Jimmy was disappointed when he headed back to autopsy. He had yet again failed to identify the shooter. Despite Abby's best efforts the only face he had been able to recall under hypnosis was that of the server in his local coffee shop. The problem was, he not only felt like a failure, he also felt like a freak. He had seen the looks on McGee and Abby's faces the first time she brought him out from under the trance and he couldn't stop worrying about what he might have let slip. It hadn't been about Camp Winnamonka, he saw nothing but confusion when he asked about that, so it had to be the shoes. People just didn't understand about the shoes.
It wasn't a fetish, not really. At least that's what he told himself whenever he fell into the grip of his obsession. No, that was the wrong word, he didn't obsess, he just thought real hard about all the wonderful varieties of women's footwear. He preferred to consider it a memory, a really good, really strong memory.
It had started back in high school, the summer before senior year. He'd never been part of the "popular" crowd. His earnest manner and studious looks made him a favorite of the teachers but the butt of many jokes from his classmates. He had his circle of friends, but having a girlfriend was out of the question.
Then one day in the big department store at the local mall, he saw her behind the cosmetics counter, the girl of his dreams. She was slim and blond, with the largest, softest grey eyes he had ever seen. Her long, shiny hair was pulled back in a ponytail and tied with a bright blue ribbon. The form-fitting, striped tee she wore rode up as she reached across the counter, exposing a small sliver of tanned flank above the hip hugging top of her white capris. She was perfect.
It only took that one look and Jimmy fell head over heels in love. He hung back, watching her from between the stacks in Ladies Shoes, waiting for her to finish with her customer so he could approach her. Once she was free, Jimmy walked up to the counter, only to find that his voice had deserted him. There he stood, gaping like an imbecile as she waited, her head cocked to one side, for him to tell her what he wanted.
"Can I help you?" she finally asked after watching Jimmy open and shut his mouth several times without speaking.
"Oh, yes ... I ... I, uh ...need some perfume."
"Do you know what kind you want?"
"Uh, no. I mean it's not for me so I don't know ... well, I mean, I'm the one buying it, but ... it's for my mom," he finished lamely.
"Would you like to try some? To help you decide," she said, reaching for the sample caddy.
"Uh, yeah, that would be great." Jimmy held out his wrist.
The girl looked at him in amazement. "You want me to put it on you?"
Jimmy snatched his hand back and thought he would die of embarrassment. "Oh, uh, no. I can just smell it in the bottle."
"No need for that," she said as she smiled at him and sprayed it on her own wrist, holding out her arm so he could sample the scent. Jimmy thought he had died and gone to heaven as he lowered his head and inhaled deeply. Underneath the floral muskiness of the cologne he was sure he could detect her own fresh scent, a mix of warm skin and baby powder. He would have stayed there forever, but she withdrew her wrist and he had to raise his eyes again.
"So, what do you think?" she asked.
"Wonderful," he breathed.
"Should I ring it up then?"
"Oh ... oh, you mean the perfume. Uh, sure." He looked up at her, his eyes filled with longing. "It sure smells good on you," he said earnestly.
"I think your mother will like it. It's a very popular scent." She headed over to the register with Jimmy following like a lovestruck puppy.
As she rang up his purchase he finally had a chance to study her more closely. He watched as her fingers flew across the keyboard, entranced by her delicate hands and admiring the rounded curves of her arms. His gaze traveled upward and he saw from her name tag that she was called Julia. He looked even higher ... and saw a class ring hanging from a chain around her willowy neck. His heart plummeted. She was already taken, probably the girlfriend of some football jock who would never truly appreciate her. Not like it matters, he thought, I'd never have the guts to ask her out. Crushed, he lowered his eyes again and saw a placard taped to the register.
Help Wanted: Sales Associates needed in several departments. Applications available at the Customer Service desk.
Jimmy knew what he had to do and it wouldn't be a hardship at all. He needed a summer job and working at the store would allow him to spend almost every day in her presence. Maybe if she saw him on a regular basis they could become friends. Maybe he would find the courage to tell her how he felt. Maybe she would be the one to finally see past his mild mannered exterior to the chivalrous hero he was sure was waiting inside himself. His mind was so filled with pleasurable scenarios he could barely count out the payment for his purchase.
Jimmy filled out the application and a few days later the store manager called him in for an interview. He wasn't worried about getting the job, adults always liked him, and he breezed through the interview without breaking a sweat. When they had finished talking, the manager gathered up Jimmy's application and gazed at him gravely.
