A KIND OF MAGIC
A night in war-torn London, a dance, an air raid, and Ivy found new meaning in just being alive
CHRIST INE TAPLEY
THE TWO of them sat on the steps leading downward into the basement flat which had been their home for as long as either of them could remember. It was neither as pleasant nor as secure as it had once been; what with never knowing whether Pop would be home safe from the fire station in the mornings, and the house being cluttered with neighbors and debris the past two years. But today the sun shone warm and bright, and the improvised shelter over the doorway, though adequate—hadn’t it been, half!—didn’t quite cover the three top steps.
But though the sun had warmed where she sat and went clean through the thin Liberty cotton to her shoulder bones—Mum wouldn’t have no begging to the Red Cross, she wouldn’t—Ivy’s heart was stony and her tone rigid.
“Look,” she said angrily, “I’ve got as much right as anybody has to go dancing! Why not? What’s to keep me, I’d like to know. Sitting around and m’ youth flowing away, and what’s going to be the good of me when m’ youth’s gone—?”
“You been to the pictures too much,” her brother remarked laconically. “Like as not, tomorrow your youth’ll be blowed to bits. What’s the good dancing is going to be to you then? That’s what I’d like to know. Anyway”—he paused, looking upward, following with squinting eye the swift thin line of the Spitter overhead—“anyway, who’re you going dancing with?” he demanded. “That’s what I’d like to know.”
“Whose business is that, if I might ask?” she retorted hotly. “Mine! That’s what it is!”
Arthur’s hand shot out and clamped roughly about her thin wrist. “Who is it?” he demanded. “Who’re you going dancing with?”
She gave a little whimpering cry. “It’s Robin, that’s who ! Now leave off !”
Her brother’s grip relaxed and his hand fell limply back to his knee. “Well, cripes!” he exclaimed, “what were you holding off for, when you and him been going together since you was kids? Suspense, that’s what it is. You been to the pictures—” But his voice drifted away, his eyes squinted into the sky again. “He’s lucky, Robin is. Flying.”
“He couldn’t fly if his motors wasn’t fixed proper!” Ivy exclaimed swiftly, loyally. “How could he fly—who fixes the motors when you’re off, and who fixes them as proper—?”
“There’s them,” he said absently, “that tunes the blinking engines up with one hand and rolls a cigarette with the other.”
“Nuts!” she said. “No one fixes them as good as you. Robin said—”
Arthur flushed and looked down at his hands, flexing them self-consciously. They were fine hands, stubby and flexible—though the bad one wasn’t half good yet—with rings of black under the nails.
“When’s his leave?” he asked, raising his eyes. “Soon,” Ivy said. “Ever so soon.”
Arthur went on reflectively. “And you and him—” He paused as his glance fell to his sister’s feet and a sudden angry light flashed into his eyes. He stood up shouting, shaking his good fist toward the sky. Then he turned. “Well, how you going dancing in them—?”
Ivy swiftly curled her feet under her skirts, hiding the dilapidated boots that covered her tough bony little feet. “I’ll get them,” she said. “Robin and me haven’t been dancing since—when was it? Only a thousand years ago.”
But Arthur had stamped off down the steps and slammed the door behind him. She sat watching the little bits of grey plaster showering down from the doorway.
^HE LAY awake thinking about it almost all ^ night long. Mum wasn’t one for charity, even the Red Cross kind, but the moonlight was of an aching brightness silvering the park, even the trenches.
Oh. Robin was a beautiful dancer; there wasn’t a one in the district that could dance half so well as him. Once in the moonlight she had gone out and had whirled around in the street by herself, but Robin hadn’t been there and her arms and heart had ached and ached and the dancing hadn’t half helped.
Now, suddenly, the moonlight moved over and slanted smack across her bed. Her body twisted gently as if to drink it in, she lifted her arms to enfold the white beam; but there was only the empty ache again and she turned her back to the light, hiding her face in her arms, whimpering softly. You didn’t cry, Mum said, but—Robin, Robin . . .
