Head Over Heels
by Moriah S. Webster
Spring Hope, North Carolina. 1994.
Eudora sits on her front porch in a rocking chair watching cars and people pass by on the road. She cracks open pistachios with her teeth and spits the shells into a bowl next to her chair while Evelyn sits in the rocking chair next to her reading a magazine. Eudora bites into a particularly difficult pistachio and lets out a long, low whistle when she finally opens it. A young man walks by holding his pants up by the waist band, though they hang so low in the back that his blue boxers are exposed. Eudora leans back into her rocking chair and watches him amble by.
“Young folks these days can’t even keep they pants up ‘round they waist. Look at this one here, Evelyn.”
“Hm?” Evelyn raises her eyebrows but does not look up from the magazine she is reading.
“Lord, Lord,” Eudora says shaking her head. She reaches for another pistachio.
Another young man, this one dressed in khaki shorts and a polo shirt, walks towards the house.
“Evelyn, look.” Eudora stops rocking and leans forward in her chair.
Evelyn peers over the top of the magazine.
“Now that’s a fine young man, ain’t it?”
“Mhm,” Evelyn replies.
He comes closer and the women smile and wave. He stops in front of the house and peers at the numbers on the mailbox. Eudora sits up straight.
“I think he’s coming up,” she says, dropping a handful of pistachios and picking up an unfinished knitting project.
Evelyn returns her gaze to the magazine. The young man smiles and crosses the yard to the front steps of the house.
“Good morning. How are you ladies doing?” He asks, tipping his hat.
Eudora smiles from behind her knitting. “Just fine, and you?”
“I can’t complain. I am looking for someone though. Could you help me find her?”
“Sure,” Eudora says, “Who you lookin’ for?”
“I’m looking for a Candace Roster. Do you know her?”
Eudora’s smile fades and she stops rocking. “Do I know her?”
Evelyn turns a page of the magazine. “Here we go,” she says without looking up.
“That hussy stole my husband!” Eudora drops the knitting and stands.
Evelyn frowns at her over the magazine. “It ain’t nice to use foul language on a Sunday, Eudora.”
“I don’t care what day it is. I call a spade a spade, and a ho a ho.” She stamps her foot and the bowl of pistachios spills onto the porch. She puts her hands on her hips.
“Oh shoot. See what you did? I done gon’ and got upset and made a mess.” She walks into the house muttering under her breath. Evelyn shakes her head and opens the magazine again.
“So much drama,” she says.
“Is it true?” The young man asks.
Evelyn shuts the magazine and purses her lips. “Depends on who you ask. What’s your name anyway?”
“Dalton,” he says, removing his hat and extending his hand. She shakes it and nods.
“Well, Dalton, best I remember this what happened. Gideon and Eudora met in New York at his shoe store. Dora had an odd sized foot so it took a while to find a pair just for her. So he went and searched for a pair, then came back and put it on her foot. I guess you could say he fell head over heels when he saw those size four and a half feet.”
“It’s five and a half,” Eudora yells from inside the house.
“Anyway, it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with the rest of her, and they got married. Candace was one of his customers back in New York. She was a dancer, so she went through shoes real quick. They worked together a lot because he specialized in large women’s shoes. Some nights he was out late at the store he working with her to get her shoes right, but Eudora suspected foul-play.”
“Was it?” Dalton interrupts. Evelyn shrugs.
“Who knows? All we know is when Dora and Gideon moved here, he all the sudden had more business there than usual. One day he made the move permanent, said the store up north was getting more business than the one here and he needed to support it. That’s all.”
She starts to rock in the chair again and opens the magazine.
Eudora returns with a broom. “That ain’t what happened Evelyn. You forgot what I saw,” she says, sweeping the pistachios.
“How am I supposed to remember what you saw?”
“Oh, shoot, that’s right.” Evelyn stops rocking. “Eudora found Candace’s earring on the front porch one morning.”
Eudora sucks her teeth and leans the broom against the door post.
“You never tell anything right.” She steps over the pistachios and sits in the rocking chair.
“I’ll tell you what happened.” She leans forward and points her finger, then stops. “Are you thirsty?” She asks, disappearing into the house and returning with a glass of lemonade.
“Thank you,” Dalton says, draining the glass. Eudora sits on the edge of the rocking chair and looks at Dalton over the rims of her glasses.
“Candace was there in the shoe store when I met Gideon,” she says.
Harlem, New York. 1955.
Gideon is organizing the shoes in the window of Walk Better with Walker’s Shoes when he sees a young woman peering in the window at a pair of pink high heels. He rushes to the front door and leans out.
“Would you like to try on a pair of shoes?” he asks, smiling at her.
