When Safety is on the Line

I back out of my driveway when I first see him. The stranger is meandering down the street strangely close to my property. He’s tall, white, and dressed mostly in black. In my rear-view mirror, I watch him get closer and closer to my house. It isn’t even lunch time.

My antique-white colonial sits on two acres of rolling Virginia hills in a small subdivision filled with dense, mature trees and a small creek that weaves in and out of the yards like a thread. We are several miles from the busy part of town, and I know most of my neighbors by face.

My van is halfway down the block when he glances in my direction. His face is unfamiliar. He dips into the woods, just over my property line, causing my heart to skip a beat, then quicken.

What do I do?

I’ve always been the kind of girl who chooses flight over fight. In gym class, I remember ducking every time that red ball came my way, and wincing at the sting on my skin as it bounced off my body.

I also remember getting in trouble during my years as a paralegal. I’d hide under my desk biting my nails, waiting for the lawyer’s backlash to ensue after transposing address numbers or misspelling names like Shwartzman and Agostinelli on important contracts.

In my rearview I see my toddler’s tiny hands swaying back and forth to the beat of “Let it Go,” as Elsa belts it out from her DVD player. This house is where my girls will grow to women.

Flight isn’t an option.

I stop contemplating it, and attempt a U-turn, but my palms are so clammy they can’t grip the steering wheel. I rub my hands across the tops of my thighs hoping the friction helps, and it does. Slowly, I press on the gas and my van turns, then lurches forward down the street.

In front of my property, I watch the stranger walk back and forth through our brush, just beyond the tree line. He keeps getting farther and farther from the street, and closer to my house. I almost can’t see him anymore. I can feel my stomach tighten.

I need a Tums. 

“Hey!” I shout. “Do you know you’re on private property?”

He pivots to look at me. His hood is tightly drawn, so I can’t see the color of his hair, but I know I won’t forget his face. He has a smattering of pink acne scars on his cheeks, and his light eyes are darting back and forth erratically.

He starts walking towards me.

Oh shit. Now what?

As the distance between us closes, I can see the muscles in his forehead twitching nervously, too.

He looks guilty!

I glance at his hands and check for any kind of movement that would indicate he might be reaching for a weapon. I’m suddenly quite fearless in my Grand Caravan.

“I’m looking for my phone,” the kid says. He appears to be in his late teens or early twenties. “My girlfriend tossed it in your woods last night. I was just trying to find it.” He puts his hands up defensively.

“Do you live in the neighborhood?” I scrutinize him. I keep my car in drive and my foot on the brake, ready to run him over.

“Yeah, I live over there,” he says, waving a hand in the direction behind me. There are only two streets in my neighborhood, a dead end cul-de-sac and a horseshoe shaped street that intersects the dead end in two places. He didn’t mention either street by name.

I don’t believe you.

“I’m calling the cops,” I say.

“I’ll leave,” he says. “It’s no big deal.”

It’s a very big deal, asshole. You’re trespassing!

I watch him hustle past my van before I roll down the window to take a picture of him on the sly. He turns left into the horseshoe and disappears. Once air returns to my lungs, I call the cops. Minutes drag before the sheriff finally arrives in his cruiser.

“Without a getaway car, a break-in is unlikely,” says the cop. “But you can’t rule it out. I’ll see if I can find him in the neighborhood for a talk right now. And we’ll start patrolling here more frequently.”

What if you don’t see him? What if he comes back?

I taste my morning coffee mixed with bile at the back of my throat.

That little shit.

My home is more than simple brick and mortar. It’s memories of my children racing down the stairs on Christmas morning. It’s sleepovers with friends and moms’ nights in. It’s kitchen dance parties and summer barbecues on the back porch, catching fireflies in a mason jar at dusk. It’s the place I walk barefoot and bra-less with yesterday’s eyeliner staining the skin beneath my eyes, and everyone accepts me just the same.

And some little jerk in a black hoodie is going encroach on that?

I don’t think so, buddy.

Maybe I’m a ‘fight’ kind of girl, after all…



Photo courtesy of Jordan Whitt/Unsplash

Categories nonfiction, UncategorizedTags , , , , , , ,

15 thoughts on “When Safety is on the Line

  1. brockbuildersteel February 20, 2017 — 10:46 pm

    Envisions soccer mom sitting upon haunches on kitchen floor… baring huge (Karen Black’ from 1975 horror movie’ Trilogy of Terror) smile, while whittling the end of the lime green wooden broom stick into a sharp pike with the electric turkey carver…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Better to know that you are a fight girl. When we have kids, that is who we become.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thrilling read Danielle. We occasionally have teenagers cutting through our big back yard, I recently asked them to go around our property and not through it. I am generally a flight type of person, it was a cordial conversation but my heart was in my throat the whole time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oops! Sorry that was meant to be a text to someone, lol!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No worries, good luck with the screaming 😛

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you, lol. Doctor’s Office boredom.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think I’m a flight girl too, yet the few times I’ve been in threatening situations I shock myself at how confrontational I become. Adrenaline is a funny ‘drug’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is! I think when we become parents we become stronger, too. It changes the stuff we’re made of.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You are so brave to face that head on. I loved how you framed this piece. I think everyone has those moments of pure flight and others of blatant fight. You are showing your daughters how to overcome those fears to look in the face of wrong and punch it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Melony. I really hope so.


  6. I know that feeling of panic while simultaneously feeling the need to step up and defend. You did a great job with making us feel, “Me too!” the way YeahWrite keeps reminding us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great, I’m glad that came through for you. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow that seems a little harsh! I hope you’re joking.


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