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The Girl in the Denim Jacket

a short story in two parts - Part 1 

by Andrew Rossiter

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Who was the mysterious girl waiting for the underground train on a suburban station platform, one winter's evening, and what was she doing there?
girl denim The clock in the living room has just struck two, but I'm still awake. Wide awake. Usually I'm a good sleeper, but not tonight. I can't stop thinking about that girl. I've got to write down what happened.
    It was this evening around seven thirty, as I was on my way home from college. I was waiting for the connection at Willesden Junction. As usual at that time of night, there was only one train to Watford every twenty minutes, and the platform was crowded. Most of the people looked pretty familiar, the kind of people who stand on the same platform at the same time every day;  ordinary people going about their ordinary life.

    Then, just near me, I noticed this girl. I reckon she was a bit younger than me, seventeen or eighteen maybe. She had on a thick denim jacket, and was carrying a bag which looked as if it contained books. She wasn't talking to anyone, just standing alone. There was nothing unusual about that, mind you; most of the people on the platform were standing alone, stabbing their phones or pads, staring at their feet, or looking anxiously down the railway track, as if by doing so they would make the next train come sooner. But the girl — she didn't seem to be looking at anything.
    She was pretty, I thought. Very pretty, in fact. Shoulder-length brown hair, and a kind-looking face. From where I was standing, and under the poor light of the station platform, I couldn't make out the colour of her eyes.
    Now I don't usually stare at girls on station platforms, but somehow I couldn't keep my eyes off the girl in the denim jacket. Perhaps she realized I was looking at her, for suddenly she turned in my direction and looked straight at me; straight in the eyes. Normally that would have been enough to make me turn away and look in the other direction, and pretend I hadn't been looking at her, but this time I couldn't turn away. There was something in the way she looked that stopped me turning.
    I imagined she would look away from me, or even move further down the platform to avoid me, but she didn't. To my surprise, a smile came to her lips, almost the sort of smile that you give when you meet an old friend again after a long absence — though I'm certain I had never seen her before.
    At that moment, there was a rumbling behind my back, and an underground train rolled into the station. The mass of people waiting on the platform surged forward, to compete for standing room and something to hang on to in the already-crowded train. 
    Though the girl and I got into the same carriage, I lost sight of her in the crush inside. I was hedged in between two enormous fat businessmen, who were talking their heads off about banks and investment. She was somewhere in front of me.
    However, from one station to the next the carriage slowly emptied, and when we got past Wembley, there was almost room for everyone to sit down. She was still standing though, about twenty feet from me, and looking in my direction.
    Between us, I noticed two empty seats. Tired of standing, I moved over and sat down in one of them; hardly had I done so however than, to my surprise and secret pleasure, the girl moved up and sat down in the other.
    For some reason I felt embarrassed. I managed to bring out a half-hearted "hello again", and smiled at her. As she smiled back at me, I could see that she was indeed very pretty. There was a shine in her soft dark eyes, but at the same time she looked worried; strangely worried.

End of part 1.       Continue to part 2..

go about: follow -  reckon: think -  mind you: in actual fact - stare:look intensely - avoid: move away from -  standing room: only room for people to stand - crush: the compact crowd of people - hedged in:boxed in, surrounded - talking their heads off : talking loudly and intensely - half-hearted: timid, shy

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The Girl in the Denim Jacket - part 1.   Student worksheet  

True or False - comprehension questions.

When you have read and studied the story, say which of these statements are true.
    1.    The writer had never taken the train at Willesden junction before.
    2.    There were a lot of people waiting for the train.
    3.    The person telling the story is 17 or 18 years old.
    4.    The story takes place in summer time.
    5.    The person telling the story felt strangely attracted by the girl.
    6.    She smiled at him, as if she recognised him.
    7.    The writer and the girl were separated in the carriage by two businessmen
    8.    Quite a lot of people had got out of the train by Wembley.
    9.    The writer sat down beside the girl.
    10.    The writer spoke to the girl before she spoke to him.

 This story contains a lot of phrasal verbs: list A contains 8 examples, list B contains 8 synonyms. Match the verbs correctly with their synonyms.

List A
1.    was on my way
2.    had on
3.    make out
4.    keep my eyes off
5.    turn away
6.    lost sight of
7.    move up
8.    bring out
List B
a.    come towards me
b.    turn my head
c.    clearly see
d.    was going
e.    say
f.    stop looking at
g.    was wearing
h.    could not see


For teachers:  using this story in class :

a) Text contraction: have pupils tell the story in their own words, after reading it.
b) Anticipating: how will this story end? How could it end? Have pupils complete this story in about 300 words, using their imaginations!
c) Answers to T/F questions: The following are true: 2, 5, 6, 8, 10.

Language study: Phrasal verbs:
a) Answers to phrasal verb exercise: 1d, 2g, 3c, 4f, 5b, 6h, 7a, 8e. 
 b) Stress the importance of phrasal and notably prepositional verbs in English. Prepositional verbs in this story are formed on the roots: write, have, make, turn, look, get, sit, move, bring.
How many different meanings can your pupils find for these verbs, by adding different prepositions (postpositions) after them? For example: bring in, bring out, bring up, bring down, etc. Your pupils will not know the meanings of a lot of these words. A vocabulary search based on one or two root verbs could be a good idea for homework.

Other ideas?
EFL teachers: Help develop this resource by contributing extra teaching materials or exercises.
To contribute click here for further details

Or visit the Linguapress guide to working with written documents:   
Reading comprehension in the English class
(Version française : Petite méthodologie de la compréhension écrite )

This teaching resource is © copyright Linguapress 1996 - 2021.
Revised 2015 . Originally published in Freeway, the Intermediate level English newsmagazine.
Republication on other websites or in print is not authorised

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Intermediate level EFL resource

Readability - fairly easy.
Flesch-Kincaid Grade level: 6.8
Reading ease level:  75.9
CEF level: B2
IELTS Level 5-6

A selection of other resources in graded English
from Linguapress
Selected pages
Intermediate resources :
Mystery - the Titanic and the Temple of Doom
Who is James bond ?
Sport: The story of football and rugby
Big red London buses
USA: Who was Buffalo Bill?
USA: Close encounters with a Twister  
More: More intermediate reading texts  
Advanced level reading :
Charles Babbage, the father of the computer
Who killed Martin Luther King?
USA - Discovering Route 66
London's Notting Hill Carnival
More: More advanced reading texts  
Selected grammar pages
Online English grammar
Noun groups in English
Word order in English
Reported questions in English
Language and style 
Word stress in English
The short story of English

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Copyright notice.
This resource is © copyright Linguapress renewed 2020
Originally published as a Freeway Focus in Freeway magazine.
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