I was a budding romance writer even in the ninth grade!

MistI found a short story recently, all neatly typed (not on a computer, but on an old-fashioned manual typewriter). I must have written it for a ninth grade English assignment. I don’t remember writing it or where the characters or the idea came from. I admit to be crazy about boys back then, boys I was afraid to talk to and who didn’t care a thing about me. The story is full of teenage angst and yearning.

Climbing the Ladder of Life

Sandy fumbled for sunglasses in the hamper and snapped off the transistor radio. The air, suddenly emptied of sound, was now heave with silence, enclosing the lone figure on the sand, extending in waves of stillness to the sunlit, shimmering sky. Even the cool blueness of water was quiet—no ripples, no breeze. Sandy stood up slowly. There was no point in waiting any longer.

For the last hour she’d had a vicious battle with her heart. The black dog in her heart said to tell Michael Dent that she wouldn’t go to the spring formal with him. The other side, the white dog, said it would be cruel to hurt Michael’s feelings. Finally, the white dog’s bark was reduced to yipping, and the black dog proved victorious.

Sandy’s mind was made up, and she suddenly found herself gay and light-hearted.

“What a jolly good time I’m going to have telling that creep what I think of him!” She laughed.

Sandy stuffed her things into the hamper and started down the beach at a trot. Her brown curls bobbed up and down and her eyes were dancing with joy. Sandy’s vivid imagination was acting up again. She suddenly found herself at the spring formal instead of the beach. Beside her stood the cutest boy in school, sixteen-year-old John Harrison.

“Would you like to dance?” he asked.

John’s masculine vice sent shivers down her spine. He held her in his arms, and they whipped around the dance floor. She thrilled to his blond hair brushed into the Beatles fashion and his crystal clear blue eyes. His lips, which were slightly thick but otherwise perfectly shaped, parted in a smile. Sandy’s heart thumped faster: Oh! He was gorgeous! No words could express her happiness. She was in heaven and the world was hers!

Sandy was drawn abruptly back into reality when she found herself arriving at her uncle’s motel, The Rutledge Manor. Uncle Dan acknowledged her cheerful “hi” with a mere grunt as she passed behind the office desk and entered their living room. In her room, she was greeted by a faint meow from Trigger, her pet cat.

“Eh, there kitty,” she said as she buried her face into his soft golden fur. “You’re a good ole cat, aren’t cha Trig?”

“M-E-O-W,” screamed Trigger.

“Sorry, Luv, can’t play now,” Sandy told the ball of fur.

Ten minutes later she was clad in a brand new outfit of madras.


As Michael walked out of the Manor’s office, he pocketed the money he had received from delivering “The Ocean City News.” “Hi, Messy!” he greeted Sandy.

Sandy’s blood began to boil. She hated her nickname, derived from her last name, Messina.

“Hi yourself!” she snapped.

Sandy followed Michael to his beat-up shell of a bike.

“Michael, I have something to tell you,” Sandy told him.

Her indignation of him grew when he didn’t answer her.

“Michael! I’m not going to the spring formal with you,” she stated defiantly.

“John Harrison is going to the dance with Cynthia Stuart,” Michael smiled, a gleam in his eyes, “so you have to go with me. Anyway, he wouldn’t ask an unpopular girl like you.”

Sandy’s eyes narrowed. It took all of her control to restrain her hand from slapping his ugly face. All the injustices he’d done to her in the past were brought to a head, and she loathed him. She was so sick of him she couldn’t look upon his grotesque face that bore the strange resemblance to a modern day Uriah Heep. She stormed back into the motel and burst into tears of rage.


For the rest of her life Sandy never knew how she got through the spring formal. Throughout the night she tolerated Michael’s clumsy dancing. Several times his clodhoppers trod on her dainty pink slippers. She seemingly disregarded it, but inside she was cursing this gangly idiot who shoved her around the dance floor like she was a sack of potatoes.

To make matters worse she had to watch John and Cynthia together. It was sheer torture to watch them skim across the dance floor with the beauty and grace of born dancers. Watching them made Sandy abhor Michael more. Once, as they whirled by, Sandy caught the faint fragrance of John’s English Leather and heard Cynthia’s soft laughter. She turned green with envy when John’s broad smile was focused on Cynthia. Jealousy began eating at her heart. Her head began to swim and she wished she was home with Trigger. At least he returned her love. In all her fifteen years she had never gone through such mental suffering as this.

Sometime after ten the school’s gossip cavorted around the gym floor spreading the school’s latest news.

“Have you heard” she’d whisper, “John and Cynthia are going steady!”

When Sandy heard this her heart seemed to stop beating. Her breath came in short spurts an her thoughts began to jumble. “It can’t be true! I love him; he can’t do this to me! My dreams are crushed; I have nothing to live for.”

Suddenly Sandy’s emotions overcame her; tears filled her eyes and spilled over her cheeks. She loved John with all the passion of her youth and now he was gone.


That night Sandy’s sleep was filled with dreams. She tossed and turned as her dull brain pictured John racing through a green soup-like mist; she was chasing him. Every time she was close enough to touch him he slipped away and disappeared into the mist. Soon there was only a thin trail of his English Leather left to follow. She rain along blindly, the mist stinging her eyes and causing huge tears.

Suddenly a light appeared and the scent of English Leather increased intensely. Someone called her name. Sandy turned, expecting to see John, but it wasn’t him. It was a figure with unrecognizable features. Sandy walked closer, her curiosity sparked. Suddenly the weird figure held out his hand. She grasped it tightly. The figure smiled. “Come with me,” he whispered.

Sandy looked back into the green mist she’d left. She paused; should she go back? The figure pulled slightly on her hand. Sandy relented and went with him.

A few yards away there was a ladder. The figure climbed it and urged her to do the same. It took all her strength to climb the ladder but when she had all of her troubles filtered away. Sandy took the figure’s hand and they walked into another rising mist.



  1. Oooooh! I love the ending, Jan! Thank you for sharing your story with us.

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