Then she remembered something that there was hardly time to remember any more. “There’s people worse off than Ivy Snow,” she told herself. “Haven’t I seen them with my own eyes? Ivy, whatever it is, you go and tell your Mum. Don’t go and be dishonest now when you’ve been an honest girl all your life. Seventeen years now, Ivy.”
So in the morning after Mum had had her porridge, and Pop had gone off to bed, Ivy told her.
But Mum was far off in yesterday’s paper and Ivy had to tell her all over again, with Arthur sitting there like thunder, picking at the threads of his bandage on his bad arm.
“Shoes!” Mum said, like she’d never heard the like before. “Do you know there’s those that’s never seen a pair of shoes their whole life? Wrapped up like igloos, their feet is!”
“Eskimos,” Arthur said.
“Whatever it is, it’s got no shape,” Mum said. “No, Ivy Snow! Your shoes have soles, they have, which is more than Hitler ” Then her face went kind of black and she jumped up and smashed her fists down hard on the table so as the dishes rattled. “Blast his bloomin’ hide!”
Arthur let his chair thump forward on its four legs. “Men like Robin’s taking care of Hitler, Mum,” he said, quiet. “And when he gets leave him and Ivy, well, who knows if he’ll ever have a good time again. And him and Ivy’s fools for dancing.”
Mum gave a look at Arthur’s bad arm and you could hear her false teeth clack over to Mrs. Crockett’s. “Robin and you,” she said, cross. “Allright! Okay!”
Arthur busted right out laughing. “You’re losing your English accent, Missis Snow.” And Mum gave him a clump on the side of the head.
“Not ever!” she yelled, and banged out of the kitchen.
Then Arthur went solemn all of a sudden. “Here’s two shillin’s,” he said. “What you partly pay for ain’t charity.”
She had to wait a long time at the Red Cross. Because when there was little kids in their mother’s arms wrapped only in blankets and nothing else, why naturally you waited till the little fellers had
got fixed proper. The clothes were all new and warm, and the babies’ things the most lovely, all white they was, with pink and blue all around their edge and little flowers running all down their fronts.
Ivy sat there blinking back the tears, but Mum had said, “The English don’t cry!” and she didn’t, really, not for all those kids, and all that kindness of pretty clothes coming from across the sea; not until the little girl came in.
About ten she was, and pretty as a dream, even with the scars healing on her face, and all over her body. For when her Mum let the blanket fall from around her Ivy could see it all. She could see it all and hear it and feel it like it was right here . . . all the terrible screaming bombs and crashing buildings and the fires and flying splinters and the little kids running and running and sometimes getting caught . . .
The Red Cross lady looked at the little girl like she had looked at everybody else, for size, and looked away, and then suddenly she looked back, like she hadn’t seen her at all before. Then her hand went out and touched the little kid’s cheek like she was an angel, and she swooped down and picked her up in her arms like she would cover her all over so’s she could never be hurt again. And then sudden again she chucked the kid under the chin, like Mum, and had things off of the shelves and the little kid dressed from the skin outward into a little blue dress with colored flowers running all around her collar.
The kid’s Mum give a few sniffles and just shook her head and dripped into her shawl, but the kid—! It was like her eyes was on her first Christmas! Then they started out, with the kid sticking her hands into her pockets like she was testing them, and she looked kind of surprised and pulled out a blue bow. Gor! Silk, it was!—enough for a hair ribbon and a red little bracelet, and she held them up like they wasn’t for her.
“The English don’t cry!”
Ivy whispered like a prayer.
“The English don’t cry!”
She began the magic words again, and then there was a kind of a loud burble like a dam busting. “Who says they don’t?” she screamed. “What’s a body to be made of not to cry!” and she made a bust for the door.
But one of the Red Cross ladies grabbed her and held her tight and said, “Now, now— please!” And then somebody brought a cup of hot cocoa and said, “Drink it,” kind of cross.
So Ivy drank, never minding the tears splashing in the cup, and soon she was only sniffling and hiccuping and feeling like tuppence.
“I can stand them bombs,” she explained at last, looking down at the floor, “but 1 can’t stand them kids.” And then she looked up and not a one of them was looking at her. “Can you?” she said.
