

Her gentle fingers slid the ruined shoes from my feet. The white of my bones shone like pearls against the deep red of my flesh.

Beautiful.