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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
'The sun illuminates a path for her as she walks down Figueroa Street as if it were her own private catwalk.'

A Polish immigrant working as a shoeshine in 1940s Los Angeles is enraptured by a glamourous Hollywood actress.

Submitted: April 18, 2016

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Submitted: April 18, 2016



The orange sun beats down on the asphalt. I can almost hear the sizzling sound of the tar as I kneel down on the ground before the man seated in front of me. He is dressed in a navy pinstripe suit and a jauntily angled fedora. He casually browses through The Los Angeles Times as I work on shining his shoes. My arms ache with effort and I feel rivulets of sweat roll down my back and the sun-singed ground below me burn my knees. Eventually, the man’s loafers gleam with fresh polish, and I raise myself to my feet, my back protesting with each movement. The man lackadaisically folds his newspaper and inspects his shoes. He then turns to me, and delves into his pockets, draws out a sizeable wedge of notes, carefully thumbs through them and hands me a couple with a brisk thanks. The notes are crisp, nearly new, and the ink from the broadsheet must have stained the man’s fingers, as the face of George Washington is decorated with his fingerprints. I pocket the money—which covers the cost and includes a meagre tip—and wipe my face with the cloth I have to hand, which is accompanied by a spattering of polish.

As I take a break, I see a figure begin to walk up the street. The sun illuminates a path for her as she walks down Figueroa Street as if it were her own private catwalk. As she draws closer, I see her better, clad in a floaty violet dress adorned with pearl buttons, and clutching a lavender purse. She is wearing cat-eye sunglasses, but I recognise her face. Magdalena Markov. Up and coming Hollywood actress, having emigrated from Poland the preceding year. I remember her from there, we went to school together. I followed her here, although my success was marginal—running a semi-popular shoe-shine business outside of busy office buildings—compared to her mingling with the ritz and glitz of the Hollywood elite on a daily basis. I don’t know whether to say something, but as she passes me, swaying slightly on her purple high heels, she smiles. It is an enigmatic smile, simultaneously saying everything and nothing. I take it as an invitation. I call her name, wondering if she had recognised me from back home. She stops; she lowers her sunglasses and peers at me. Her scarlet lips form a smile. She beckons me closer. Anatoly, she greets, in her inimitable voice: thickly accented, husky and sensual. She plants a kiss on both of my cheeks, and links her arm through mine, leading me on a walk with her. I do not protest. I address her formally, to which she immediately corrects me. Lena, please, we are old friends. I ask how she is, to which she rapturously begins to describe her latest feature. I am not listening to her as she has removed her sunglasses completely now, placing them in her purse. Her face is in full view of the California sun, every feature illuminated. Her eyes are verdigris; the flecks of green reflect every particle of light the fortunate sun shines in her direction. She is moving animatedly as she speaks, as her arm detaches from mine and she uses her hands to visually depict her words, never breaking her step once. Her hair, neatly curled upwards and piled on top of her head is set alight by the fire of the sun, simultaneously glowing golden, copper and bronze. I am enchanted. She is looking at me questioningly, and I realise that she has asked me a question. I nod and smile vaguely, hoping that this will placate her. She seems nonplussed, and resumes our unrequited conversation. Soon, we are walking underneath the sparse shade of palm trees which seem to line every street. She moves closer to me again, so close that I can smell her. Her perfume is an intoxicating blend of jasmine and vanilla, and I also detect scents of cigarette smoke and powder emanating from her. I inhale it deeply. She casts me a curious look before emitting a breathy laugh. It angers me, for some reason, and I notice that her teeth have a faint yellow tint to them as she smiles. This is explained by the carton of cigarettes she extracts from her purse. She offers me one, but I decline, as I watch her place it between her lips, and light it. She inhales deeply, before releasing an elegant stream of smoke. It circles in the air above her like a halo. I notice that her lipstick has left a red rim around the edge of her cigarette. She takes another drag, and blows the smoke in my direction, in what I assume is meant to be a playful gesture. I swat it away, and take a step away from her as she laughs. I feel anger rise once again, as she watches me with mirth in her eyes. It makes me feel foolish. On an impulse, I bat the cigarette from her fingers and squash it into the ground with the heel of my shoe. She looks faintly surprised, as she raises an eyebrow. She says nothing, shrugs, and goes to take another cigarette. I grab her wrist as she brings it out from her purse. She looks at me questioningly, so I tighten my grip slightly, and she drops the cigarette. With her slim wrist still encircled in my grasp, she is incredibly close to me. Her eyes are wide and bright. I find myself leaning in and kissing her. She pauses for a moment, surprised, but soon she reciprocates. I steer her backwards until her back grazes the wall behind her. Her hands cup my face, and mine find their way to her waist. I move them up her body until they are tangled in her hair. I delight in dismantling her careful and intricate hairstyle, hearing a shower of pins drop to our feet. She pulls away lightly, and laughs, as she wipes my lips. Her fingers come away red from the marks she has left. At close range, she is both more beautiful and more repulsive than ever. Her eyes sparkle, but the make-up around them has smudged in the afternoon heat. Her lips are plump, but surrounded by red smudges, and her teeth are stained a horrible shade of yellow. I kiss her again anyway. My hands move to her shoulders and upwards. I wrap my hands around her lovely throat and begin to exert pressure. I hear a faint choking sound, and squeeze harder. I look up and see her eyes beginning to bulge and veins popping around her temples. She tries to speak, but I have stopped her. I feel a rush of power, and continue, my grip growing stronger and stronger until—

I am kneeling in front of the pinstripe-suited man and shining his shoes. He flicks through the newspaper before peering over at me. He clicks his fingers imperiously as he notices me staring down the street at a retreating, unknown figure dressed in purple. I resume my work, hoping that she might walk past me again someday. 

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