She took them out of the boxes and looked at them. One pair is white patent leather pumps with a two inch platform and seven inch heels, the other pair, five inch heels without a platform. She slipped the platform pump on her left foot, then, with the brace already in place, slipped the pump without the platform on her right foot that just dangled between the uprights of the brace. She stood up, slipped on the white sundress with a pattern of blue, green, and pink pansies and spaghetti straps. The dress was hemmed well above her knee, and the skirt was cut full so it would sway as she walked. The heel and platform combination on her left foot compensated well for the extension of the brace on her right side, and she was ready.
She called a cab, and went to the big, three story shopping mall on the other side of town. It was crowded, which she liked, so she could mingle with the crowd. She bought a latte and sat at a table by the inside window in a coffee shop. Her skirt rode up as she unlocked her brace and sat down, exposing the lacey tops of her white thigh-highs. She had to extend her brace out from under the table so she could cross her left leg over it. She sat there, demurely sipping her Latin blend, and dangling both of her feet in the high heels.
She looked up to see the most gorgeous man she had ever seen staring at her. She looked up and smiled. He turned away, then looked back to see her staring at him. She said to herself, "Not this time. I'm not going to hide this time." She gave him a come here gesture with her index finger, and he pointed to his chest in the universal "Who, me?" gesture. She nodded as seductively as she knew how.
His head poked around the window. "Yes, may I do something for you?"
"Yes", she said. You can go get yourself a coffee and talk with me. I think we have a mutual interest."
He brought his coffee over to her table and introduced himself. "My name is John. Have we met?"
"Not until a few minutes ago. I'm Marlene, and I have been in braces of one kind or another all my life. I know a devotee when I see one. Am I right?"
He blushed, and said, "You're right, but I do have an excuse. I'm an orthotist. I make braces like yours. It's just that I have never seen anyone wear such outrageous high heels with one."
"Did I break the rules?"
"Not at all. I like what I see."
"I'm interested in braces and what can be done with them," she said with a wink.
"I have some ideas of my own. How about lunch?"
Marlene agreed to lunch and they walked together through the mall. Marlene was taking even smaller steps than normal because of the extreme high heel on her left foot. She was concentrating on walking as gracefully as possible, and she kept thinking, "Wow, an orthotist. And he's good-looking. This is gonna be fun."
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Lunch was a blur. Marlene found herself somewhat detached, watching herself having lunch and discussing everything from politics to baseball with John like they were old friends. She was starting to think this was almost too good to be true. Eventually the conversation got around to what brought them together in the first place.
"So, when did you first get interested in braces," she asked, being careful to appear to be busy with a scrap of food on her plate.
"Since I was a child, really. There was a very cute girl in my class all through elementary school. She was in braces and used crutches also. My guess is that she had spina bifida because of her size-she was tiny, with the cutest little legs in those braces."
"I'll bet you say that to all the girls." Marlene couldn't help but smile at him. And she liked what she saw and heard.
He blushed just a bit. "Yeah, well, anyway, she was my first crush. I don't know what happened to her. I do think about her a lot, though--and that's another story for another time. I just always had this image of her in my mind, and then in high school, I twisted a knee and a Lenox-Hill brace was prescribed for my knee. They were the first of the really custom-made knee braces, and it took three trips to the brace shop. I loved it. There were braces all over the place, and I knew that's what I wanted to do."
"So you were a kid brace devotee who grew up to be an orthotist."
"That's the shortcut version, I guess."
"So, Ortho-boy, what would you prescribe for me?"
"Ortho-boy? I don't think I have ever been called that. Do I get a set of tights with a big 'O' on my chest?"
"No, but you could tell me what you would prescribe for a girl like me."
"You seem to be doing fine without me. Very fine," he said, lifting the table cloth for a look at her legs under the table. Marlene crossed her good leg with the platform high heel over her brace and began to stroke his calf.
"Does your hip bother you much?"
She continued to stroke his leg with her shoe. "Not since the new joint was installed several years ago."
"So you don't really need this weight bearing brace, do you?"
"Very perceptive, Ortho-boy." His head jerked up to see her expression, and then his face lighted up with a ten thousand watt smile to see her smiling at him.
"I do have need of a creative orthotist, though. You see, my right leg is a little over four inches shorter than my left because of all those years of hip trouble."
"Do you wear a brace at all normally?"