“We haven’t time to cry,” one of them said, “but—”
“That’s what my Mum says Well, I thank you,” Ivy said, “for the refreshment,” and started for the door again.
There was one lady young, and pretty and smiling, looking like she had a beau somewheres. “Wait a minute,” she said, “why’d you come here in the first place?”
HONESTLY, for a minute there, Ivy had forgotten. “Why—” she began, but now she was too ashamed. “I'm just looking about,” she said.
“Checkin’ up like, on the state of the nation.”
“1 see. Well, now, you know if you’re to be efficient in your job you must have some warm clothes. We all must. Have you a warm coat at
“You have? Honestly?”
She could have it out with herself later. “Yes’m.”
“Well you haven’t decent shoes, I can see that. Let’s see now.”
“Me and Robin’s going dancing. He’s having leave.” Mum and Arthur would pop her for this, but she couldn’t help it. Keeping it in like, it hadn’t been exploding inside of her. “He was decorated by the King, Robin was. He’s a flier. Royal Air Force.”
But the young lady didn’t pop her. Her eyes only kind of swarmed, and she said, “Oh-h-h—” and she ran off, busting right through a clump of other ladies, and came back with a bundle. Then she down on her knees on the floor and put the bundle in Ivy’s lap, and her eyes was like the little kid’s. “We’ve been saving them just for you,” she said, excited. “Open it. Open it !”
So Ivy began to untie the bundle and then she stopped, kind of wondering. “How do you mean? How did you know my name’s Ivy Snow?”
“Oh, we—To be perfectly honest, we didn’t know exactly, but—”
Abruptly the paper fell open and Ivy’s arms jerked up, crooked at the elbow like a Jack-in-thebox’s, and her eyes popped wide open and stayed there till suddenly she remembered where she was. “Shoes!” she said softly, then. “Them ain’t shoes!"
“They’re dancing slippers,” Miss Emily said.
“Cripes!” Ivy breathed. Her finger touched one, gently, and withdrew again. There was never shoes like them even in the pictures. All gold threads they was, with little speckles of blue and
red and green almost hidden underneath the gold, and a strap here and a strap there like as not to hold the spot of toe from falling off. “Oh-h-h !” she. said. “1 ain’t never seen—”
“Let’s try them on,” Miss Emily said, and began pulling off Ivy’s shoes while Ivy only sat and stared. But suddenly she grewr afraid. What if they wouldn’t fit! She drew her feet, in, small as small, and squirmed them into t he slippers while the girl buckled the straps around her ankles. “They’re a little tight,” Miss Emily said, “but—”
“Oh, no, they ain’t ! No they ain’t! It’s my feet —swole with walking about !”
“Will Robin like them, do you think?”
“Robin?” she said, surprised. “Robin loves me.” Miss Emily was the laughing kind, so the tears busting into her eyes looked like it was raining in the sun. Ivy touched her shoulder, knowing what it was. “It’s the little girl, ain’t it?” she said. “I busted out, too, like a bloomin’ baby.”
“Yes, it’s the little girl,” Miss Emily said. She got up then off t he floor, blinking, but smiling again, and sat down beside Ivy. “I hope you have a wonderful time, Ivy, you and Robin, as wonderful a time as the little girl who sent you the slippers would have had if she had worn them herself. You see —”
While she talked Ivy listened, at first with absorbed interest because it. was like she was at. the pictures; but in a little while doubt crept in and finally a shivery cold fear like when the end of the picture was going to turn out bad.
At last it was out. And it was a trick. All the time it was nothing but a bloomin’ trick. “I ain’t, one to take things what don’t belong to me, neither,” she said haughtily. “Who do you think I am? Just who!” She bent swiftly over to unbuckle the golden straps.
“No, no, please!” Miss Emily said. “Please, Ivy! You see, if you didn’t wear them, Rosemary’s gift, it wouldn’t be—Oh dear! You see it’s a kind of a—a penance, Ivy!”
But Ivy didn’t hear. Fate had come in with a kind, soft hand, and Ivy raised her triumphant face. “They’ve stuck fast,” she said. “Now, what’ll we do?”
