| Vacancies |

Vacancies: Chapter 12

The bell jangled and Laya straightened, then slumped back down when she saw who it was



Laya glared at the glass door as it swung closed, and at the auburn half pony disappearing through it.

She’d turned on her charm when the girl entered, requesting “Something refined, classy, for, um, special occasions.” The girl had blushed.

Laya pointed out the nude heels. “These go with everything, so elegant, plus they give you a nice lift. You can wear them to anything — from a friend’s vort to a date.” She smiled knowingly.

But in the end the girl had left empty-handed, red-cheeked, and muttering something about having hoped to spend less.

“When you wear 50-dollar shoes,” Laya muttered to the empty store, “you look like you’re wearing 50-dollar shoes.”

She scowled at the stack of envelopes lying next to the cash register. It was time to start getting in boots, and she still had so much of her autumn stock left. How would she pay her suppliers? To say nothing of the tuition bill… she winced.

Shavy Kaufman had been in the store earlier that morning, her icy-blue eyes raking over the display, the store window. She, too, had left empty-handed, and in her head Laya imagined her telling her husband all about the store. “And those prices! I don’t know what she’s thinking.”

Laya compressed her lips into a thin line. Mordy Kaufman was on the tuition committee, she was sure of it. Let them judge her, just let them! Shavy, who’d never worked a day in her life, with her Chanel bag and effortless waves by Adira.

Laya tapped the envelopes against the counter, two, three times, until they were all neatly aligned, then wiped the already-immaculate glass-topped counter. She paused when she reached the stylized Tziptoes, in frosted glass. She’d bought the eponymous shop from Tzippi herself.

Tzippi had been — like her shop — frank, open, unassuming. She’d shown her the books, no fireworks there, but solid promise. Laya had been on fire then, knew she had what it’d take to convert the middling, practical shoe store into a high-end, highly lucrative boutique. Where had she gone wrong?

The bell jangled and Laya straightened, then slumped back down when she saw who it was.

“Chaykie. Hi.”

“Hey, no need to roll out the red carpet, I’m fine with just trumpets.” Chaykie smiled, but when Laya looked more closely she could see the bags under her eyes, the pallor accentuated by her black-and-neon headband.

“How’s it going?”

“Fine.” Chaykie took a gulp of water from her ever-present water bottle. She had one of those fruit infusers, Laya noticed. She wondered how much it cost.

The two stood there in silence, Laya silently tracing the buttons on the cash register with her finger. Finally, Chaykie spoke.

“There’s funding, you know. From the Federation.”

Laya started. She’d never spoken about her tuition woes, not with anyone, and certainly not with Chaykie.

“After-school extracurricular sports, it’s a pet passion of someone on the board there,” Chaykie continued, and Laya realized that she’d been talking about something else entirely. The whole world doesn’t revolve around your bank account, Laya.

“It’s been a dream of mine since forever.” Chaykie averted her gaze, then sat down on one of the pink plush benches dotting the store.

“Oh?” Laya did her best to sound interested. As if she had the time to hear about other people’s dreams when her own were plummeting to the ground all around her.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 664)

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