"I do have an afo that I wear sometimes. It gives my ankle some stability with the lift. But I often find that too boring."
"Yeah. I wore so much hardware on my leg for so long that I still find it, oh, I don't know-somehow comforting to have a brace hugging my thigh. Strange, huh?"
"Not so strange. I have seen some interesting stuff in my shop. There are not only devotees out there, you would be surprised at the number of pretenders."
"You mean people who don't need braces for any reason want them?"
"Yep. I have made some strange stuff."
"Wait a minute. This sounds interesting. What would you make for me?"
"Well," said John, looking thoughtfully down at her shoes. "First I must tell you that I like what I see. The sight of your helpless little foot in that high heel pump hanging between the uprights of your brace is very erotic. You got my attention right away with that. I could attach your platform heel to your afo, and build up the platform and the heel another four inches. I think that would make the heel about eleven inches high and the platform oh, about six inches. How's that?" He couldn't resist wagging his eyebrows at her. "Or I could just mount your shoe on a four-inch patten, but that might be a bit unstable, hmmmm."
Marlene giggled and looked down at the platform and already incredibly high heel on her left foot. " That could be very interesting."
"Or, I could simply attach the afo to that shoe." John nodded at her right foot and shoe dangling between the uprights of her brace. "That looks like about a five inch heel-a tough job to attach the brace to a dainty high heel pump, but I can do it. You can wear a cute little flat shoe on your left foot. You would walk with a bit of a strange gait, but it would make your butt look pretty cute. Have you ever considered bilateral braces?"
"You mean a brace on both legs? That could be fun. Will I be able to walk better then doctor?" She looked at him and made a pouty face. Marlene found herself getting excited. She was afraid to look down because she was sure her nipples were betraying her calm demeanor. She decided to change the subject slightly. "John, do you ever, uh, that is, have you ever made braces for yourself?"
"Yes. I, uh, like them, too"
"I hope you will wear them for me sometime."
"I know this sounds like a terrible pickup line, but here goes-Would you like to see some of my work?" They both laughed. "Seriously, my shop is not far away, and I'm sure you'll find something there you'll like."
She held his eyes with hers in a steely stare. "Check please!"
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The name "Townsend Orthotics" was painted on the window of the storefront office. John parked behind the building, came around and offered Marlene a hand as she got out of the car and closed the door for her. He opened the back door of the shop by punching in several numbers on an electronic pad, and they entered what looked like his office.
"The business is closed for the weekend, but Greta, my office manager, is still here doing some bookkeeping. I need to tell her we're here. Make yourself at home. Greta won't be coming back here to surprise you."
"Greta," She thought, almost aloud. "Sounds like Nurse Ratchet to me." Marlene walked through a doorway into the main workshop. There were braces and pieces of braces all over the place-hanging from the walls, leaning against workbenches, strewn over the tabletops. There were also molds for legs and feet and artificial limbs of all kinds. She was taking all this in, and comparing the craftsmanship of the braces in the shop to her own. His were superior in workmanship and materials.
She then entered one of the treatment and fitting rooms, and got a good look at herself in the floor to ceiling mirror. She liked what she saw. Her hair was cut just the way she liked it, her makeup looked good, and the little sun dress fit her well. Her shoes and brace made her look rather fetching, she thought. Marlene walked to the end of the room so she could walk back toward the mirror and watch herself take several steps in the heels and brace. Her skirt swung nicely as she walked, revealing the brace straps on her thigh-just the look she was hoping for.
She was beginning to wonder where John was when he called down the hall, "Marlene, I'll be there in a minute." So she continued to investigate the other fitting rooms and the waiting area.
"Hi Marlene, how do you like these?" John had slipped braces onto both of his legs over his pants, and was walking down the hall toward her. The braces make loud clicking sounds as he walked, and they bent at the knees.
"You do nice work, Mr. Townsend, I must admit. Perhaps I will send you some of my work." They spent the next couple of hours talking and looking through his large inventory of braces and materials. He quickly drew up some designs and showed them to Marlene along with some pictures of clients wearing his appliances. Some of the people in the pictures looked like models-really good looking men and women-and most of them in braces. She was extremely happy with this guy, taking all this time to design custom braces for her, and she found that she was being drawn to him in all sorts of ways.
"John, I would like to cook dinner for you because you have taken so much time with me today."