“It’s just that you’re not used to them,” Miss Emily said, smiling. “Look! You wear them around the house for a while and soften them up a bit. They’ll be all right. You’ll see.” Then she kind of looked slanting out of the corner of her eyes. “Or would you rather have another pair—the kind you can wear around the streets?”
“Would you?” Ivy asked. “With a pair already that ain’t wore out by half?”
ROBIN was always in her mind, like a kind of tune. All the way home, picking her way around the roughly filled in craters, passing the cleared, staring, empty spaces where familiar fiats and stores had once stood, or a heap of rubble that hadn’t been cleared away yet, he was there like that. Only now there came with the tune a kind of bust of new happiness, like a hiccup, thinking of Robin— and her dancing in them shoes.
Then she had run down the steps and saw him sitting there in the kitchen like the most lovely man in England ! And Robin was holding her tight, with only the package between them, saying, “Ivy, Ivy—” like he couldn’t believe it.
“Now, now,” Mum said, and then yelled, “TEA!” to be heard to Buckingham Palace likely. Then she went away and stomped back again and yelled, “AND sugar!”
So they went in, and it was wonderful; but it was almost like you couldn’t bear it, too, almost like t he days . . .
“Fancy having tea,” Ivy said, “and it sticking in your throat—”
“Blame the throat and not the tea,” Mum said. “It’s good as the King’s own, what do you say, Robin?”
Robin laughed and went all red; and Ivy, ashamed, dropped hercup clattering into the saucer. “Oh, Robin, I forgot! Where’s your medal?”
Ivy peered at. the ribbon beneath the wings on Robin’s left breast. “That?” she exclaimed incredulously, “that little—!”
“That little ribbon,” Arthur said, quiet, looking straight at Robin, “you can’t hardly get no higher.”
“Oh-h-h—” Ivy said, choked with pride, and suddenly she had to do something quick. “Robin !” she cried and swiftly untied the package lying on the table. “Look! For dancing!”
For a minute no one spoke, and the little golden sandals lay limp, looking strangely out of place in the dingy, ancient room.
Then Mum, with her eyes popping, cried, “Ivy Snow! Where’d you get them—them—” and went on sputtering.
Until Arthur said, gently, “Ivy’s going dancing, Mum. Now leave off. I give her the money to buy them with.”
Ivy clapped her hand to her mouth with a stifled little moan. She’d forgot, she had, clean forgot to give the Red Cross ladies the two shillin’s. Well, tomorrow—
“Ain’t they beautiful, Robin? Ain’t they?”
“They match your hair,” Robin said.
Ivy blushed. “They’re a kind of a present, too, in a way,” she began, “because over there in America there’s this girl Rosemary who wanted some slippers for dancing, but her Mum said no, there was people in the world—Well, anyway, she wanted them slippers, really, like her heart would bust, so she—she took some money that her family was all saving together for other families that needed it, and she went out and bought them anyways, and then she was ashamed, so she took them to the Red Cross so somebody who hadn’t gone dancing for a long time maybe—Well, here they are.”
The room was kind of quiet. Then Mum give kind of a blast through her nose. “Here’s to ’er,” she said, loud. With tea.
Continued on page 26
Continued from page 18—Starts on page 16
THE NIGHT was wonderful, with the moon all silver, pouring its pure radiance over the blacked-out city. It was a queer thing, Ivy was thinking, how only a night ago the moonlight had made her ache and ache, and now with her arm in Robin’s it filled her with this almost unbearable happiness.
“It’s like I’m dancing inside,
Robin,” she said, quivering.
Robin grabbed the hand resting on his arm, holding it tight. “It’s bright,” he said.
“It’s beautiful!” Ivy breathed.
They threaded their way along the familiar street on their way to the “Rosebud,” stepping aside to avoid the little knots of people who seemed unable to remain indoors on this wonderful night.
“Robin,” Ivy said, after a long silence, “do you know what?”
“What?” Robin asked.
“The world doesn’t never have a blackout, does it? Even when there’s no moonlight right here, there’s moonlight somewheres.”
Then Robin did something queer.
He stopped dead still and looked at her, down at her gold slippers and up to her gold head, shining in the soft light. “I love you, Ivy,” he said, and they walked on again.
