Rita Hayworth's Shoes

Copyright

Diversion Books

A Division of Diversion Publishing Corp.

80 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1101

New York, New York 10011

www.DiversionBooks.com

Copyright © 2012 by Francine LaSala

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

For more information, email [email protected]

First Diversion Books edition May 2012.

ISBN: 978-1-938120-18-3 (ebook)

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Raves for Rita!
What fun! This novel has it all–romance, laughs, a dollop of mystery. I was entertained from start to finish… And I want those shoes!
–
NY Times
bestselling author Eileen Goudge
“Like hanging out with your funniest friend over a glass of champagne,
Rita Hayworth's Shoes
is both hilarious and thought-provoking. LaSala knows how to combine humor and romance for a story the reader can jump inside and enjoy.”
–
NY Times
bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry
“If I had to describe this book in one word, I would choose ‘magical.' I felt almost like I was reading a fairytale–an urban fairytale complete with a princess, prince, a few witches, a fairy godmother and a happily ever after. But not a syrupy sweet, predictable happily ever after–a perfectly satisfying one. I loved this book!”
–Meredith Schorr, author of
Just Friends With Benefits
“I love the book! Congrats. I lived in New York for several years when I was fresh out of college and married a man from there. It reminds me of the many characters I knew and know. So great!”
–Dr. Natasha Janina Valdez, author of
A Little Bit Kinky
and
Vitamin O
Table of Contents
  1. How Amy Got Ditched by David in a Dive Deli—While Wearing a Wedding Gown
  2. How Amy Ruined Her Dress, Got Drunk in the Diner, Passed Out Cold, and Lost Her Shoe
  3. How Amy Returned to Work and Killed Her Boss
  4. Amy Has a Most Unusual Day
  5. How Amy and Her Extended Family Celebrated the Holidays
  6. How Amy Got a Surprising New Boss
  7. How Amy Went Out with Brendan and Rediscovered Sex
  8. How Amy Learned Some Interesting—and Less Interesting—Facts About Her Friends, Deck, and the Terrible Acoustics in Her Office
  9. How Zoë, Jane, Lauren, and Even Deck Try to Talk Sense into Amy—and How it All Falls on Deaf Ears
  10. How Amy Came Face-to-Face with David and a Sea Monster, Twice, and Learned Some Monstrous Details of Deck's Past
  11. How Most Everything Amy Ever Accepted as True Got Turned on Its Ear
  12. And How It Flipped Again—and Then Again
  13. How Ollie Paid Amy a Curious Visit and How Deck Went Crazy and Left in Handcuffs
  14. How Amy Visited Deck at the Precinct and How It Didn't Go Very Well
  15. How Amy Moped to Jane and Zoë about the State of Her Life and How Zoë Finally Lost Her Annoying Dangling Baby Tooth
  16. How Amy Discovered Yet Again That Things Are Seldom As They Seem—and Seemed to Ignore the Message Yet Again
  17. A Road Trip, a Freak Show, and a Realization Made too Late
  18. How Amy Got Reunited with Something Very Special and Rocked the House
  19. How all the Pieces Came Together in an Italian Restaurant in Flushing, Queens
  20. How Amy Finally Got It Right
1. How Amy Got Ditched by David in a Dive Deli—While Wearing a Wedding Gown

With astounding agility, Amy Miller sat down on the floor on the rolled up clump of paper towels she'd finally managed to wrangle free from the bathroom dispenser. This was a surprising, if not acrobatic, feat for a big reason: She performed this maneuver in a densely crinolined, Scarlett-O'Hara-in-the-parlor-drapes-wide wedding gown. And if that wasn't impressive enough, she pulled it off in the tiny ladies' room of one Katz's Delicatessen in lower Manhattan. That she had forgotten to wipe down the wall before she sat would become apparent later. Right now, there were more pressing matters to ponder.

It was her wedding day, after all. Or so she had thought.

Ever since Amy was a very little girl, she had big dreams for how this day would unfold. All her life, she had imagined swooshing down the aisle of an ancient church in a sweeping white gown, while glorious streams of sunlight beamed through exquisitely crafted stained glass windows. Of family and friends, shielding their eyes from the heavenly rays bouncing off her goddess-like visage as she sashayed to the massive altar. Of the man of her dreams trembling at the amazing luck he had been blessed with to have made this ethereal being gliding gracefully toward him actually have agreed to marry him.

Instead, she was stuffed like a bag of marshmallows into a shot glass, in a room that had no windows at all, while outside, her confused family and friends waited for the same thing as her. And that thing was David.

David was late. In fact, he was very late. In all the years she'd known him—and this year it would be seven—David had never been known for his promptness, so at least for the first half hour or so, there was no cause for alarm. But now, after nearly two hours more had passed, Amy was starting to doubt him—which she hated. Amy had never doubted David, ever, even if all her friends had. No, there must be something wrong. Maybe he had a car accident? Was run over by the crosstown bus as he tried to get across town? Was swallowed by an alligator that had emerged from the sewer and…

“Amy? Sweetie, can I come in?” It was her best friend, Jane.