"Sorry I can't tonight, I'm leaving for a conference in a few hours, but I'll be back in the middle of the week, and I will look forward to it." She tried not to look too disappointed, but she was not looking forward to waiting several days before seeing him again.
"Oh, if you want, I will work on some stuff for you and bring it with me when I see you again. How's Wednesday?"
"John, we just met. You don't have to . . ."
"Marlene, this is something I want to do. Just drop off these two pairs of shoes-I assume these two have mates-and I guarantee you won't be disappointed." As he spoke he moved closer to her, and he punctuated his last words with a light brief kiss on her lips. She tingled all over.
She insisted on taking a cab home, and he kissed her again as he held the car door for her. This time she kissed him back, opening her mouth to welcome him. "See you Wednesday night." As the cab drove around the block, Marlene noticed a tall woman with long blonde hair in the parking lot where John had parked. She was about to get in her car, and even though Marlene only got a glimpse of her, she was sure the woman was wearing a brace.
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The next day, Marlene delivered the two pairs of shoes in their boxes and wrapped up with kraft paper. Townsend Orthotics was not far out of her way. The woman behind the reception area window was blonde and extremely attractive, maybe around 35.
"Marlene. You must be Marlene. John told me you would be dropping off some shoes." She was very businesslike, and to the point.
"Yes, that's right. You must be Greta."
"I must be. Wait right there. I'll be right out."
Marlene turned away so that she would not be tempted to stare at Greta as got up from behind her desk. She heard the unmistakable snap-click as a legbrace knee joint locked. This must be the woman she had seen the night before. A door opened at the end of the room and Greta walked into the waiting area. She wore a light summer dress with a very tight bodice and a knee length full skirt. Greta was tall. Even taller than Marlene, and she had the body of a long-distance runner-almost no body fat at all. Marlene could see Greta's short left leg, or at least her left foot and a little more. Greta's white shoe was attached to a high metal patten that was several inches high, maybe about ten or twelve inches, and the metal uprights of a brace were clearly visible in the heel of the shoe. She wore a high heeled version of the same white laceup shoe on her normal-looking right foot. Greta is stunningly beautiful and almost floats through the room toward Marlene.
"H-Here are my, uh, uh, shoes." Marlene was bombarded at once with Greta's overpowering beauty and her extremely sensual and feminine walk, even though she wore quite an apparatus on her leg.
"I thought that's what they were," Greta said. "John does excellent work. You will be very pleased. In fact, he did this for me." Greta lifted up her skirt to reveal that her left leg was indeed in a brace to the hip, but the shoe was the most interesting part. Marlene had never seen a patten that high. Nor had she seen a leg that short and in a brace. Nor had she seen a brace mounted on a high heel like that. And the brace itself was a work of art. The highly polished metal uprights hugged Greta's leg in a perfect fit, and even the leather work showed real craftsmanship.
"What do you think?"
"I think it looks very good. I had no idea braces could look like that. You're right, he does really good work." Marlene looked down at her Mary-Janes, her favorites, with the right one pointing down, as it always did, attached to the weight-bearing brace. "Greta, you move so gracefully, so feminine-
"John can do anything. I used to walk terribly until John helped me. He has changed my life. No doubt he will do the same for you."
Marlene thought a few seconds. "Greta, this brace has a bucket thigh band, and is really a pain sometimes. Do you think John can help me with this?"
Greta laughed in spite of herself. "Marlene, John will take you places you have never imagined. He can make you walk like a princess, or (she paused for a few seconds) he can make you walk any way you would like."
"What do you mean any way I like?"
"Sometimes a little pain can be therapeutic, don't you think? Sometimes, well, never mind. I'm sure John will tell you all about it." Greta was making John sound even more interesting than before. Perhaps there was more to Ortho-boy than meets the eye. "Braces can be made for all kinds of reasons, Marlene. Perhaps you should give that some thought."
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Marlene was working at her computer when the phone rang.
"Hello, Marlene? This is Greta."
Shocked that Greta would call, Marlene was momentarily dumbstruck.
"Oh, uh, Hi, Greta. What's up?"
Getting right to the point, Greta said, "Are you busy for lunch today? I know we just met, but I think we have a lot in common, and I would like to get to know you."
"Well, sure. I guess. I would like to get to know you better, too."