The “Rosebud” was downstairs, but you could hear the music from far away, even on the street. And for all the rapture of the music and the thought of dancing with Robin, Ivy j hesitated on the pavement, looking around, drinking in the glorious night, till Robin said, “Come along,
Ivy,” and they went downstairs.
It was early, so they could have almost any table they wanted under the bright pink artificial roses trailing through the white trellises. Ivy watched Robin rapturously as he ordered sandwiches and something to drink for himself and something for her that prickled her nose. But this silent rapture was nothing, nothing at all, to the feeling that gripped her when the music began. Then it was like something rippling through your skin and grabbing hold of your throat.
Ivy’s sandwich dropped, unfinished, to her plate. Then Robin’s sandwich fell, too, splitting open on his plate. He slid along the seat and took her hand. “Everything I love,” he kind of whispered through her hair to the words of the tune. And then it was like Ivy could hardly stand it, it was like the moonlight and heaven and no ache any more.
For three hours it was like that, with Ivy not even knowing that sometimes they were dancing alone while others watched, or that the little place was crowded now; and when Robin stopped and said, laughing, “Ivy Snow ! We’ve been dancing three solid hours!” she couldn’t believe it. But she agreed to sit out one dance. “If we don’t,” Robin said, “you’ll have me dancing on my knees. And that wouldn’t be proper, now, would it, Ivy?”
It wasn’t that. As he smiled across the table at her she saw that his face was tired. Like it always was these days. Like all the boys. Only you
didn’t: think those things. You kept pushing things back all the time. Then her eyes fell to the ribbon on his coat and pride welled up and choked her. For the first time in her life she remained motionless throughout an entire piece, hearing no music at all save the wondrous melody in her own heart. Her own Robin!
But the piece ended and another began; she tore her eyes away from Robin’s beautiful face as she stood up beside him, and they began to dance once more. And then, also for the first time in her life, after a few measures Ivy stood dead still. “I can’t! Oh, Robin, I can’t!” A look of intense pain flashed across her face, tears welled into her eyes, brimmed over and flowed down her cheeks. She took his hand and pulled him outside.
The night was brighter than before, and stiller. Most of the people had gone indoors, though it was not late, therecame the dist ant shrill whistle of a train, then all was quiet again.
“What’s the matter, honey?” Robin asked.
“Nothing, only—let’s go down to the fiver,” Ivy said.
“Why the river?”
“Because it’s peaceful and—and cool. Please, Robin!”
Robin hesitated, looking up into the sky. “Do you know what the river looks like from up there, Ivy?” ft looks like a — well, it looks like a piece of ribbon, soft shiny ribbon, throwed carelesslike across the dark. You can see it, Ivy.”
“But it’s so quiet tonight, Robin.” “Yes,” Robin said. “Now, it is.” He glanced again into the sky. “Well, okay, sweetheart.”
Ivy hobbled along beside him, her high heels making staccato little stumping sounds on the stone pavements.
“What’s the trouble?” Robin asked. “Your feet hurt?”
“Why no,” she said. “Why should they?” She glanced down proudly at the slippers glistening and twinkling in the soft light. But after that she fried to slither along, careful not to make so much noise. “It’s the high heels,” she explained. “I ain’t used to high heels. They hit the ground quicklike before I expect it.”
SHE WAS glad when they reached the softriver bank, gladder still when she was sitting in the new fresh grass and Robin lying on his stomach before her, looking at her like she was a queen.
Then suddenly he jumped up like he was a grasshopper. “Ivy Snow!” he said, worried, “have you got. a pain somewheres?”
She tried to dispel the frown that she could feel between her eyes with a smile. “Why, no,” she said. “But if you’ll pardon me for taking off my shoes in front of you, I believe I’ll go wading.”
“Wading! Ivy! You’ll freeze!” “Best freeze—” she began, and bent over to unbuckle the golden straps. “Help me, Robin.”