She blushes and looks down. “Oh, I shouldn’t. I gotta get goin’ to work soon,” she says.
“Aw, come on,” he says, opening the door wider, “it will only take a moment.”
She looks at her watch and adjusts her coat. “Well, alright,” she says.
Gideon leads her to a chair and takes down the heels she was admiring.
“How are these?” he asks.
“Those are just fine,” she says.
He kneels in front of her and starts to unlace her boot, then he pauses and looks up.
“May I?” he asks.
She shrugs and says, “Sure.”
He unlaces her boot and slides the heel onto her foot. The shoe appears to fit, but when she stands her foot slides two inches into it. Gideon laughs and motions for her to sit again.
“My apologies, I should have measured your foot first.”
He takes the high heel off and lifts her foot into the Brannock device, allowing his fingers to linger on her ankle. He adjusts the device and looks at her foot from every angle.
“Miss, I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name,” he says.
“Eudora,” she responds, smiling at him.
“Miss Eudora, you have a rather small foot!” He exclaims. Eudora giggles and takes her foot out of the device.
“It is right hard to find shoes,” she says.
Gideon smiles. “I can help you with that. Just a moment.”
He runs to the back of the store and returns with a pair of pink heels in Eudora’s size. As he is putting one of them onto her foot, the door opens and a bell tinkles. Eudora looks at her watch.
“I’m sorry, I have to go,” she says taking the shoe off and lacing up her boots.
“I hope I get to see you again,” he says. “It would be a shame for you to leave behind shoes that fit so beautifully on your feet.”
Eudora nods and smiles as she gathers her things. On the way out the door she nearly runs into the tall woman that came in.
“Excuse me,” Eudora says, frowning at the woman’s tight dress.
Spring Hope, North Carolina. 1994.
“So did you go back and get the shoes?” Dalton asks Eudora.
“You bet I did! I got ‘em for free too,” she says, leaning back into her chair.
“Well,” she adds, “that’s if you call getting shoes in exchange for a date with a man that turned out to be no good free.”
Evelyn snorts. “I knew Gideon was no good when I met him.”
“Thanks for letting me know about that now,” Eudora says.
“Be quiet woman. I ain’t know you like that back then,” Evelyn remarks.
“What happened that made you think he was no good?” Dalton asks.
“He looked at me for too long,” Evelyn says frowning.
Eudora sucks her teeth. “You think everybody looks at you for too long. You think I look at you for too long.”
“You do,” Evelyn says, pushing her glasses up on her nose. She opens the magazine and rocks in the chair. “You doin’ it now,” she adds.
“Anyway,” Eudora says, rolling her eyes, “You wanted to know about Candace, right?”
“Yes ma’am,” Dalton says.
“Such a gentleman too!” She replies laughing. Evelyn sighs and turns a page of the magazine.
“I found the tackiest earring in Gideon’s jacket pocket, not the front porch, Evelyn.”
Harlem, New York. 1959.
Eudora is home folding laundry when the doorbell rings.
“I’ve got it,” Gideon says from the living room.
“Who is it?” she hears him ask. She does not hear the reply, but Gideon’s voice drops when he opens the door. Eudora picks up Gideon’s jacket and a gold, rhinestone studded hoop earring falls out of the pocket. She touches her own earrings, pearls, and frowns. Then she hears a female voice downstairs say, “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in weeks.”
The front door shuts. Eudora frowns and clutches the jacket in her hands to her chest. She walks to the window and looks out. Gideon is holding the hand of the same tall woman she saw in the store the day they met. She is wearing a hat but when she looks up Eudora can see the worried expression in her eyes, and a golden earring on her left ear glints in the sun. Eudora looks at the earring in her hand again, then back out the window in time to see Gideon searching his pockets for something. She steps away from the window and peeks through the curtain. Gideon shrugs and kisses the woman on the cheek, then hands her a few dollar bills. She hails a taxi and leaves. A few minutes later the door opens and shuts again. Gideon walks upstairs to where Eudora is now putting the clothes away.
“Dora,” he says, putting his hands in his pockets, “I’ve got to run to the store to check on something. Someone thinks we’ve been robbed.”
Eudora presses her lips into a thin line and does not face him.
“Dora? Are you alright?”
“Just fine. Go on and check whatever. I can’t stomach thieves myself,” she says shutting the dresser drawer. The telephone rings and Gideon picks it up.
“Hello?” He smiles, “Hi Mama Davis! Good to hear from you. Sure, she’s right here,” he covers the speaker with his hand and gives the phone to Eudora.
“It’s your mother,” he says.
“I could hear her from here,” Eudora responds. She sneers at him and snatches the phone. Gideon leaves as soon as she says hello.
