“I’ve been watching you...”
Alice looked up. She was lost in thought as she collected her food at the canteen and had not noticed Mrs Fellows speaking to her. Mrs Fellows had been the school cook since before anyone could remember; what she didn’t know about the school wasn’t worth knowing. More to the point, she never missed anything that was going on for her children... and at the top of that list was Alice Acorn, one of her favourites ever since the Year Eight Talent Show, where Mrs Fellows had helped Alice find her Green Footprints and take the show by storm.
She eyed Alice up and down. “I’ve been watching you Miss.... And things ain’t right. I can see that, so don’t you go trying to fool me they are. Now, four o’clock, after my shift, you meet me here in the kitchen and we’ll have a cup of tea and a chat.”
Of course, Mrs Fellows was spot on. Alice was not right. Ever since she’d turned down the chance to represent the School at the National Convention she’d felt sick inside. It wasn’t that she was letting the school down. It was that she was letting herself down. She hated feeling that she had given in to fear.
“Right my dear, here’s a nice cuppa... Now, you sit yourself there and tell me what’s been going on.” The kindly cook sat with her arms folded, waiting for Alice to start.
In fact, it was a great relief for Alice to tell someone. She hadn’t felt able to talk about it with her mum, and at school she was desperately trying to look cool to hang out with Sal and her gang. They were the very ones she shelved the Convention for in the first place. Mrs Fellows sucked her teeth as she listened to the story- how Alice had chosen Yellow Footprints instead of Green, because she didn’t want to be thrown out of Sal’s gang.
“Well....... You’ve gone and forgot who you are haven’t you? I can see it.... Ohhh yes... There’s you thinking you are going to be all cool and popular, and that you would be happy just throwing away a great big chance like this! Young lady, I think after all these years I know you well enough to say that ain’t ever going to work!” She paused for breath and a big swig of tea.
“You see, once you’ve tried on those Green Footprints, they will stay with you forever! Oh my, I first put mine on when I was eight, at that village cooking competition and I have never taken them off since. Now, of course, I’ve learned that sometimes you have to use Orange to encourage folks, and sometimes Blue to put people back in line, but I always like to use my Green Footprints again. Because that’s when I feel most me!”
“I don’t know Mrs Fellows... I’ve never found it easy to show people my Green Footprints. I’ve always been worried what people would think of me- that I’m showing off, or boasting, or just have to be the best or something.”
“You mean, you keep them hidden in here, and here.” She tapped her head and then her heart. “You keep your Green Footprints in your dreams, yes? Well, dreams are like seeds. They only stay hidden under the ground for so long before they need to burst out into the light of day. Now, I know what’s wrong with you. Your dreams are trying to burst out, and you are trying to keep a lid on them! Yes? Ohhh my, that is a recipe for misery my girl!”
They talked some more and Alice began to realise that Mrs Fellows had been cleverly using Orange Footprints with her. From noticing how she felt, to seeing the best in her, to taking the time to encourage, her Mrs Fellows had been carefully treading with Orange Footprints, coaxing Alice forward.
Mrs Fellows reached into her pocket and pulled out a photograph. It was of a boy in a wheelchair showing off a medal with a big beaming grin.
“That’s my Sam. My baby. Born that way. Everything and I mean everything has been hard, hard for him.”
She turned the photo over and on the back was some writing. She gave it to Alice. It read.
“Dear Mum, thank you for walking beside me with Orange Footprints every day of my life. I couldn’t have achieved this without your belief. Love Sam.”
“Now Alice Acorn, if my Sam can do it, then so can you! Now off you go and get to that Convention!”
And with what felt like a great big Orange Footprint on her back side, Alice kissed her, leapt up and got ready to use the Green Footprints she knew she could.