Kate pulled herself through the gap in the fence with Jackie's help and stared up at the warehouse in front of them. "That's where they keep the dancing shoes?"
Jackie shifted on his crutches, and patted the fairy flute in his shirt pocket. "That's the one. That's where they store them until they can ship them off downriver to Aris."
The grand ball was being held in Aris, the capital city, and invitations had gone the length of the land, as was traditional, inviting all who could come properly attired, with a coat to their back and dancing shoes on their feet, so that the princess might choose one of them to wed. In practice it meant that only those who could afford a pair of soft satin dancing shoes as well as their everyday work shoes or school clogs could go. Only one year-round family in their small mountain town could do that (the ones that came and went with the summer palace and its court didn't count), and it wasn't Jackie's or Kate's. Jackie didn't mind for himself, but Kate had loved and been loved by her Jessie - Princess Jessamine if you were being truly formal - since both girls were little things and Kate's mother was a summer-guard to the princess. If Kate didn't somehow get to the ball, they'd be split up forever.
Which brought him back to the warehouse. He tucked his crutches firmly under his arms, lifted the flute to his lips and played a phrase of dance music. Fingers tapped. Toes tapped. And the lock on the door danced itself open.
Kate hauled the door open and left it open so they could get out easily if they had to, looked around until she found the map of what was where, and led the way through the maze to the shelves packed with dancing shoes.
Jackie looked along the shelves, and then eased himself down to sit on the floor, his leg stretched out in front of him, and pulled out the flute again. His fingers danced over the holes. One pair of shoes twitched, then danced themselves off the shelf and over to Kate, who cradled them close with a look of delight. Jackie grinned and kept playing. Another pair of shoes danced themselves off the shelf, through the warehouse, out of the open door and up into the town, slipping in through an open window and nestling into the bed of a silently weeping boy. Yes, their presence said, you shall go to the ball!
More music, more shoes dancing their way to new owners, until every person in the town had a pair of dancing shoes to wear, and there was only one pair left in the warehouse.
Jackie finally stopped playing long enough to grab his share, and he and Kate got out of there.
All that remained on the long shelves was the single left shoe that Jackie hadn't needed, and the memory of a melody.