As I walked out of the Barnes and Noble, I slid my sunglasses over my eyes. I heard voices behind me. I turned and saw three young men walking out as well. Courteous person that I am, I held the door open for them. But when I saw them lingering and looking at the displays by the door, I just shrugged, let go of the door and made my way back to my car.
After placing my laptop case in the passenger seat, I slid behind the steering wheel and started Doris. Music blasted from the speakers. I’d left the windows and sunroof open a crack to let in some air but the interior was still heated from the sun. I rolled the windows down the rest of the way and opened the sunroof all the way.
I shifted the car into reverse and released the emergency brake. As I slowly backed out, I looked behind me, as any good driver would. I looked right, all clear. I looked left, all clear. I continued to back out and just as I shifted the car into drive, I took one last look back. When I looked to the right, I was startled to see it was no longer all clear. I saw the side of a white car, which told me the driver had been backing out as well.
Did I hit them? Did they hit me? I didn’t think I did since I hadn’t felt anything.
I stayed there for a second to see what the driver would do. I got a good look at him and saw it was one of the young men who had been lingering at the displays by the door. The other two were with him in the car. The driver pulled back into his spot. I assumed to give me room to maneuver my car. I did just that. But instead of giving them my usual apologetic wave, I just released the brake and finished pulling out. I took one last look at the car and saw it was in one piece without any dents or dings so I figured I was in the clear.
I approached the stoplight that would put me onto 17th—one of the busiest, if not the busiest, streets in town. I looked straight ahead and found that same white car approaching from the opposite direction. I wasn’t surprised since it was the closest mall exit from where we’d been parked.
I got into the middle lane while the other car got into the left lane. When the light turned green, we both turned left. I remained in the right lane as I drove down 17th but checking in my rearview mirror, I saw the white car change lanes to be behind me. I expected him to take a right at any of the intersections we passed through but he didn’t.
He continued to follow me.
At first I didn’t think too much of it initially since 17th really is one of the main streets in town. A few minutes later, I approached my destination: Hastings. I turned on my signal and slowed down to turn into the parking lot. To my dismay, the car turned in as well.
What the hell? I thought.
Who would drive from one bookstore to another one halfway across town? Sure, I would. But that’s me, an avid bookworm known to spend her days off doing just that. These were high school boys. I knew this from the paint on the car’s window celebrating some sort of achievement of a local high school. What type of high school boys would do this?
Immediately I became paranoid, positive they were following me to confront me because I really had hit the car. My heart began to race. Stop it! I told myself. They’re probably looking for a book for a class or something, I tried to reassure myself.
My momentary panic caused me to drive through the parking lot in the opposite direction, making it difficult to pull into the angled parking slots. I ended up parking on the street side of the store. By this point the young men had already entered the store so I breathed easy. But once again my imagination came to life as I pictured them ganging up on me the second I entered the store.
Fortunately, when I did enter, they weren’t anywhere in sight. As usual, I walked straight toward the romances—all the while keeping an eye out for the high schoolers. I was temporarily distracted and pleasantly surprised to find the new Erin McCarthy on the shelf. I’d been waiting for it to come out. As I picked it up, I glanced up and looked around. I saw the young men at the cash register being rung up. Well, one of them was. The other two were waiting for him at the door.
Once again, my imagination got away from me. What if following me here and making it look like they were buying something was one big plan to lure me into a false sense of security? What if the second they left the store, they’d take a bat to my car? Or worse, what if they took their car to her? I couldn’t let them do this to Doris!
Usually, I’d linger among the shelves and look for anything else that would tickle my fancy but this time, propelled by my fear for Doris, I just took the one book and made my way to the register.
By the time the guy rung me up, the boys had exited the store. I kept my eye on the windows and saw the white car pull out. It moved toward the parking lot exit but that was also in the same direction of where Doris was. My pulse raced. I craned my neck but it did no good. She was around the corner and the windows simply didn’t stretch that far. My line of vision was blocked.
The guy ringing me up finally finished. I told him I didn’t need a bag since I had my laptop case. As I grabbed the book, it took everything in me to not race out the door and run to my car.
Was she okay? Did they attack her?
If they were pissed because I almost hit, or even if I did hit them, then they should take it up with me. And they’d damn well better leave Doris out of it!
As I got to her, I found her unscathed and in the same condition as I’d left her. The white car was nowhere to be seen. I breathed a sigh of relief as I once again slid behind the steering wheel. At the same time, I cursed my writer’s mind.
Having a creative imagination is great when you’re writing fiction. But it can be a damn pain in the ass in real life.