"Son, we would love to have you as part of our sales team. The only problem is that we have already filled all the opening in sporting goods and electronics. The best I could offer you would be a place back in inventory."
"You don't need help in any other departments?" Jimmy asked. It wouldn't do him any good to be hidden away in a storeroom.
"The only place we still need a sales associate is in Ladies Shoes, but -"
"I'll take it!" Jimmy blurted out. He couldn't imagine a more perfect position. Eight hours a day right across the isle from Julia.
"Son," said the manager with a suspicious look on his face, "do you realize what that position entails? You'd be helping women try on shoes. Is there something you're not telling me?"
Jimmy was mystified. His yearning to meet Julia was the only thing he was hiding and there was no way the manager could know about her. Then he finally realized what the man meant and his pale face flushed clean up to the roots of his hair. "Oh God, no! Nothing like that," Jimmy nearly stammered in horror. "Its just ... there's this girl ... in cosmetics."
"Oh ho, its like that, is it? Well, just be sure you concentrate on your job and not on the girl."
"I will, sir."
With a hearty smile, the manager rose and shook Jimmy's hand. "Welcome to our team."
On his first day of work Jimmy got up two hours early in order to spend extra time getting dressed. It was just as well because the first time he came downstairs his mother held her nose and pointed out that he he smelt like a french whorehouse. After a second shower and a more judicious application of aftershave, he settled on a pair of tan chinos and a white polo and headed for the store.
Jimmy had to work hard to focus while his new supervisor showed him how to work the register and where to find the various brands in the storeroom. His gaze kept wandering over to cosmetics where Julia was working and he would sigh slightly each time she smiled at a customer or flipped her hair.
Over the next few days, Jimmy settled into a routine. His favorite times were when the shoe department was empty and he could watch Julia without interruption while he dusted racks and organized shelves. Unfortunately, he was often occupied with customers, running back and forth to the storeroom to retrieve the footwear and then helping the customer try them on.
Then one day he found a way to occupy his mind when he was busy with a customer. It came about by accident as he was kneeling in front of an older woman who was trying on a variety of high end, high heeled boots. As he was zipping her into a pair of Gucci's, he heard an intimate giggle coming from the cosmetics counter. He looked over and saw that Julia was whispering something into the ear of the other salesgirl while glancing in his direction. His heart swelled with hope and the next thing he knew he was imagining that the foot he was currently handling belonged to Julia. He slid on the boot and ran his hand up the calf with an almost caressing motion to smooth out the supple leather. Then, cupping the woman's ankle, he reverently zipped up the back. Still gently cradling the her leg, he rocked back on his heels to admire the look of the boot.
"Thank you, young man," said Jimmy's customer. "You have a very ... gentle touch." Then she gave him the eye.
Jimmy nearly jumped out of his skin. He had completely forgotten that it was not Julia, but a middle aged housewife, that was attached to the foot he had been intently caressing. Still, the episode did have a positive side. The housewife was so enchanted by Jimmy's attention that she bought two pairs of expensive boots, giving the commission portion of Jimmy's salary a nice bump.
After that day, Jimmy tried really hard to focus on his work. He made a point of taking a long look at his sometimes unattractive customers in the hope that his fantasy would not repeat itself. It didn't work. More and more often, Jimmy found himself drifting away as he knelt on the floor and slid all those shoes onto all those feet. Short or tall, old or young, Keds or boots or strappy sandals, in his mind, Jimmy was putting them on Julia. He even began to take an interest in the various styles, learning about the popular designers and developing an opinion about what would look good with various outfits. His ability to make excellent suggestions and, of course, his special touch with customer service, made him a favorite of the shoppers. Thanks to the extra commissions, his paycheck grew almost as fast as his fascination with footwear and Jimmy began to truly enjoy his job.
But all good things come to an end and before he knew it, the summer was over. Jimmy never did get up the courage to talk to Julia, a mumbled "hello" when they passed in the break room was the best he ever managed. But he never forgot her, or those long days spent in Ladies Shoes. He eventually outgrew his shyness and, by the time he finished college, he had dated several other girls. Only two things hung on from that summer. He always maintained a preference for petite blonds and when he met a woman, his gaze traveled inexorably towards the floor. Sparkling sandals, flirtatious flats, even Doc Martens - they all had the ability to bring on a flush of desire. Other men might notice a perky set of breasts or a shapely rear end. Connoisseurs might remark on the expressiveness of a woman's eyes or the seductive quality of her voice. Jimmy never forgot a pair of shoes.