The box sits on her doorstep, brown papered and twined and a little crushed at the edges. She nudges it with her foot, listening for the odd ticking, a packaged rattle. Nothing, and she picks it up with her fingertips, takes it inside. The twine is rough against her skin as she saws at it with a rust-scarred kitchen knife and her hands slip against the waxed surface of the wrapping. Dotted with blood now as she sucks on a cut with a frown, the knife clattering to the floor. She kicks it under the table and worries away at the tape holding the paper in place, finally ripping away at it to reveal a plain white shoebox. When she lifts the top she gasps a little– despite the dim light in the room the pair of red shoes glistens like her mangled finger and she traces the long curve of an arch as if it were some living thing blinking up at her. They fit, snug and flexing, and the straps lie across her foot like hands. A few experimental steps and she’s dancing like she used to, like the wings on her ankles never shriveled and fell away, like she’d never caged herself, bar by bar and finally lock with the key buried and forgotten.
She dances and the door opens for her, the path unrolls itself step by scarlet step and she doesn’t hear the voices behind her asking her to stay, telling her that this exit will close her past like a vault and make her a stranger. And she dances down the street and through alleys and the occasional crowd, along highways and bridges and wilderness roads till there’s nothing left of her toes and her insteps and ankles, till it’s the shoes and the wave of her truncated legs, till it’s the shoes and the glimmer of her smile, till it’s the shoes and her ghost and everything else forgotten.