For years and years and every breathing year, my family have told me not to talk to strangers, to call them if I need anything, to never be alone with a person I didn’t know without anyone else knowing I was with them.
Today, just a few minutes ago, I threw it out the window.
And risked my life.
It’s raining heavily, a huge surprise for Texas. I had to wait and wait for the bus (it comes half an hour after school ends). At first, I waited in the rain with a guy friend until he got onto his bus. Then I snuck inside and waited. I called a friend from an old school, and she was with a mutual friend of ours. She was obviously busy, and the three-year-old inside me occurred with the thought that I could’ve been that mutual friend right now had I not moved, had I not been forced to leave the family I made for myself. And the three-year-old began to tear up. I was crying. Humiliated, emotional, and embarrassed, I told my friend that I needed to go. If she knew I was crying, she would turn it into a therapy session and I would’ve cried more and more, and I would’ve ruined the party mood for her and the mutual friend.
I hung up the phone and threw my backpack on hastily. I couldn’t stand the probing eyes of classmates as they watched me be emotional.
So I began to walk home since the bus wouldn’t be coming in another fifteen minutes. It was still raining, and my flats with a good five inches of my jeans were soaked. I slipped on the mud if I didn’t walk on the road’s boulders (the weird white things that little kids like to walk and balance on). The back road I was walking on led to my neighborhood, and it was also the road several buses, faculty, and a couple of students used to get out of the school since the main entry was always jam-packed. Several cars and buses passed by, and even one car filled with students sped up and drove into a puddle near me. Had I not moved a bit faster, I would’ve gotten more wet than I already was. The thought of turning around and waiting for the bus made this walk seem like a waste of time, so I kept going.
One white car, seeming like it was made in the 90’s, stopped though. I closed my eyes. Shit. This was the beginning to yet another kidnapping movie. It almost felt like the high school version of Taken.
Instead of hearing a manly voice, I heard a sweet, southern accent.
“Do you need a ride, sweetie? I go to Champion (my high school).” She said.
One part screamed at me to tell her that no, I was fine. That my mom was waiting for me at the end of the street. That I could finish the walk. That my house was closer than she thought.
The other part told me that my feet were cold, and come on, she did go to my school. I could tell by the parking permit sticker she had on her windshield. She was a senior.
“Yes,” I said in a small voice. She opened the door to the passenger side. I found her backpack thrown where my feet would go, and a hairbrush and several little junk-nothings on the inside compartment of the door. I sat down, avoiding her backpack and buckled my seat belt as she began to drive.
I should’ve taken the license plate number.
“What’s your name?” I finally ask.
“Kayla,” She says.
“Oh. I was thinking, ‘if it’s a dude, don’t get in the car.'”
She laughed. “I’m not a dude.”
“Um… I live in the neighborhood here. That’s why I decided to walk. Just keep going straight, please. Thank you so much for giving me a ride.”
“It’s fine.” She said as she drove. After a few more directions, I was in front of my house.
I opened the door. “Thanks!” I said gratefully. “Do you want me to pay you for gas?”
“No, hon, it’s fine. You’re welcome.” She said. I closed the door, and she drove away.
I know that she could’ve used her gender to an advantage if she were a criminal. Just a girl helping out another girl, right? Too weak to kidnap me. She’s nice. Nice Southern hospitality, right?
But she didn’t. I don’t know what fueled her kindness, but I’m sure thankful for it. I’m now warm, fed, and dry in my bed. Thanks, Kayla.
But I still can’t believe that I broke a very big, societal rule: don’t get in a car with a stranger. And I did. I hope to return the favor one day, though.