Scotland-based short story site, Shortbread, featured a story by a writer inspired by a Runaround Sue Vintage piece. Read it below or on the website here.
Every once in a while a girl that comes along that outshines every other girl you've ever met and every other girl you'll ever meet. Looking back I don't know if I really loved Sue, or if I just thought I did. Loving her was like trying to keep hold of a fistful of sand.
Every Saturday night there was a dance at the college hall. Everybody went. Girls spent the whole day getting ready and boys spent the whole day hanging around town showing off their cars to the girls coming out of the beauty parlours. They'd holler and laugh and tease the girls in the hope that they'd catch a date to the dance. Me? I went to the dance to watch Sue.
I'd lay money on the fact that every guy around the room was watching Sue. She didn't just dance, she twirled around the dance floor like it belonged to her. I think even her girlfriends fell in love with her; they all wanted a bit of what she had. She'd look around the room and she'd smile at you and she'd laugh with her friends. You worried she was laughing at you. You hoped she was laughing at you – it meant that she had noticed you.
I took Maggie to the dance most weekends. Maggie was my neighbour, I'd known her since I was six. She didn't have a boyfriend, she said she had trouble finding one she liked much, so I took her, we were going to the same place, after all. Maggie said Sue was a crazy girl, she said you never knew where you were with that girl and I was best not watching her like that. She said Sue'd give me the runaround. I laughed and told her to go dance with some of these boys around the room so that they stopped watching Sue. Maggie looked at me funny when I said that, and she didn't say much else to me that night.
Every week Sue's hair would be different. Sometimes she had it red and it fanned around her face like a fireball. Sometimes it was blonde and pulled up tight in a ponytail. She liked to swish it around as she danced. She twisted and whirled so fast sometimes I'd get dizzy just watching. Her eyes were electric blue and she'd look up at you and in that moment, you and her were the only people in the room. She'd smile at you and your heart would beat like a drum and you didn't want the music to end. One time Maggie said you're too good for that girl why don't you find yourself a nice girl, huh? I said I'd found myself a girl and that one day I was going to have her. I don't think Maggie liked that too much, but I swear I wanted Sue more than any man in that room.
It took me a year to get a dance with Sue. I heard her and Jake had split, so I just went right on up and asked her. "Sure, Ted," she said, just like that. "Pick me up at 8.30." And that was it, she went back to her friends and I forgot how to breathe. I wanted to tell the world, that Sue, why she's coming with me to the dance. One the day of the dance I hovered like a fly over my mother as she pressed my shirt, I kept changing tie, I couldn't tie up my shoelaces. My mother looked me in the eye and said you be careful, now.
Course, the thing about a beautiful girl is that even when you've got her you drive yourself crazy trying to keep her. I borrowed Uncle Jim's Mustang to pick her up, I must have spent five hours cleaning and polishing it until it was beautiful. Then I went to pick up Sue, she was a knockout. She was wearing this kind of explosion of colour, it was pink and orange, I think. It made her eyes stand out. I remember the sleeves, though, they were kind of see through, those sleeves wrapped themselves around her arms so tight like they weren't letting go of her anytime soon.
I danced with her that Saturday night like my life depended on it. She wanted a drink I got her a drink. I watched when she danced with her friends though what I really wanted to do was grab her and dance with her again to the next tune and the next one and the one after that. She said: "I like your car, Ted, pick me up next week and we'll go bowling." I picked her up every Saturday night for six months. Every day that passed in-between was like being strung up and left to die. I dreamt about her in the day. I dreamt about her at night. My college tutor rang my mother to tell her I was cruising down in my grades and was everything ok. My mother tried talking to me but the truth is I just didn't care. Maggie said she hardly knew me any more, but then, I hadn't been seeing her much either. She'd come over but I'd be busy shining up my Uncle's car or trying to think up some way to see Sue before the week was out.
One Saturday I showed up at Sue's place to take her to the dance and she wasn't there. "Oh hi, Ted," said her mother. They had the same electric blue eyes. 'She's gone on with Jessie tonight. You just missed them, I'm surprised you did, she laughed, 'cause you can't miss him in his new Cadillac!" Just like that, Sue wasn't there. I stood there like an idiot until her mother asked me did I want to sit down and have a drink and that she was sorry, she didn't mean to upset me she was sorry Sue was gone. But I couldn't speak, I just turned and ran back to the car and I drove so fast that folks yelled and cars beeped. I parked up at the college hall I was gonna drag Jessie out and beat him to hell. But I couldn't stop crying and I couldn't have nobody see me that way. Someone must have seen me though, cos next thing I saw Maggie coming out of the hall and she ran over to me, I don't know what she said, I know I had to get out of there so I rammed down on the gas and I drove that Mustang faster than it was meant to go.
In the hospital my uncle said I was a damned fool and I was lucky I didn't kill myself. My mother said she knew that girl was nothing but trouble, she'd done nothing but give me the runaround and did I know I'd probably spend the rest of my life paying back my uncle for that Mustang. Maggie came every day and brought me stuff and told me about stuff at college.
I got better, I went back to college. Sue split with Jessie and went out with Angelo. After that I didn't keep track. Later, I wondered how many other men Sue's mother had had to send away from the door with that look of pity on her face. I married Maggie, turns out she was the girl for me. She didn't care if I had a car or not, if it was a Mustang or a beaten up Chevy. I had a girl of my own, she grew into a fine woman. She likes pretty clothes. She came home the other day from town with a knockout top: pink and orange, see through sleeves, says she wants to dance on Saturday night.
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