“My mom took my younger sisters inside the house, and I set off outside to play in the giant pile of leaves my grandfather had raked up earlier that morning. I had a few plastic figurines from a popular children’s movie stashed in the pocket of my jeans, and after I dug around in the leaves for a while, I pulled the figurines out and let my imagination run wild. I was still fairly young and assumed that because I was hidden from view, the sounds of my characters and their voices were shielded from escaping my leaf fortress. I don’t know how loud I was speaking, but it was loud enough to attract the attention of three older kids who appeared to be in their mid-teens. They had wandered out of a house across the street, slowly making their way to the car parked directly across from my leaf fortress. It was a car nearly identical to the car that my parents owned, a grey station wagon. My grandparents had had some issues with the boy who drove it. He often mistook my parents’ car for his own, resulting in several calls to the local police. I’d heard about him, but I’d never seen him until that day.
I never would have noticed the teens walking down the street until one of them wandered right up behind me and asked in a genuinely confused, yet somewhat mocking, tone, “Who are you talking to?”
I jumped slightly, both out of surprise and a bit of embarrassment that my game had been discovered.
“No one. I’m just playing,” I answered as I took in this older boy bouncing back and forth from one foot to the other. With short, sandy blonde hair and mischief in his light-colored eyes, he was dressed in jeans and a plain, white tee shirt,
“Aren’t you a little old for imaginary friends?” he asked with a chuckle, tossing his glance back across the street to two other teens waiting by the car.
I followed his gaze and met another young boy with shaggy, dusty blonde hair. He wore a black tee shirt with khaki green cargo pants and stood with a cigarette hanging from his mouth. As he took a long drag, he offered a sideways grin in my direction. The remaining teen in a pale, pink shirt was a girl with long blonde hair. She stood behind the car with the door open, impatiently waiting for the boys.
“No, I’m not even ten yet!” I snapped back, embarrassed that these kids had interrupted my play and were now mocking me for it, as if ten were the magic age when imaginary play became inappropriate,
Before Bouncy Blonde Boy could respond, my mom stuck her head out the front door and demanded that I come inside. I briefly protested, but eventually relented. After I was safely inside, I returned to the big picture window just in time to watch the kids pile into the car. Blonde Girl had taken the passenger seat, Bouncy Blonde Boy had quite literally jumped into the back seat and Shaggy-Haired Boy took a few more drags from whatever he was smoking before tossing it into the street. He glanced in my direction once again as he slid into the driver’s seat.
I still don’t know what exactly it was that caught my attention about Shaggy, but something about him immediately mesmerized me, just like the sight of the street signs had intrigued me a few months before. Perhaps it was the fact that he was the mysterious driver of this other car so much like our own, or perhaps it was something else. I sat there, staring out the window lost in my own thoughts for a few moments before wandering out into the back yard to continue my game.
I was only in the back yard for a few moments before my grandpa came out with my sister and asked if I wanted to join them for a walk. I happily agreed, and we set off around the small neighborhood, eventually making our way to a small park on top of a hill. I remember particularly enjoying this day and this walk with my grandfather. The weather was cool, but had not yet turned cold. The sun was shining and the smell of freshly mulched leaves lingered in the air. We were heading for the playground, minding our own business, when I noticed that there were several cars in the parking lot and several men staring in our direction, talking amongst themselves. That was the first moment ever that the hair truly stood up on the back of my neck and my intuition kicked in. I didn’t know how or why, but I knew that those men were dangerous and if we continued to linger at the park for much longer, my grandfather, sister and I were endangering our lives.
I quickly took both my grandfather’s and sister’s hands and led them out of the park as quickly and quietly as possible. My sister protested and kept pointing and asking why we were leaving and what the men in the parking lot had to do with it. I tried my best to silence her and direct her attention away from the men by repeating to her over and over, “Don’t look at them. Just don’t look and them and walk. Faster!”
We made our way out of the park, the feeling of dread and danger intensifying in my stomach until I could no longer take it. My grandfather had stopped at the top of the hill to pick up my sister whose small legs couldn’t keep up with my frantic pace. I ran full tilt down the hill as fast as I could go.”
To read more about Rebecca and how this random event in the park shaped her early adult life you can purchase Candy Apple Butterscotch: A Memoir on Amazon! Kindle and Paperback editions available. Audiobook coming soon!
Copyright R. MacCeile 2018