Emmaleigh cried for days after that Sunday….
That Sunday when Mother reached carefully under her trundle cot to pull out the wonderful little high-button shoes Poppa had purchased for her to wear with her church dress. Even though she was too young to talk, she knew something was wretchedly wrong when Mother’s hand came back with only one shoe. Sundays became a melancholic ritual for Emmaleigh from then on.
Over the years, as Emmaleigh grew older, the painfulness of Sundays slowly, but lethargically, diminished. Like the light at the end of the day, the hurt grew a little softer, and a little less pronounced. Yet, every night before she drifted off to sleep, she let her hand roam quietly and carefully under the dark absyss under her cot – hoping that, just maybe, her hand would find the little shoe – somehow overlooked in the countless searches that preceded this one.
And so it was a very curious thing that happened one night as she lay in that trundle cot as she had every night of the past 15 years of her life. The early March wind had been particularly merciless the entire day and seemed to have renewed its frenzy with the coming darkness, bringing on its wings an ice-edged rain. Emmaleigh tossed restlessly under the nubby, tattered, ticking of her covers, trying to stay warm and willing the wind to subside. Then it began…an incessant, haunting, scratching at the wood door braced close against the elements for the night. After an eternity of hesitation, Emmaleigh crept to the door and, using her slight frame as a ballast, wedged the door open against the wind gusts and peered out onto the stoop. There balancing precariously and cocking its head ever so knowingly, stood a raven. Even in the dark of the storm, she could see him peering directly and precociously at her, and the blue black of his wings glistened as he took flight into the night. Puzzled, Emmaleigh pulled the door close again, but finding it would not close cleanly, bent down and picked up something wedged on the threshold…. Soaked and shivering, she hurried back inside and raised the lantern light. She wouldn't have even needed to bother, however, with the weak and timid light of the lantern as her fingers knew, before it was even raised, what she held. The touch of the supple leather, the ridges of the welted stitching, and the round little buttons told her it was....her shoe.
The shoe was considerably more worn than when it had disappeared, and tattered by more than just a lifetime of Sunday wear. It was lovingly mended with string and thread harvested from nests of prior seasons, but there was no doubt it was her shoe.
So, carefully, Emmaleigh wrapped the shoe in a leftover scrap of her stitching linen and tied it with a piece of silk floss. And, with a heart full of bittersweet joy, she tucked it in the corner of the dark recesses under her trundle cot.