What scares you? That’s the question I asked YA authors for this blog series. Stay tuned for interviews and guest posts as authors visit and reveal their frightening—even surprising—fears.
Today’s guest author is Adele Griffin, author of Tighter and All You Never Wanted, just out this month, among many more acclaimed novels. (And be sure to enter the giveaway to win a signed finished copy of her latest, All You Never Wanted!)
What scares Adele? Read this chilling true story she stopped by to share with us…
Guest post by Adele Griffin
I was a college sophomore, nineteen years old, living in an off-campus sorority house. It was Saturday night and my boyfriend was out of town. I was out, too, at a campus party in a long black dress and motorcycle boots. I looked like a biker witch. In one sock, I’d stuck a ten-dollar bill folded around my college i.d. plus my house key. In the other sock, a tube of lipstick. I considered myself completely prepared for absolutely anything.
Back in my room on my desk was my unfinished paper of tepid opinions about Their Eyes Were Watching God. Nothing had happened to me. Tonight something would.
The party was terrible, but I didn’t want to return to my desk. It was too early. My roommate, Allison, wasn’t interested in hitting a downtown bar to see Pete, a bartender I liked to flirt with when my boyfriend wasn’t around.
We split off. She went back to the house, and I went to see Pete.
Only Pete wasn’t working that night. Luckily, I found a booth of my sorority sisters. It was enough reason to stay, although they were seniors and not exactly friends.
No Allison, no boyfriend, no Pete, no plan. This was not Saturday night as I knew it. I was feeling unanchored.
The man was watching me. He’d been watching me since I’d come in. He was unremarkable-looking, grown-up—maybe he was a Teaching Assistant? He sent over a gin-and-tonic, which seemed both gross and funny. Sending a drink was something old people did. The booth cracked up, but I grandly accepted it.
And after I finished it, I felt obligated, post my bathroom run, to talk to him. He told me his name, which I immediately forgot. I forgot his face, too. Why would I need to memorize him? Skinny with short hair? Square-ish with brown hair?
Five foot eight? Six foot one?
What did I care?
Except later, I’d have almost nothing to offer the police.
“You live in the Theta house,” he said. “That’s 39th and Walnut.”
“Hey, how’d you know that?”
“Because I see you every morning. You live near me. You ride your bike to class,” he said. “You must have a nine a.m. Right?”
“Yeah!” An observer, this guy. Who had a crush on me, maybe. How creepy, how sweet.
“I drove here. I can give you a ride home tonight, if you want.”
“Sure.” I didn’t mean it.
I went back to my booth. Another round. The others were going to South Street, to a club. Did I want to come? Not really. I wasn’t into clubs.
They left. He was still at the bar. I was buzzed and bored. I quizzed him. Yes he knew Pete, yeah he came here a lot, no he wasn’t a teaching assistant or a grad student, he didn’t even go to this school, though he was taking some classes at Temple.
“We’re neighbors is all,” he said, yawning. “But look, I gotta get up early. Sure you don’t want a lift back?”
That was all I needed. I was tired now, too. I didn’t want to walk home. Eleven blocks, ugh.
His car was white. Honda? Nissan? I wasn’t a cars person.
The music was on too loud, and he didn’t turn it down. Way too loud. Heavy metal. You don’t do that to a girl.
But he was doing that to me.
“Turn it down?”
He pulled out of the parking lot fast. He was singing along. It jarred me.
“Hey will you turn that down?” I asked again, but he didn’t hear me, he was singing and suddenly we were whipping down Spruce Street but not getting onto Walnut, now we were speeding too fast past 34th, 35th, 36th. Way too fast. My hand gripped the door handle—locked.
“Let me out!”
We’d passed 39th. My heart was pumping, my brain was pin-wheeling sparks of panic.
“Let me out! I want to get out!” My voice now so much louder than the music but he didn’t he wouldn’t he refused to hear me. The terror so sudden, the music so disturbing, my mind a chaos of all the stories, the top news stories of girls who are Taken who are Raped and Strangled and Tortured—was he this person, was I this headline? I could hardly breathe and then from a distant discordant underwater I could hear the sound of the bell.
I did it all the time. My feeble shut of the car door was an endless annoyance for my boyfriend. He was forever leaning across my lap to give my door handle the extra yank that shut off that warning.
And now this guy, this nondescript freakish monster, in a lurch of aggression was reaching over my lap to shut me in to lock me in.
Do it! My only non-silly action of the evening, with animal strength I gave a lug-heeled push of my boot along with a full-shoulder push on the door and I fell like a sack, spinning onto Spruce Street, then scrambling up, screaming and wild, my hand out to stop cars, as I tore across the road.
What scares me?
Not listening to the voice in my head.
Because I knew he was strange. I’d sipped on that gin-and-tonic knowing that the shadowy guy who sent it was inexplicably weird and wrong, and that no good would come of any interaction with him.
I knew he was all of those things, and still I had gotten into that car.
Later, in my sorority house, surrounded by the safety of clucking girls and the campus police, I couldn’t make sense of my own naiveté. So I put all the blame on him. On his good acting, his smooth disguise: “He seemed totally normal! He said he knew Pete! He said he was a student—a neighbor!” As if somehow I could justify my bad decision with all my good research.
But showing your work does not get you points. It will not let you live.
There were bruises all down the side of my body for nearly a month. I was glad to have them. Nobody and nothing else reproached me like those marks, black as tire skids.
I’ve recounted this story many times over the years. I used to tell it with youthful vigor and outrage. I was enthralled by my brush with a possible sociopath. And I liked to end it oh-so-offhandedly—“I could have totally died, right?” As if that outcome was never an option, as if I were entitled to my happy ending.
But the longer I live past that night, the more frightening this story—and all that didn’t happen—becomes to me. It is as if only by living my life that I can fully grasp its value.
Who knows what that guy’s plan had been? Who knows if that unsealed door was my only chance? And so now I tell this story differently, with humility, with knowledge that I’d been shockingly stupid and absurdly lucky, and finally, with a little advice. Which is this: When you’re out on the wire, trust your hunch. No drink is ever free. And if you have a choice, wear boots.
Oh, Adele. Thank you so much for sharing this story with us. I don’t have the words to say how terrifying this is. And to everyone reading: Be sure to enter for a chance to win All You Never Wanted (scroll down for giveaway details).
Adele Griffin is the acclaimed author of many books for young readers, including Sons of Liberty and Where I Want to Be, both National Book Award finalists. She is also the author of Tighter, Picture the Dead, The Julian Game, and the Witch Twins and Vampire Island middle-grade series. Adele lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York. Her newest novel, All You Never Wanted, came out this October.
Visit her online at www.adelegriffin.com.
Follow @adelegriffin on Twitter.
Want a chance to win a signed finished copy of Adele’s newest novel, All You Never Wanted, which just came out this month?
This giveaway is now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered! The winner will be announced soon.
Here’s what you missed so far in the What Scares You? series:
And come back tomorrow for more… The next author to share fears with us is: Michelle Hodkin, author of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and The Evolution of Mara Dyer!
Series art by Robert Roxby. Email to contact the artist directly.