“Now Dora, I don’t want you to make a fuss, but,” her mother clears her throat, “I ain’t been feeling so well.”
“Not feeling so well like how, mama?”
“Just old folks stuff—achy knees and back, but I may be coming down with,” she clears her throat again, “a bit of a cold.”
Eudora looks at the folded laundry sitting on the bed. “You know, we were just packin’ up to come down.”
When Gideon returns home Eudora tells him they have to move because her mother is very ill. He mutters something about finding a new manager anyway and walks out.
Spring Hope, North Carolina. 1994.
“That’s it?” Dalton says, shaking the ice in his glass. Eudora shrugs.
“Gideon ain’t stay ‘round long enough for there to be more than that. He left in 1960 to be with that young, thievin’ harlot, Candace.”
Evelyn glares at Eudora. “Harlot ain’t no bad word,” Eudora says. “It’s in the Bible.”
“Where are Candace and Gideon now?” Dalton asks. He frowns and wipes the sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief.
“Probably dead,” Eudora replies.
“You wish, you mean old woman,” Evelyn says.
“You know what I really wish?” Eudora says standing up.
“I bet you gon’ tell us anyway,” Evelyn remarks.
“I wish I were dead. It’s hot as hades out here. It was nice to meet you, um,” she frowns, “What you say your name was?”
“Right. It was nice to meet you Dalton,” she says, winking at him before stepping back into the house.
“Why you lookin’ for Candace anyway?” Evelyn asks, peering at him over her magazine.
Dalton grins. “I’m getting married.” He pulls his wallet out of his back pocket and opens it to a photo of his fiancé. “I wanted to invite Ms. Roster to the wedding but I don’t have her address so I’ve been tracking her through phone books, records, and word of mouth.” Evelyn examines the photo, then she glances at the door and leans closer to Dalton.
“Last I heard Gideon actually is dead, but Candace lives in Raleigh.”
Raleigh, North Carolina. 1994.
Cigarette smoke and cinnamon incense greet Dalton at the door of the next house he finds. A tall woman in a silk robe answers the door, cigarette in hand. Dalton introduces himself and extends a hand to her. She glances at it and says nothing. He retracts his hand and stuffs it into his pocket.
“Are you Candace Roster?”
She stares at him for a moment and blows a ring of smoke. “Who’s asking?”
Dalton is about to introduce himself again when a telephone rings in the background.
“Just a moment,” she says, shutting the door. Dalton hears her yelling on the other side. She opens the door and brings the cigarette to her lips.
“You were saying?” She asks, shifting her weight to the other foot.
“Did you know Gideon Walker?”
Her features and body become still. Even the smoke swirling from the end of her cigarette seems to pause. Then, after another moment she says, “Yes.”
Dalton waits for her to say more. She shifts her weight again.
“Was that all?” She asks, putting the cigarette out in an ashtray by the door.
“I’d like to come inside and talk if that’s alright,” he replies.
She looks at him from head to foot and steps back, opening the door wider.
“Take off your shoes before you come in.”
By the time Dalton takes his shoes off, Candace has already lit another cigarette. She sits on the sofa and watches him while he removes his hat and sits across from her in the lazy boy. The red chiffon curtains cast a rust haze in the dark room.
“So,” she says, taking a drag on the cigarette, “What do you want to know?”
“How do you know Gideon?”
Candace taps the ashes from the end of her cigarette. “He was an old friend. What’s it to you?”
“Gideon Walker was my father.”
She snorts, laughing, and stretches her legs onto the couch. “Gideon was a lot of peoples’ daddy.”
Dalton frowns and looks at his hands. Candace’s laughter fades. She stares at him and takes another drag, then she blows two puffs of smoke. Her eyebrows wrinkle and she leans forward to put the cigarette out and smoke another one.
“His wife couldn’t have children. They had several miscarriages, and after the last one she stopped sleeping with him because she felt it was no use. So,” she puts it to her lips and lights it, “he slept with other women.”
She coughs and adds, “Of course, I didn’t know that until after I slept with him. That bastard.”
She exhales more smoke and leans back into the couch. “You’re not the first person to come here looking for him.”
“Is that why you gave your son up? Because Gideon was married?” Dalton asks.
“Who told you about that? That’s none of your business,” Candace snaps.
“I found out on my own, Ms. Roster. I’m your son.”
She stares at Dalton until he begins to shift in his seat. She takes a drag on her cigarette and exhales a ring of smoke.
“You finally found me, huh? Took you long enough.” She puts the cigarette out in the tray on the coffee table and picks up a glass of wine.
“So what do you want?” She asks. Dalton frowns and blinks.
“Ha!” Candace shakes her head as she laughs. “Come on. You came all this way for nothing? Not even a drink?” She adds, smirking at him over her glass of wine.