“I'm kind of busy in here. It's not really a good—”

Jane shoved her way through the door. “Oh, Amy,” she sighed. “How you doing, kiddo?”

“I'm okay. I'm fine,” she lied. “I'm just having a little rest.”

“On the bathroom floor?”

“Not many more places I can fit,” she smirked.

“Come on, let me help you up. You look ridiculous down there.”

“Yeah, what else is new?”

Jane reached a hand down and pulled her friend to a standing position.

“So how's it look out there?” Amy asked.

Jane ran a hand through Amy's fallen mousy brown bangs. “Oh, you know. It's fine. Heimlich's chugging down what must be his thirtieth Jack and Coke—and I think I may have seen him hitting on…” Jane stopped talking when she glimpsed the back of Amy's gown. “Hey, sweetie, you know you have something stuck—” Jane grabbed the clump of paper towels off the floor and started to wipe off the grease Amy had wiped off the wall with her dress. “Yeah. That's gonna stain.” Amy craned her neck to look at the mess. “What else could go wrong?” she sighed.

“So
why
are you doing this again?”

“Come on, Jane. We've been through this before.”

“It's just that—”

“That what? That I could do
better
? You don't think he's
right
for me? No offense, but you're not exactly in the position to be judging other women's men.”

Jane's face turned bright red at this, and Amy instantly felt guilty for opening up what should now have been a very old wound, but wasn't. Elliot and Jane had been married seven years when she discovered he had a lover on the side. They divorced quickly, when their daughter was just a baby, and Jane had not so much as had even a first date with another man. She denied still being in love with Elliot, but everyone knew she was lying.

“I'm sorry about that. That was totally uncalled for. You know I didn't mean that.”

“Yeah, whatever,” was Jane's terse reply.

Amy tried to make it better. “Hey, without him there would be no Zoë–right?”

And Jane's face lit up at the thought of her daughter. “That's true. Zoë just wouldn't be Zoë without a dose of Elliot, would she?” Jane half laughed. “Of course it's better for her and me both that it stopped at ‘nature' and that ‘nurture' isn't part of that equation.”

“You can say that again,” Amy said a bit too emphatically, annoying Jane once again.

“I know you never liked Elliot. Believe me, he never liked you either. And I'm not just saying that to be unkind,” Jane said, raising her hand in front of her face. “It's just that sometimes friends know better. It's not always easy to see things in the haze of love.”

“Everyone's relationship is different. I don't have to tell you that. My relationship with David is what it is and it's not for me to explain to you or anyone else. I know you guys don't exactly get along, but give it time. I know you're going to grow to love each other. Eventually. In time.”

“Right. Maybe in seven more years. Look, any guy who makes you—”

“I know what you're going to say, and stop it. Love is all about compromise. You of all people should know that. And this,” Amy took a breath and looked around, “…this is my way of compromising for him.”

“But you're
always
compromising for him.”

“Now, that's not true. He compromised. He didn't even want to get married. But he finally gave in, didn't he? Just so long as we did it here. Here. In his favorite restaurant. Really, who's making the bigger compromise here? A few hours in this shit hole greasy dive, or a lifetime?”

“You don't even hear yourself, do you?” Jane shook her head. “You're the
bride
. It should have been
your
decision–”

“Listen, you might think this is ridiculous, but it isn't your wedding, is it? So it's not traditional. David's not a traditional guy,” Amy assured, avoiding eye contact with Jane. She opted instead to watch herself twist, point and twist her foot in a pleather pump that looked worn from wear, even though this was the first time it had ever been worn. “David is special. He does things
his
way,” she decided. She now looked up to the mirror to push her drooped-down updo out of her face. “And I like his way. So, what time is it anyway?”

“Four thirty-five…” she said, and trailed off. “Amy, do you really think he compromised about—”

“Jane, please. You're stressing me out. Don't go there, okay? You don't know him like I do. He'll be here. He loves me. And I love him. We're
meant
to be together. I don't know why you just can't see that.”

“It's just that divorce is very hard on kids and–”

A knock at the door preempted Jane's lecture. “Mama?” The little voice broke the tension and both women smiled. “Hurry up in there. Pappy's stuffing pastrami in his pockets again. He said to me that it was okay because it's kosher, but I don't know. I don't think so.”

“Now Zoë, good little girls don't tell on others,” Jane called through the door. “I'll be right out. In the meantime, run and tell Nana what he's up to.” Jane turned back to Amy. “See what divorce did to Zoë? It made her a raging tattletale.”

“Right. The divorce did that.”

“Mama? Won't Uncle David
ever
get here? I'm sooo tired of waiting for him,” Zoë whined, banging on the door with a tiny fist.

“Are you back already? That was fast—”

“Mama! Come on! I'm soooo hungry.”

Jane shot Amy the desperate, part embarrassed, part murderous glance of a mother approaching the end of her rope. “I think I have some Cheerios or something in my bag out there,” she offered.

“Don't worry. I'll be right out.”

“You okay?”

“I'm great. I have perfect faith that everything's going to be just fine.”

“Okay, see you later.”

