We were young teens having a sleepover at my house in Ste. Anne. It was a beautiful night out, so we decided to sneak out after midnight and go for a walk. It was something I'm sure we'd done together before. I'd even done it by myself. We weren't going to vandalize property or make any trouble, we just wanted to walk around a dark, ghost-town, giggling and talking in hushed tones.
I lived just outside of town. Not even 15 minutes after leaving did we reach the edge of town and turn down a family friendly street I often rode my bike down. Suddenly there was a van coming up fast behind us. We moved to the side of the street and the van pulled up a few yards ahead and blocked our path. The sliding door opened and I could see the back seats had been removed. There were so many beer cans that they fell out of the van as several older, drunk guys we didn't recognize ambled toward us.
Frozen on the spot, my fight or flight response hadn't kicked in yet. I just stared at them trying to figure out who they were and what they wanted. I quickly became afraid, but I couldn't look away or move. I didn't even notice my friend had started to back up until she yelled out to me. Chelsea! Run!
It just so happened that we were beside our classmate's house and I followed my friend as she ran up to the door and started banging on it, whispering to herself, please answer the door, please answer the door. Our classmate's mom opened the door looking very annoyed. My friend begged her to let us inside and pointed toward to the boys. The drunk guys took the hint and piled back into the van and sped off. The mom scolded us for being out late, accused us of causing trouble and quite rudely told us to go back home.
I was still pretty shocked, but we quickly scurried back to the main road that would lead us home, trying to stay out of the light and constantly on the look-out for the van. We saw headlights and hid in a ditch. It was dry and the grass was long. There was no street light, so we were well hidden. It was the van. We thought maybe they were circling back, looking for us, so we just stayed in the ditch, but the van drove away and we never saw it again. My fucking heart was pounding so hard, I was panting.
We hurriedly walked in the ditches the rest of the way home, completely on edge, and when we got to my yard we ran as fast as we could to the front door and got inside. We turned off all the lights and hid out in my spare room. She curled up on the bed and I was across from her in the swivel chair. The computer monitor was our nightlight. Every so often my friend would peer through the blinds. I was still so stunned. I said, we almost got raped or something. If you hadn't called my name....
It was one of those moments where I wanted to laugh out loud with relief, like we got away with something and it was exhilarating, except it was so freaky, I didn't know how to react. The realization that something bad could have happened to us blew my mind.
We didn't talk much about it and I never told my parents.
May 25th was Missing Children's Day. The RCMP has some tips on how to street-proof your kids and after reading them I think my mom taught me well. We had a code word. I knew who to call and where to go if there was ever an emergency or if I was in danger. I was taught it's okay to talk to strangers, but not okay to go with them. I was taught to kick, hit, bite, anything to get away from someone trying to take me and to scream out loud, He's not my dad! She's not my mom! We played license plate games.
But when I was frozen in that spot, watching those guys clamber out of that van, it was like everything I learned was out the window. If my friend hadn't called out my name, who knows what would have happened. Maybe nothing. But there's the very slim chance I could have died. You never know what people's motives are. Especially drunk people.
I think of my sweet, little baby with her angelic face and I just want to drill her with my version of stranger-danger information until her ears bleed. I want her to sneak out of the house after midnight and take a breezy stroll in the summer air with friends because I know how fun it is, but I also hope that if she's ever in a situation like I was in with my friend, she'll take after my friend and not me.