"Wonderful, Marlene. How's Baxter's at 1:30? That late we will miss the crowd."
Marlene had worn her built up right shoe and the short brace, or afo, to the office, and was wearing a pant suit. That would not do at all, so she headed for home to change. Since Greta had seen her wearing the weight bearer with the thigh bucket, she decided to wear it again. Her favorite shoes are the black patent Mary-Janes, the left one built up five inches to compensate for the brace extension, so she chose them to go with her black and red dress.
She was a little late getting to the restaurant, and tried to walk as smoothly as she could with her stiff right leg and built up left shoe. She saw Greta sitting on a padded bench just inside the front door. She wore no brace at all, and her short left leg was crossed over the other one. She wore black high heeled pumps with a narrow instep strap, and the shoe on the short leg hung just below her other knee. As she stood and reached for her crutches, her short left leg just slipped off and dangled in mid air, her tight black wool skirt hemmed several inches above her right knee.
"Hi, sorry I'm late, Greta. Traffic."
"No problem, it gave me a chance to cool my heels for a few minutes." Greta swung herself smoothly to the booth on long aluminum crutches that came all the way up under her arms, but had no pads at the top. Marlene thought the crutches looked somewhat like braces, but maybe painted a shiny black.
"Greta, these crutches are great. I've never seen anything like them."
"You have a good eye for quality," said Greta as she handed her crutches to Marlene and sat down, scooting into the booth. "John made them for me. They are just what I wanted, as you can probably guess. Very lightweight, and stylish, don't you think?
Marlene inspected them closely. They were extremely light, much narrower in diameter than any crutches she had ever seen, and the curve built into them put them right where you wanted them, with the handles in just the right spot. "They look like something Frank Lloyd Wright would have designed. They're functional with a great looking ergonomic design. Very nice. Did you decide to use them today because of the shoes you're wearing?"
"No, not really. I have an extension brace that I can slip on and wear with any shoes, really. It's adjustable, so any heel height and even any platform or heel combination is no problem."
"John to the rescue, again?" Marlene smiled.
Smiling in return, Greta looks at Marlene for a second or two and says, "Of course. John does everything well."
They ordered a drink and appetizers, and the suspense was killing Marlene. "So, Greta, what's up?"
They looked at each other and burst into laughter. They laughed so hard it took a minute for Greta to catch her breath and regain her composure. "I see why John likes you."
"Greta, are you and John. I mean are you seeing…"
"Let me make this easy for you. John and I have been lovers. I was so grateful to him after he helped me that I would have done anything for him. Has he told you about his father? No, I can see that on your face. Well, his father is a surgeon, but does not have a public practice. I know that sounds strange, and it is, frankly, but the Townsends are incredibly wealthy, and they work when, and for whom, and in the manner they wish. They have homes and estates all over the world. But that's a story for another time."
"Greta, I had no idea! That little orthotics shop. You would miss it if you weren't looking for it."
"That's kind of the idea."
"So, is this what you wanted to tell me?"
"That's part of it. I need to tell you that John is much more complex than he seems. He is loving, talented, generous, wise, and takes joy in what he does. He and his father saved my leg. Then, he helped me with therapy and braces until I could walk almost as well as anyone. Then, we began to experiment, and the real fun started."
"What kind of experiments? This sounds ominous."
Greta laughed again, and Marlene was struck again by her beauty and bearing.
"Marlene, you will love John. Trust me. He told me you no longer require that weight-bearer, but that you missed it. That got his attention. He will take you on a wonderful adventure. There is no risk to you, and you will never forget the fun you will have, and the confidence it will give you. Before John I never would have worn an outfit like this, and I would not have even fantasized about wearing shoes like these. Before John and his father, I was in constant pain, physical and mental. Now, thanks to John, I can revisit some of that pain, just enough, whenever I want. You, too, will find it therapeutic, even sensual. Marlene! Are you listening to me?"
Startled, Marlene replied, "Yes, yes of course. My mind was just wandering. Are any of John's, uh, clients men?"
"Marlene, you vixen! Of course there are men involved. Some very interesting men, in fact. Some with disabilities, some with braces, some with prostheses, very interesting prostheses," said Greta with a wink.
"My God, Greta, my imagination is running wild."
"Good. That's a good sign. Maybe you can help John design something entirely new for you that will give you pleasure with every step."
.... To be continued