“I don’t drink,” he replies. “I came here for you.”
Candace rolls her eyes. “Sure.” She puts the glass of wine down and digs through her purse. “How much money do you want?”
“I don’t need your money. I’m getting married and I came to invite you to the wedding.” He pulls his wallet out and shows her the photo of his fiancé. “I—we—want a relationship with you.”
Candace stops rummaging through her purse and stares wide-eyed at him. Her eyes water and she blinks, looking away from him. “It’s a little late for that, don’t you think?” She stands and takes the wine bottle and glass into the kitchen, with Dalton following closely behind her.
“You should go,” she says, putting the bottle into the refrigerator.
“I flew two thousand miles to see you.” His voice cracks. “Don’t I mean something to you? Anything at all?” He asks.
Candace grips the edge of the sink and stares into the drain.
“I’m not some random guy, I’m—”
“A painful reminder of the past,” she says, looking up at him with tears in her eyes.
“Besides,” she sniffed and looked away, “Gideon is dead, and I’m as good as dead, so you should leave now and spare yourself the trouble.”
“But Ms. Roster, can I just—”
Candace opens her robe, exposing her protruding stomach, as if she were five months pregnant.
“I’m getting eaten alive, from the inside out, and this cancer will consume me completely any day now. There’s no one here to miss me,” her voice cracks. “Let’s keep it that way. I’ve had enough pain to last two lifetimes. If you want a mother so bad, go on back to Eudora. I’m sure she’d be glad to have you. The last thing I need is a guilt trip from my long lost son right before I die.” Candace closes her robe and walks past him to the coffee table. She picks up the pack of cigarettes and opens it, but she is trembling too much to pull one out. Dalton takes the pack from her and hugs her. She stiffens but she does not pull away.
“My parents gave me a good life. I forgive you for giving me up, but I couldn’t forgive myself for giving you up now, not after searching all these years.” Candace wiggles out of his arms and snatches the cigarettes back.
“Good for you. Get out before I call the cops,” she says, glaring at him.
Spring Hope, North Carolina. 1994.
“Evelyn, can you believe these still fit?” Eudora says, walking back and forth in front of her on their front porch.
Evelyn looks over her magazine at Eudora’s feet, which are stuffed into a pair of faded pink heels.
“I might wear these to Bible study this week,” she says, smiling at her feet.
“You don’t go to Bible study, Dora.”
“I will now,” Eudora replies, strutting to her rocking chair. She eases down into it and crosses her legs. “That young man never did tell us why he was looking for Candace.”
Evelyn grunts but does not respond. Eudora whistles and frowns trying to tug her shoes off. “Maybe these don’t fit like I thought.” After five minutes of pulling at one shoe, then at the other, she stops and leans back, panting into her chair.
“Looks like you gon’ to have to wear ‘em all week, not just to Bible study,” Evelyn says, chuckling at her.
Eudora waves her hand. “Fine by me. I paid a pretty penny for these shoes.”
Evelyn raises her eyebrows. “You said you got ‘em for free. How much they cost?”
Eudora frowns at her feet. “One bad marriage and cramped toes.” She crosses her left leg over her right leg and tugs at the shoe again.
“Not now Evelyn,” she grunts. “I need to focus.” Evelyn watches her yank at the shoes until they pop off of her feet. Eudora sighs and tosses them, one by one, into the front yard. She smiles, brushes her hands off on her dress, and leans back into the rocking chair.
“That Dalton boy ain’t look familiar to you?”
Eudora frowns. “Now that you mention it I think I have seen him before—in my dreams.” She tosses her head back and laughs. Evelyn sighs and lays the magazine down in her lap.
“He ain’t look like someone you knew?”
“I don’t know, Evelyn. Just say what you mean,” Eudora replies, picking up a half-knitted sweater.
“He told me he came here looking for Candace to invite her to his wedding.”
“So she’s old enough to be his mama and if memory serves me right, with that dimple in his left cheek he’s the spittin’ image of your dead husband.”
“Ex-husband,” Eudora retorts, rocking in the chair and examining the tangled yarn.
Evelyn raises her eyebrows and Eudora stops rocking. She drops the knitting project and stomps her foot.
“That hussy stole my son!”
Evelyn sighs and picks up the magazine. “Here we go again.”
Moriah S. Webster was born and bred in Raleigh, North Carolina, and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish Language and Literature. Glossolalia is her first published story and can be found in UNC Chapel Hill’s bi-lingual literary journal, Aguas del Pozo/Waters of the Well. She enjoys writing poetry and prose in English and Spanish and is currently revising her first novel. Chronicles of her highs and lows as a writer can be found on her blog blueinkmo.wordpress.com.