Editor's note: This story is based on an urban legend.
Douglas' friends stood waiting in front of Gardners Candies.
"Hey Doug! Over here!" they yelled.
Four old friends exchanged warm greetings.
"Been a while!" said Douglas.
"For sure," said Dave.
"You look good, Leah."
"Thanks, Doug. How's your brother now?"
"Doing fine. Off on a month-long trek through Mongolia."
Douglas dearly wanted to tell her that his brother's broken heart had mended nicely. He liked Leah, but never understood why she played the heartbreaker. How could she have hurt his brother so bad? He remembered the shock of seeing "LEAH" razor-cut into his brother's upper left arm. Luckily, this self-inflicted tattoo never took. One thing Douglas knew for certain, though: No girl would ever get to him like that!
"Hey Doug!" Mark snapped his fingers. "Snap out of it, man! You in a trance or what?"
"OK, OK. Sorry! Let's get going! Let's find Sylvia! And, who has the Meltaways?"
"I bought some," said Leah, holding up a small white candy bag.
The four of them piled into Douglas' red Toyota Camry.
"Tell me, Dave, before we push off, what all did Steve tell you and Mark about Sylvia?"
"Not much, Doug. She appeared at Tyrone High at the very end of her senior year. Steve says she created quite a stir in every class. The boys went gaga over her."
"Why so?" asked Douglas.
"She was too beautiful -?drop dead gorgeous. Steve says the girls hated her for that and hated the boys, too. The teachers went bonkers trying to keep order in their classrooms. Steve said it wasn't her fault."
"Yeah," said Mark. "Total disruption, 'til right at the end when Sylvia up and left before graduation. Just disappeared! Nobody's seen her anywhere since, except up along Janesville Pike."
"So, let's go! You guys give me directions!"
And off they drove through town, heading north toward Route 453.
"Does she live in Janesville?" asked Douglas.
"No one seems to know," said Leah.
"Steve says she lives somewhere down closer, just north of town," said Dave.
"Are you guys sure this isn't just another White Lady tale?" asked Douglas, dubiously.
"No way!" they chorused.
They soon passed Reservoir Park on the right.
"How do we go about this?" asked Douglas, again with a touch of doubt in his voice.
"Well," said Dave, "here's the routine: We're supposed to go up there just when it gets dark. We stop at a particular pull-off. Then one of us lights a cigarette, takes three hits on it and throws it out onto the road."
"Hold on, guys! Wait a minute! None of us smokes!" said Douglas.
"No problem," said Leah. "I brought some smokes."
"OK. Go on, Dave. What's next?"
"Well, if the smoke blows uphill, you're going to see Sylvia. Steve said that when he tried this last year, about 50 deer spooked and ran across the road!"
"So, boys, your brother's never seen her up here?"
"That's right, Doug," said Mark.
"That's all there is to it, then?" said Douglas.
"No, there's more," continued Dave. "One more step to follow. So, after tossing your cigarette out the window, you flash your headlights three times. Some say you must also beep the horn three times."
"And?" asked Douglas.
"And then she's supposed to cross the road in front of you," said Dave.
"OK, Doug, here's the pull-over. Stop here!" said Leah.
They pulled safely off and sat quietly with lights out and windows down in the still of early nightfall.
"Light up, Leah," whispered Douglas.
Leah lit one of her Virginia Slims and passed it over to Douglas.
He took three slow drags, and without a word, tossed it out onto the road.
"What happened?" asked Mark in a low whisper.
"The smoke's blowing uphill," said Douglas in a voice close to inaudible.
He then turned his lights on and off three times.
And they waited - waited on edge for three or four long minutes.
They saw nothing. No Sylvia.
Douglas turned on his lights to go, when out of nowhere came a young woman. She walked slowly by them bathed in the car light. No one said a word. No one in the car even breathed. She was gorgeous! So astonishingly beautiful, it hurt Douglas' eyes to look at her! Tall, blond and wearing slim-cut jeans and a pretty, plaid shirt, she moved as if the road were her runway. Passing close to Douglas, she tossed a slight, coy smile at him, and disappeared from view.
A minute passed, yet none of the four broke the silence.
Douglas sat stunned, spellbound, transfixed, unable to move or speak. He knew part of what had just happened. He knew some of it. He knew his life had changed in an instant, and nothing would ever be the same again for him. A warm, happy feeling swept through him, and Douglas could feel his heart beating in a major key.
Sylvia had done that to him!
Smiling, Douglas swung the car around and headed them back to town.
"Leah," he said, "break out the candy! I need a Meltaway!"
Orr, of Altoona, taught Russian and English at Altoona Area High?School from 1968 to 1998. He collects folk stories.
Servello, also of Altoona, is an artist who is a member of the Blair County Arts Hall of Fame. He has illustrated more than 60 published works and created murals that can be found in Altoona, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York. His work is featured in the Servello Gallery of Art in downtown Altoona.