a romantic short story by Charlotte McMullen
Lisa smoothed her chestnut brown hair and fought the urge to turn and walk to The Sweet Shoppe, her hometown’s ice cream parlor. “You are smart. You are interesting. I believe in you.” After a deep breath, she was ready to enter her former high school.
A banner hung above the gymnasium’s entrance: Welcome Back Class of 1981! Bunches of red and gold balloons, twinkling white lights, and rows of cloth-covered tables transformed the gym into a festive scene. The excitement was contagious.
Lisa removed her dress coat and walked over to a display of photographs. The images brought back a flood of memories from her senior year. For months before graduation, Lisa had debated the path her life would take: accept Michael’s marriage proposal or a college scholarship. He’d been supportive and understanding; somehow that had only made her decision harder. Pursuing her education was, in hindsight, right for her.
Lisa stopped when she came to a photo of the prom king and queen. She and Michael looked so young in the picture. After prom, she remembered going to The Sweet Shoppe and sharing a sundae with him. He’d been her best friend and the only guy she’d ever loved. A voice from behind her brought her back to the present.
“You know, they were also voted Class Cutest Couple.”
His soothing, deep voice made her skin tingle. Lisa turned and smiled. He didn’t look all that different. His hair had thinned and grayed in spots, but his sparkly blue eyes still made her stomach do somersaults.
“Your smile can still light up a room. May I …” He spread his arms in her direction.
He moved close and put his arms around her. “It’s been a long time.”
“Too long,” Lisa whispered.
After they parted, he asked, “How’ve you been?”
“Good. I’m chairperson of the Science Department. … At least, I was until last month. I’m moving back to help my mom.”
“I heard about your dad. I’m sorry.”
“Thank you. I was sad to hear of your wife’s passing.”
“It’s been a tough five years without her,” said Michael, lowering his gaze. “Both kids are grown now, and my first grandchild is due soon. It’s a boy and you’ll never guess what they’re naming him. Give you hints: It starts with the letter M, rhymes with recycle, and means heaven-sent.”
“Oh, Michael.” She managed to get out between laughs.
The class president interrupted: “Welcome to our 35th reunion! If everyone could find a seat, dinner will be served.”
Michael gestured to a nearby table. “There are open chairs over there if you’re interested.”
“I’d like that.”
“Before we sit, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.”
He must be here with someone. Lisa’s heart sank into the pit of her stomach, but she quickly recovered realizing she should be happy for her friend.
Michael led her to the kitchen and waved over a woman in a white caterer’s jacket.
“Lisa, I’d like you to meet Samantha. Sam, this is my friend, Lisa Maclean.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you. My dad’s told me so much about you.” Sam glanced at her watch and grimaced. “Sorry, guys. I need to go. You two have fun!” She gave her dad a not-so-subtle wink.
Michael and Lisa caught up over dinner and reminisced. He reminded her of how he surprised her with M + L carved into the town’s sweetheart tree. She got him to remember the time she taught him how to drive her father’s standard truck.
“I’ll have you know I recently purchased a new manual transmission truck and haven’t grinded … pardon me … ground any of its gears … yet,” Michael said.
Lisa laughed. “I’m happy to see you haven’t lost your sense of humor.”
“I’m happy to hear you’ve had such an exciting life, Lisa. Your travels and career are everything you wanted when we graduated.”
Lisa hesitated. “I must confess something. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m ready for a change.”
Michael took Lisa’s hand in his own. “This community’s wonderful, and it’ll be even better now that you’re back.”
Dancing started soon after when the DJ played Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration.” Classmates motioned for Lisa to join them on the dancefloor. Michael told her to have a good time and he’d be back.
After a few fast songs, the DJ announced, “Let’s slow things down. There’s a special request from your prom king: ‘Just Like Starting Over.’”
As they slow danced, Lisa couldn’t stop smiling.
“This has been fun,” Lisa said. “There’s only one thing that could make tonight even better.”
“I’ve been craving a sundae from The Sweet Shoppe all night. Would you like to share one after the reunion?”
Michael hesitated and raised an eyebrow. “Share? You mean just like old times?”
Blood rushed to Lisa’s face. “Um—”
“I’m teasing. I’d love to spend more time getting to know you again.”
And with that, Lisa knew moving back to her hometown was the right start for the next chapter of her life.
Last summer I submitted this romantic short story for publication, but it was not selected. No worries. I have a lot more to learn.
I was going to end with an inspirational quote about failure and success from a respected world leader but decided the queen of risqué one-liners, Mary Jane West, aka Mae West (1893 – 1980), is more my style.
She’s the kind of girl who climbed the ladder of success wrong by wrong.
and this one is nice too …
I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.
As always, thank you for reading Ruckus Girl Blog.