Every September I got two pairs -- one for church, and the other for school. I was the one who had to wear them, so Mom almost always gave me a say in the purchases. She was an artist, so she didn't shy away from bright colors. My new school shoes in the fifth grade were red, and I loved them.
I wore them with pride, looking down at their gorgeous redness as I walked down the sidewalk, breaking them in for maximum comfort on the first day of school.
The first place I would go would be diagonally across the street to my best friend, Leslie's house. She admired and complimented my new school shoes as only a best friend can.
Leslie shared a backyard fence with her next-door neighbor who, as luck would have it, was outside. One more person to admire my September purchase. I should have stopped at Leslie's yard. I should have known better to go over there, because that next-door-neighbor of Leslie's was pure, unmasked mean. When I stuck my toe out, proudly announcing my purchase, the neighbor turned up her nose and said, "I've never cared for red."
Jealous, you may think? Maybe she wished she'd had a new pair of scarlet school shoes. I should have just ignored that mean-spirited comment, right? The thing was, the comment didn't come from the kid on the other side of the fence--it came from her mother.
So Leslie and I fought back in the way that only ten- and eleven-year old aspiring novelists can. We made paper dolls of the entire family. We even made the furniture in their house. Then we made up and acted out elaborate revenge stories.
But nothing was better revenge than growing up and putting the mean adult in my first novel. She'd probably never recognize herself--I doubt that nasty people actually see themselves as such. But I know she's there. And that's all that matters.