One night a series of severe storms were rolling through the area and I had to be to work by 10:45 and it was already 10:15. My job is only five minutes away but I still decided that I should go ahead and leave while there was a break in the weather. I glanced around the neighborhood, checking for strangers before I closed the door behind me. No one was out and the wind began to again pick up signaling that the next storm wasn't far off. Usually, I open the back hatch of my S.U.V. and hide my purse under the spare tire before getting in the car, so as I don't have to do this in the poorly lite parking lot of the mental facility where I work, but tonight fear of getting caught in the icy rain stopped me from carrying out my usual routine.
I press the remote door lock button on my key chain waited for the horn to sound, the lights to blink and the interior of the car to light up before I actually stepped off the porch to approach the car. I suddenly became aware of this nagging uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach as if something were about to happen, which cause me to survey the neighborhood once more paying close attention to the neighbor's yard closest to my car. I didn't see anything but the wind seemed to pick up as if something other than the storm were approaching. I quickly opened the door and tossed my lunch bag and purse over onto the passenger side seat and got into the car as fast as I possible could, all the while this feeling of dread was barreling down on me.
I have this terrible habit of putting my seat belt on before closing my door completely and no sooner than I had clamp the belt then I heard what sounded like the high pitched Southern droll of my cousin, Camile, saying, "Can you me a favor?" accompanied by the sound of sprinkling rain.
The sound scared the crap out of me because I had looked all up and down the street and hadn't seen anyone anywhere in sight so the sound of someone's voice was totally unexpected. I felt somewhat relieved to recognize the voice and turned expecting to see Camile, who was struggling with drug addiction, so to see her out at this time of night asking for a favor wouldn't be that far fetched but it wasn't her. It was a very thin, pale, young girl who appeared to be in her late teens early twenties with a shock a bright red hair strewn about her head as if she had literally just gotten out of the bed every morning for a week without doing a thing to her hair. She was wearing a pink t-shirt, a pair of baggy jeans, and flip-flops. Her wide eyed stare reminded me of the look Camile would give me when she was trying to scam money from me for her next fix, which made me uncomfortable. What I found even stranger than her wayward appearance was the fact that she didn't have on a jacket or coat and it was cold enough to see your breath in the air.
"Can you do me a favor?" she repeated this time grabbing the handle of the door as if she were trying to prevent me from closing it. The sprinkling was starting to turn into a light rain and I couldn't help but notice that she seemed unaffected by the raindrops as she remained completely dry.
"Could you back away from the car please?" I said in a stern matter of fact tone trying to mask my fear. She complied, letting go of the handle and stepping back so that I could close the car door. I pressed the power windows switch to lower the window so that I could hear what she had to say.
"Could you give me a ride to Rouse Road?" she asked before I could get the window down completely.
"I'm sorry, Honey. I'm not going that way." I lied hoping she would move along to where ever she was going.
"You can't give me a ride to Rouse Road?" She said a strange glare fix on her face as if she knew I were lying. She continued, "You're on you way to work right? You work at Caswell don't you? Rouse Road is that street right before you get to Caswell. You can just drop me off there."
Shock rushed over me as I realized this girl knew a little more information on where I was going than I was comfortable with. I clicked the power locks to secure myself inside the car saying, "No, I'm just going right up the street. I'm sorry, but I can't help you." And with that I started rolling up the window.
The last thing I heard her say was, "Okay then, thanks anyway." Before I rolled the window up completely and turned the key in the ignition. It suddenly started to pour down raining and my conscience wouldn't allow me to leave this young girl standing out in the rain. It had been less then a split second later that I turned to tell her to get in that she was gone. My eyes quickly shot to the rear view mirror as she couldn't have made it past the end of the car in that short amount of time but there was no one there. I couldn't even see her walking out of the yard or anything.
I quickly backed the car out of the yard looking up and down the street hoping to see this young girl who had to be getting drenched in the downpour, but there wasn't anyone around. I still had plenty of time to make it to work so I decided to circle the block looking for her. I drove slowly past the neighbors houses looking in their yards but just could not settle in my mind how she was able to disappear in what seemed to be the blink of an eye. I finally gave up my search after circling the block twice and headed on to work.
As I past, Rouse Road I felt sick to my stomach with guilt. I just couldn't help feeling that I should have done more to help this poor child. It was obvious that she needed some help but I had let fear overwhelm my better judgment. The rain had gone just as quickly as it had started and had stopped completely as I turned onto the lane leading to the facility's employee parking lot. As I drove up to the first stop sign of several that lined the road, I saw someone standing under the only streetlight on the lane. It was the same girl. She was standing there on the corner staring in what seemed to be my direction. I was paralyzed by shock as I sat at the stop sign staring in disbelief. How did she get here before I did? Did someone give her a ride here? What was she doing standing on the corner of a private street belonging to a mental institution? Even more puzzling was that she seemed to be completely dry and it had only stopped raining just before I turned onto this road. I was dumbfounded to say the least and I just sat there returning the same gaze she had fixed on me.
BEEP! BEEP! Came the sound of a car horn from behind me, which quickly snapped me back to reality and got me going on my way. I continued on to the employee parking lot and waited until a male co-worker named Marc pulled into the parking space beside me. We walked inside the building together but I waited until we had reached the safety of our unit before saying anything to Marc about what had just happened to me. Now Marc is usually somewhat of a joker but he was extremely serious as he listened to my story, asking me questions here and there but remaining quite somber as I explained what had just happened to me. The story he told me next gave me the willies and has bothered me every since.
Marc said that he had seen the same girl a couple of nights ago while getting gas at a gas station on the main road that she had approached him seemingly out of nowhere, as he had not seen her in the store nor had he seen her walk up. He had just looked up to find her standing there as he was getting into the cab of his truck. He had given her a ride to Rouse Road because he thought that it was too late for someone as young as her to be out alone. She had been wearing a pink t-shirt, jeans and flip-flops which he though was odd because it had been quite cold that night. She had remained quiet the entire ride and only spoke to tell him to drop her off at the corner and that she could make it from there. She got out and started walking down the street, he turned his head for a split second as a car passed by and when he turned back to her direction she was gone. He said he figured she had just run into one of the yards out of sight. A few nights later, he was at the same store when the same girl approached him asking for the same favor and acted as if she'd never seen him before. This time he told her he wasn't going that way and she asked him wasn't he going to work at Caswell just past Rouse Road. He said it bothered him that she knew where he was going because they hadn't talked about where he work or anything else for that matter. It bothered him so badly that he just got in his truck and left but no sooner than he'd got to that street light she had been there as if she were waiting for him.
For all I know Marc could be pulling my leg but he was so serious during his account of what had happened that I'm incline to believe him. I don't know. I do know what happened to me and it just makes mind race with questions. Who was this young girl and what was she doing in my neighborhood if she lived on Rouse Road? How had she gotten to that street light on a road leading to my job before me? How did she know where I was going? The list of questions are endless. I haven't seen her since and I hadn't seen her before that night, so maybe I am just reading more into it than I should but I can't help but wonder...