He was a bit clumsy, but finally the shoes were off, and stockings too; and the cool grass and the damp earth were like a salve that went clean up to her forehead. But it was the icy water of the river and the soft mud that made her want to
sing like she was in church. So she raised her head to the lovely sky and sang:
“ ‘Count your bless-ings
Name them one by one—’ ”
Oh, it was beautiful, it was, with the river like a silver mirror, and the dark trees, and Robin standing on the bank laughing at her.
And then so sudden it scared her, Robin stopped laughing and her stomach went into knots. Far off down the river the crisscross white searchlights shot up quick and there came the terrible terrible low z'm-m-m with a kind of throbbing sound, and the guns began booming and cracking on both sides of the river, and the lights from them flared up like white torches all around the earth. Then, as suddenly, the cracking and booming of the guns died down. She knew what that meant; somewhere up there in the English sky were the English planes, too. . .
But the terrible z'm-m-m-m-ing was coming nearer and nearer. And hen she could see them—the great aw ul shapes coming and coming straight over the lovely peaceful river. Anxiously she searched the sky. “Where arc they, Robin! Where!’’
Then so fast you could hardly see it, something like a hawk swooped in from the side and shot down through the dark shapes. . and another. . and another. And there was a burst of orange flame and a long bright tail falling and falling.
“We got him!” Robin said, tense, and then yelled “Ivy!’’ and before she knew where she was she was lying face down on the ground under the trees and Robin was across her like a shield. “They’ll drop them anywhere now,” Robin said. “Lie still, Ivy.”
It was like he said. Through the zooming and whistling and roaring came that awful screaming, runningdown MM Ne-e-e-n-h and then BOOM ! and a kind of a phflumping sound all around over here, and then over there. You didn’t try to think where. Nights like this you didn’t try to think at all.
It was a long time before Robin said, “They’ve gone, now,” and he and Ivy got up stiff and aching from the cold grass. Silently he helped her on with her sandals, and silently they moved away from under the trees toward town, toward the towering flames blazing upward into the serene and empty sky.
This was the time you tried most of all not to think. You only went, blind, picking your way around falling buildings and ambulances and fire pumps and wardens and people shouting and people just standing like their senses had been knocked out of them.
Ivy hobbled quickly, with Robin holding tight to her arm, wincing as the jagged bits of rubble struck into her soles sending torturing flashes of pain up through her backbone. But never mind the pain.
You just went toward home -you never knew what you would see. Many times she had hurried home | with this tight sick lump in her j chest, not seeing what was about her, j but only queer things like Mum j coming home from market with her | hat on lopsided, or the Christmas tree !
; when she was twelve, or Pop pulling ; on his socks over his long drawers.
You didn’t think, you only went, j blind, toward all the things. . .
Rounding the corner she gave a ! quick, stifled little cry. There it ¡ was, the beautiful black-red front,
1 and the propped-up doorway, with ! only some glass and plaster on the steps. Then she saw Arthur standing j there on the top step of the entrance looking like he’d seen a ghost.
“Is that you,Ivy?”
“Who’d you think? Me and Robin.”
Then, sudden, he got mad. “Where’ve you been?” he yelled, crosser than he’d ever sounded before in his whole life. Like you do when you’re scared.
“Why ” she began, and then she couldn’t stand up any longer. She sat down and stretched her feet out in front of her.
“Where’ve you been?”Arthur yelled again, coming close. “Didn’t you go dancing to the ‘Rosebud’ like you said?”
‘‘1 ain’t one to go lying about my whereabouts. We was at the ‘Rosebud’—
“But ” Arthur began, and kind of choked and left off.
Robin looked at him close, with his face tight, like when the planes was over the river, and put his arm around Arthur’s shoulders, and they both stood there like they was fighting things too big for them. Then Ivy saw that the bandage was off Arthur’s arm and his hands was black and cut, like he’d been digging somewheres. “Where’ve you been?” she said, like as if she didn’t know. Always pushing things to the hack of her mind, the things you knew and never said.
Arthur never answered. He was looking off and his face was all lighted up by the fires. It was all tightlike too, like it got sometimes. “Hereafter when you—” he said, but not so mad, and stopped. Then he looked down where her feet were resting. “What’s the matter with your feet, Ivy?” he said.