Amy turned back to the mirror and blew up pesky fallen strands of hair away from her nose. She reached into her bag for a comb and the small bottle of hair spray she brought for touch-ups and went to work on her starchy bridal hair. Within seconds, she had managed to snag and break the cornerstone bobby pin, and the $150 fiasco plopped down into her face in one piece.

“Shit!” Amy frantically tried to fix it, but only succeeded in creating what could easily have passed for a bad toupee. Just then, her cell phone began to ring. She desperately extricated her hands from her hair/nest and retrieved the call just before it went to voice mail.

“Hello?” she breathed.

“Scruffy. Hi, it's me.”

“David! Oh, my God! Has there been an accident? Where are you?”

“No, no. It's nothing like that, Amy. Oh, Scruffy. I'm so sorry.”

“What? What is it?”

“Amy, I'm not going to make it today.”

“David—what do you mean? Where are you?”

“Oh, Amy. You're such a beautiful girl. And my very best friend in the world. But I'm afraid… Oh, God. I'm so sorry.”

“What is it? I don't understand.”

“Amy, I've fallen in love with someone else.”

Stunned, Amy hit the wall with her back and began to wipe clean another streak as she slid to the floor. “Oh dammit!”

“Amy?”

“No—no. Not you. Never mind… Wait a minute. Yes. Yes you! What do you mean you're in love with someone else? David, you're just scared. You know how you deal with commitment—”

“No, Scruffy—Amy. It's not that. It's really never been that. I
do
want to get married. I really
do
want to commit. I just don't want to commit to
you
. I'm sorry I never realized that before…”

Amy responded with silence.

“Amy? Come on, Amy. Talk to me. Amy? Please…”

“You can't mean that. You just can't. You're just having a crisis, David. Cold feet. Where are you? Let's meet. Let's talk about this.”

“No, Amy. No. I never meant to hurt you,” he said, and Amy could hear some humming, what she could swear was muffled speech, on his end of the phone.

“What was that?” she asked.

“What was what?” he replied, and the humming started again.

“That. That droning noise?”

“Droning,” he stalled. “I don't hear any—”

“Oh, God. You're with her right now, aren't you?”

David was quiet, but the droning endured.

“You are, aren't you? Oh, dammit, David! At least tell me who she is.”

“Amy, this isn't going to help…”

“TELL ME!”

“Okay, okay. It's Liz French.

“Who?”

“Liz French. You remember—the liberal arts professor? From last year's party?”

Amy thought for several seconds as a wave of nausea began washing over her. In her mind's eye, a shapeless, troll-like being bounded up to her in the grand ballroom of the Garden City Hotel with a Diet Coke in one hand and a chicken leg in the other. David heard a crashing sound on her end of the phone. “Amy? Amy?!?” There was no answer.

The crash was not heard in the main dining area of Katz's Delicatessen, a brown wood-paneled space on the Lower East Side, reminiscent of someone's never-remodeled-since-the-1950s-basement. Here, ancient salamis hung from the ceiling and vomit-colored linoleum coated the floor under the feet of sixty or so well-heeled guests, who had been discreetly picking away at the long-cold buffet as they waited for the main event, desperately trying to pretend the situation wasn't all that awkward.

Make-believe time was over when into the uncomfortable fray walked one Amy Ann Miller–bride, completely dazed, a slight trail of blood drizzling down her chin from her bottom lip and right onto her hand-embroidered silk bodice. (The shock of exactly for whom—or more like for
what
—David left her had sent her reeling forward into the sink with her face, or rather her lip, breaking the fall.)

Amy grabbed a glass of champagne from a stunned-to-a-stop waiter. She downed it in one gulp.

“Sancerre! Stat!” cried Jane, as she snapped her fingers and rushed to Amy's side. “Amy? What happened?”

A voice Amy didn't recognize, but she guessed was the horrible Hannah from her job, piped out of the growing-more-tense crowd. “That bastard!”

At last, the tension was too much for the guests to bear, and with Hannah breaking the dam came a flood of whispered observations and even some obscenities from the other guests.

“Oh no,” gasped Lauren Austen-Rabinowitz, Jane's mother, as she clutched her husband Joshua's arm. Joshua could only shake his head.

“Not coming,” Amy mumbled.

“That boy is trouble,” said Aunt Clarabelle, as she twirled away at the long strands of hair that had sprouted from her chin in recent years, and which she had decided not to remove as she rather enjoyed twirling them.

“A travesty, this is!” agreed the massive mammoth of a woman known as Aunt Enid.

“I knew it, I knew it, I
knew
it,” spat Grant, Enid's son, who had yet to get over the demise of his own marriage, and who would often–painfully and annoyingly to anyone who had to listen–refer to himself as “half a man.” He viewed all weddings, whether the couple went through with them or not, as disasters waiting to happen. Enid looped her massive arms around his elbow, and began to comfort him with a soft litany of “there, there's.” Jane rolled her eyes at them.

Amy's boss, Professor Fredreich Heimlich, who suffered equally from acute hearing loss and apparently severe inappropriateness, pushed in front of tiny Jane, nearly knocking her over, holding a hand up to his ear with Band-Aids wrapped around each finger.

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