Preoccupied by his thoughts, Banks did not notice the bundled figure approaching in the road.
He pulled his car into the street in the deepening twilight and was horrified to see a woman appear in his headlights, her head down against the wind.
He braked hard and swerved to a stop, missing her by mere inches.
What was the silly woman doing in the middle of the road and not looking where she was going? Was the whole world going mad?
“Are you all right, Ma’am? I am sorry I nearly hit you. I didn’t see you out in the middle of the road like that.”
Banks tried to keep the irritation out of his voice. He was afraid he was not entirely successful.
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Bunny gasped.
She had been very frightened, looking up to see the headlights bearing down upon her.
In neighborhoods like this one, with no streetlights and the yards all overgrown, she often walked down the middle of the road for safety. It was advice she had read years ago on self-defense for women.
Badly shaken, she still managed to murmur to the man silhouetted in the car lights, “I’m quite alright, thank you. You just took my breath away, your big car appearing out of nowhere like it did.”
She began to hurry on her way.
“Say, it’s getting pretty dark out. Would you like me to drive you wherever you are going? It might be safer. And you seem a little shaken up,” Max called after her.
Max could see her face in the glow from his headlights, now, and she did look a little pale...not unattractive, but definitely upset.
There was something familiar about that heart-shaped face. He must have seen her around town. He could not put a name to her, though. She probably worked in a grocery store or the post office.
“Oh, no. Thank you,” Bunny spoke quickly, “I’ll be fine. I don’t live far from here. I’ll be more careful. I can walk on the sidewalks after I leave this neighborhood. I’m fine. Thanks, thanks, again, thanks!” she rattled off.
Bunny was not about to get into any fancy black SUV with a strange man just to avoid a lonely walk in the dark. She knew better than that.
The glare of the car’s headlights made it impossible for Bunny to see the man clearly, but she could tell he was a lot bigger than she was.
She continued sidling down the street as she spoke and tossed the final “thanks” over her shoulder from half a block away.
“What in the world? She acts as if she’s afraid of me. What does the stupid creature think...that I’m going to get her into the car and force myself on her? May the gods save us all from the overwrought imaginations of middle-aged women!”
Banks returned to his car.
Turning it around, he followed Bunny’s rapidly retreating form.
He decided to make certain the skittish female made it safely indoors, and then he was going back to the office to write up his notes, pick up some dinner and go home. What a day!
Bunny heard the car start up in the distance and breathed a sigh of relief.
For a moment there, she thought the man would not let her go. There were times when her new single status was not such a good feeling. If he had wanted to hurt her there would have been little Bunny could do to protect herself.
She began to notice her shadow stretching out before her on the sidewalk and, turning to find the source of the light, realized it was possible her ordeal was not over, after all.
The sinister-looking, oversized SUV was following her!
Oh, this was too much.
Bunny wanted to run into the nearest lighted house, or to begin screaming. However, she was of the generation raised to mind her manners and to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. After all, it was just possible the car’s presence, keeping its distance a half block back and matching her pace, was only a coincidence.
She must not make a scene. She must not make a fool of herself.
Much better to be simply raped and murdered or whatever that horrible man had in mind.
Bunny felt nauseated with fear.
She kept moving, somehow, and fought the urge to fall to the pavement and curl into a ball.
This was a familiar sensation.
It was the same as in her recurring childhood nightmares. She would frequently awaken and lie paralyzed with fear until the moment when she gathered sufficient courage to dash to her parents’ bed and safety.
Where was her parents’ bed tonight when she needed it?
“Oh, get a grip, Bunny...Jean was right. I can be such a baby, sometimes. Why, if I were to turn around right now, I’ll bet the car wouldn’t even be there. He probably turned off at the last intersection. That’s what I’ll bet.”
She could not make herself turn around to find out, though. She just kept walking as fast as possible without breaking into a run.
“If I run, then he’ll get me.”
She could not keep from thinking back to the time in her childhood when the mean dog down the street threatened her.
Every kid on the block knew Bounce was mean. They all tried to stay away from him.
Once, Bunny had been walking home from school and forgotten to keep an eye out for the dog.
She heard a low growl from behind her and knew Bounce was out.
She had tried to pretend not to notice the dog and walked quickly away. Everyone knew running away just made dogs chase you.
She almost made it home, but she had been unable to keep from taking a quick peek behind.
One look at the dog’s bared teeth had set her feet running and the inevitable had happened.
She still had a nasty scar on the back of her thigh.
Tonight, she would not look back and she would be safe.
Taking a deep, shaky breath, Bunny began to recite, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...”
Whispering the familiar words helped.
When she got to the end of the Psalm, she switched to the Lord’s Prayer. She was too full of fear to pray in her own words.
While repeating a rough approximation of every Bible verse she could call to mind, Bunny reached her door.
Her fingers were trembling and she dropped her key. Stooping to retrieve it, she glimpsed the big, black car turn the corner and drive away.
She had made it! He had given up and let her go. Thank God.
“Thank you, Jesus!” she gasped.
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