About Your Wife's Shoes by Katherine Robb

When I told your wife about us, I stole her shoes. The silver ones. I hung them from the fan in my apartment and clicked it on. The room spun silver like that night in Atlantic City. That night you said was like Vegas once, which you said was like Monte Carlo once.

I remember that night, lying next to each other, when you took my hand in yours and placed it, where you placed it. I wanted to tell you something. It wasn't that I still loved you, but that I could crush your softly folded lids, content in their position, that I could end your sententiousness, and her as well.

Your wife cried when I told her. Not significantly, but noticeably. She wiggled her pantyhose-encased toes out of the silver shoes and wrapped them up under herself like a present she was taking back. I told her about the night you told me to get rid of it and how I refused. Her head collapsed into a spiderweb of fingers, those soft cinnamon-milk curls colluding to hide her face. In the lurch she rose and excused herself to the upstairs parlor, propelled by silent sobs.

I took the shoes.

Your wife and I met later at The Café on Broadway. The café where everyone whispers over lunches hidden in discrete rounded burgundy-backed booths, the surroundings dictating posture or posturing, depending on which side of the table you sit. We had our third date there, remember? I said, this is where people go to discuss business, and you said no, this is where people draft plans for the future.

Your wife told me over salad that she would be staying with you. During the main course we discussed the financial arrangement. I am pleased with the arrangement. The grilled salmon your wife ordered was halved when it arrived, but she left both sides untouched. I thought that was why she ordered dessert. But when it arrived, after the waiter lit the top and we watched the sugar molecules weave themselves together in a sincere yet breakable crust, and once the waiter gave his quarter bow and pivoted away, your wife dropped her napkin. She glanced at me and tugged on one of the gold filigree earrings dangling from her lobes, but she did not pick up her napkin.

When I stooped beneath the table to retrieve it, I glanced my hand across her calf, just to see. She shuttered and slid herself along the banquet.

"Don't stop," said your wife.

So I dropped the napkin back onto the crumb-tinged carpet and ran my fingertips, painted that stop-traffic red you liked to see clasped around yourself on all those days when you became something or someone else, ran them up inside her leg. Your wife squeezed the top of my hand, knuckles mounting knuckles. She murmured something I refused to hear, draped the starched black napkin back over her silk-swathed lap and shifted away across the crimson leather.

I adjusted my bangs and peered out the window. The window that lets in the sun, illuminating women's hair, the silver tips of knives, the thin whites of ladies’ knees pressed against their suitors’ crisp black trouser creases. I stared out the window at the vein blue sky while I waited for her to compose herself. But she didn’t. She started crying.

I stood to leave after she ordered the scotch. As I left, I heard her say, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."

I wish I had taken more than one pair of shoes.