It only felt real when Susan saw the ‘for sale’ sign outside the house, the wooden stake driven through the dry lawn and into the clay soil. She drove up the driveway, put her shiny silver hybrid into park and sighed. They were really selling the house.
This house had been their dream. She and Michael used to drive past it every Saturday after their weekly poker games at the hotel. They always stared at its three storeys longingly. They had known they’d never be able to afford it, but that didn’t stop Susan fantasising about fixing the wilted front garden and giving the intricate architecture a fresh coat of paint.
Then they hit the jackpot.
Susan slipped her Dolce and Gabbana handbag over her shoulder and locked the car. She walked up the pavement to the ornate front door, the new paint already starting to peel around its handle.
The hallway was filled with boxes and garbage bags. Some were marked ‘keep’, while others said ‘sell’, ‘give away’ and ‘rubbish’. Michael had started packing.
‘I thought we’d already sold everything we could,’ Susan said into the quiet house.
‘No,’ a voice replied from farther along the hall. ‘I sold everything I could. I found quite a few things in your wardrobe that would make a pretty penny. I wish I’d gone through your things earlier. How was your day?’
Susan ignored the pleasantries. ‘You looked through my things?’ she exclaimed. She opened the nearest ‘sell’ box and saw rows of her shoes. She began pulling them out, holding the colours in her hands. ‘These are all mine!’ she shouted. ‘They aren’t yours to sell!’
‘No need to shout,’ Michael said. He had appeared in the hall beside her. ‘These shoes are worth a lot, even second-hand. If we’d sold these sooner we might’ve been able to make another repayment on the house.’
‘But they’re mine—not yours.’
‘And this house was ours. Our dream—remember? The garden and the paint…’
‘Nothing ever did grow in that clay,’ Susan sighed.
‘But we’ve already lost the house,’ Susan said, remembering the sign in the lawn. ‘Why do I need to lose my shoes as well?’
‘I hate to say it but, baby, shoes are the least of our worries right now. We blew it. We were given our golden ticket and instead of saving it all, we spent too much on shopping and booze and poker. Do you even realise how deep we’re in it? These shoes could be our deposit on a rental place—something we’re going to need very soon.’
Susan was close to tears. She knew it was true, but she didn’t want to believe it. They’d won the Keno jackpot one night at the hotel, while they were playing poker. That sort of thing doesn’t happen to real people, but it happened to them. And they blew it.
‘But they’re my shoes,’ she said weakly.
‘Maybe we can just sell some pairs then,’ Michael said. ‘The ones you don’t need.’
‘They’re very important to me and I love them all. I can’t part with any of them.’
‘Are you sure about that?’ Michael asked.
Susan nodded, her eyes glistening.
Michael picked up a pair and pointed at the price tag attached to the strap. With one eyebrow cocked, he said, ‘Never worn.’