Courtesy Turn is a romance novel for the ...um...senior set. The main Character is a widow in her late fifties named Dottie (so far).
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Carol leaned in. “What happened? When?”
Dottie spent the next few minutes outlining details of the mysterious car tailing her through the darkened woods. Funny. It sounded better when I told the cat. “Then the very same car came to my house late the other night, pulled in my driveway with the lights off, and then pulled away suddenly. Just lucky I was across the street with Angie.” It was an embellished version, but sounded more menacing that way. She threw in an exaggerated shiver for effect.
“Did you get the number on the license plate? Or the make and model of the car?” Carol was very thorough. She watched all of the latest crime shows on television.
“No.” Dottie shook her head slowly. She twisted her napkin and looked down at the table. “Actually… I’m not one hundred percent sure it was the same car.”
“You should call the police anyway.” Carol sat back in the hard plastic chair. “Women are targets. Especially if someone figures out we live alone.”
Carol still has her husband. Easy for her to be brave. “What’s this ‘we’ business? You don’t live alone.”
“I’m speaking on behalf of all women everywhere. I’m telling you, you need to call the police.”
“I’m not calling the police.”
“Then tell Ethan and Leah. They should know their mother is in imminent danger.”
“Maybe, but I don’t feel as though I’m in imminent danger. Not the way you make it sound.”
“Didn’t you just tell me you were so frightened when Sasquatch tipped his dish in the kitchen, you jumped into the living room lamp and broke it? I call that feeling in imminent danger.”
“I’ll think about it.”
When Virginia called in the afternoon, Dottie’s fear that Carol would tell others about the stalker was verified. With each telling of the story, Dottie became more convinced all of it was mostly her imagination run amuck.
“Honestly, Virginia, I think I am scared of my own shadow these days. I even have a piece of paper on the refrigerator to remind me that God did not give me a spirit of timidity.”
“Second Timothy. ‘For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.’ I know that verse.”
“Ever since John died I’ve kind of moved around doing whatever the kids thought best. So last Thanksgiving I decided I’m a grown-up and I should act like one.”
“You don’t need to explain anything to me,” Virginia said. “I’ve lived that life, remember? The first year after my husband died, I merely existed. I didn’t live. I don’t even remember that year. It’s all a fog. My daughter wanted me to move to California with her. I told her I read where a woman shouldn’t make any major decisions like that for at least a year. By the time the year was up, I knew I didn’t want to go to California. I don’t know anyone out there except Debbie. And of course my son-in-law and the kids.”
“But you’re doing so well now.”
“I’m living. Harvey would have wanted that. Not just existing. Living. It’s been a little over three years now, but I still face my own set of fears. I’m terrified of tax time. Harvey always handled that. Somehow, every year I get through it. And it gets a little easier.”
“Maybe because my kids are so close I’ve relied too much on them. All I know is that I want to be stronger.”
The two sat in silence for a moment. I wish my kids lived in California. I’d move where it’s warm in a heartbeat.
“You know what it is, Dottie? It’s the Evil One. Old Satan knows your fears and that you want to overcome them and he’s messing with you.”
“Hmmm…I bet that’s it! And that stuff about a stalker is probably him making my imagination go wild.”
“Probably. Of course I still think it would be wise to keep your eyes open and maybe buy yourself one of those pepper spray things. And to keep those crazy mind games at bay, get into the Word. That’s what I do.”
Once she hung up, Dottie located a pencil and jotted “pepper spray” on the running list of groceries she kept hanging on her refrigerator. Not a bad idea. Even if most of my fears are in my mind.
I wonder where you buy pepper spray. She couldn’t ask the kids. Then they would worry. Carol had a big mouth. Better to not mention any of this again. Virginia didn’t act as though she knew where to buy it. It was a puzzle. Angie? She was young and probably knew about all that sort of stuff. Maybe Angie. Dottie made a mental
note to ask her new neighbor the next time they talked.
note to ask her new neighbor the next time they talked.
But of course the day went by without even seeing Angie. By the time the weekend rolled around and Dottie thought the girl might be home for a while, she wasn’t. “Out shopping,” Danny told her.
Dottie trudged back across the street to the warmth of her own home. No way was she going to ask Danny anything. What was it she read this very morning that made her think of him? She settled into her chair and picked up her Bible. Proverbs 23:9. Yep, there it was. “Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words.” He would have laughed at me for even thinking someone might be stalking me. “Humph! Sometimes I wonder which one of us is the fool. In some ways, I hope it’s me.”
There was, of course only one thing to do. Go to the store and ask. She needed a few grocery items anyway. She’d stop at the grocery and then head to the anti-stalker store, wherever that might be. Surely someone at the grocery could tell her.
Grateful for the sunny weather and clear roads, Dottie drove to the nearest store to pick up an ever-growing list. She knew she needed coffee and bread. Add to that bananas, orange juice, oatmeal, and oh yes, that meant more brown sugar. Some cheese and dried beans for her fifteen-bean soup. By the time she made it to the meat department, she had nearly forgotten her mission to find out where to buy pepper spray. Someone in this store should be able to tell me.
“Could you split this package of chicken breasts for me?” she asked the butcher. “I need them in individual packages.”
The man pursed his lips as if to question her, but simply said, “Sure, no problem.” He returned a couple of minutes later handing her the package. “I wrapped each individually then wrapped them together on the tray. Hope that works for you. Anything else, Mam?
Dottie took the package from his hand and thought a minute. “Uh…no, that’s all. Thank you.” Asking for pepper spray and getting individually wrapped chicken breasts. Could anything scream “woman living alone” any louder?
Her next target was a young man stocking the end cap with cereal. “Pardon me, but I wondered if you might know where I could buy some…uh…pepper spray.”
“Oh sure, aisle five.”
“Aisle five. Thank you.”
“No problem.” The confident stocker went back to lining up the boxes of cereal on the shelf.
Who knew? Dottie pushed the cart back to the other end of the store and headed down aisle five. “Great. He obviously doesn’t have a clue.”
The employee arranging the spices turned to Dottie. “Are you looking for something special?” the young woman asked.
“Well, I was looking for pepper spray, not pepper. It’s a…”but before Dottie could finish the sentence, the young girl reached in her pocket and pulled out her key ring. On it dangled a small cylinder.
“Like this?” she asked. “The kind we girls need to carry for protection?”
We girls. Dottie smiled. “Exactly. Where did you get that?”
“My dad. He said if I was going to get a job and be out after dark, I had to carry this.”
“Do you know where he got it?”
The girl fished her cell phone out of her pocket. “No, but I’ll ask.”
“I hate to make you go to so much trouble.”
“No problem.” The girl punched in her text message. “It’ll be a minute or two. He always texts me back but it takes him a bit to figure out the right keys.”
“I’m impressed he can do that at all.”
“He’s learning. But no shortcuts. He spells every word and proofreads every text. He’s a writer. He’s home so I know he’ll answer.”
Dottie’s admiration for this man she didn’t know was growing. “What does he write? Anything I might know?”
“I doubt it. He writes technical stuff. You know, users manuals for your lawn mower and stuff like that.” Her phone beeped. “Ah… he says he bought mine at the sporting goods store at the mall.”
“Thank you so much and tell your father I said thanks, too.”
No problem must be the store’s mantra. Now she had perishable groceries in the car. A trip to the sporting goods store would have to wait. But not for long. The same dark car she had seen earlier was driving slowly past her house as she turned down her street. Who was that? Was it the same car that followed her from the Barn? And, more importantly, what did he want?