“ ‘Nothing’! she says. Look at them, Robin, busting over the edges like... Take off them shoes, Ivy! Who do you think you are, Cinderella? Trying to get your feet—”
“Take them off! And tomorrow you’ll take them back ! Hereafter you can dance at home, in your old shoes.” He was getting all tight again, looking off into the sky. Then suddenly he said, “Good night,” and smiled at Robin and kind of waved. “Be seeing you,” he said. “Reporting for duty tomorrow.”
He went in and slammed the door like to bust it.
THE MOONLIGHT had faded, and only spasmodic faint flashes from the fire, growing dimmer, flickered across her bed through the j narrow high-up window. Still Ivy j lay awake.
Ivy and Herself had been having a j long argument about taking the I shoes back. But it seemed the I longer it went on the more Ivy lost out. Because Herself was on Arthur’s side like always when it was the I truth. It seemed Herself, being the lady part of Ivy, didn’t always understand how girls felt. Because one more time, maybe two, the shoes would be like they was made for her. Hadn’t she been able to keep them on all the way home—and afterwards? If only she could just keep them and look at them, and once in a while feel them. . .
But Herself said, “No Ivy,” She said. “Right now, they’re too small, like Arthur said. And while in time they might be like they was made for you, right now they ain’t. Right now they should belong to somebody else that fits them.”
But it wasn’t what Arthur or Herself said that made Ivy take the shoes back. Itr was things that you didn’t say, or think even, things that pushing them back in your mind would bust your heart wide open.
But somehow Miss Emily seemed to know, the next morning when she looked at her bright and said, “Well hello there, Ivy!”
“I’ve brought them back,” Ivy said. “The shoes.”
“Oh-h-h,” Miss Emily said, kind of sick. “Oh, dear! Didn’t Robin Oh dear, Ivy!” Then the paper fell open because Miss Emily had been untying it, like not knowing what she was doing. And her face got bright again. “Oh, but you did go dancing! Youand Robin ?”
“We was at the ‘Rosebud,’” Ivy said. It was like you couldn’t keep pushing things back in your mind forever.
Miss Emily looked like she hadn’t heard, like when words take a long time getting there. Then she looked white and kind of sick again. “But Ivy— ” she said.
“I know,” Ivy said. “It was hit.” “We couldn’t even— There wasn’t anybody—” She swallowed. “We couldn’t even get to it, Ivy. To any of them.” It was like she couldn’t push it back, neither. Then she kind of shook herself and she looked down at the shoes like they was something you didn’t ought to touch. “I should think you’d want to keep them Ivy,” she said, soft. “It’s—it’s
almost as if they were a kind of magic, Ivy.”
It was the way she said it. Because in a bust all the things that you kept pushing back couldn’t push hack no further. All the things you knew and felt and didn’t say. Like Robin being saved from being at the “Rosebud” to fly in the air, free, like the best flier in England! Like Arthur digging among the ruins with his bad arm because he couldn’t stand for his sister... Like Pop coming back in the mornings, only tired-looking and smelling of smoke . And Mum. . .All the things that Arthur didn’t say. All the things that nobody said.
Then how could anybody say “thank you" for all them things!
“I haven’t got but two shillin’s,” Ivy said, quickly, “but I’d like to buy them shoes.”
“But, Ivy! They’re yours already, they—”
“I’d like to buy them, if you please.”
“But we can’t takeVery well, my dear.”
Ivy laid the money on the desk. “So they’re mine, now?”
“Why, of course.”
Ivy didn’t quite know how to say it so she had to bust out quick. “Then please to send them over to Rosemary over there in America. Tell her that Ivy Snow knows how it is to be when your country’s in trouble, and maybe some night like— when her and her beau... Well, tell her that Ivy and Robin says like you said—it’s a kind of magic.”
Then all the things that you kept pushing back went back like always into where they belonged, and Ivy smiled.
When she went outside the sky was bright with sun and she squinted upward at two Hurricanes soaring overhead, like Robin.
“I didn’t have to say they was too small, but only for the time being— did I?” she whispered.
Robin would know. Robin was one that could understand how it was when a lady was proud.