The air was beginning to cool, the day?s warmth a thing of the past. Stars shone from up above, and she was thankful for small favours. Their soft glow was comforting on the lonely country road she was travelling, which was nearly pitch dark now.
Fields of corn grew thick on either side of her. Dark shadows, as tall as herself, thick enough to conceal someone, sparse enough to move around in. She remembered childhood days spent playing hide and seek in the stalks. They were good hiding places. She shivered at the thought.
There were no streetlights. Not this far out of the way. And she still had plenty left to travel.
A cool breeze passed, raising goose bumps on her bare arms.
And then it happened. She heard what she had been dreading to hear: footsteps behind her.
Maybe she was just imaging it. That happened when you walked for hours on scary back roads. She strained to hear nothing, yet the sound continued. Whoever it was, they were shuffling along with exaggerated effort; the sound was unmistakable.
She quickened her pace, and tried to be quiet at the same time, hoping whoever it was, didn?t see her until she got around the next bend. Then she would just hide in the corn stalks until he was far ahead?
Yet the stranger had other plans. He quickened, more so than she, and she could hear the scraping sound of his shoes getting closer and closer. She practically ran around the bend, not caring now if he saw her or not.
The feeling of corn stalks as she dived into their seclusion hadn?t ever felt so good. Quickly crouching down and out of sight, she stopped and waited for the stranger to move on. She clutched her mouth, smothering the breath that came out in gasps. Minutes seemed like hours as she sat there in the cold, wondering if she would ever see the light of day again.
Eventually, she climbed out, figuring that, as no one had come in after her, the stranger had continued on. She felt like laughing at her childish fear. She was sixteen, too old to be doing silly things like that.
Yet that same childish fear returned the second she emerged.
There he was, waiting on the other side of the street.
He wasn?t going anywhere; he had no destination. His only plans were to follow her. She couldn?t scream, couldn?t move, and couldn?t even breathe.
The featureless silhouette on the other side began to speak.
?I?m not going to kill you, don?t worry. I just didn?t want to have to walk all the way home by myself.?
The voice belonged to an adolescent, and was in itself rather reassuring.
?Who are you?? she demanded shakily.
?I?m Mike Weist. Who are you??
?Christine. How come I?ve never seen you before??
?What side of the border??
?Yeah,? she replied shakily. She was not at ease with this stranger. In the dark it would be easy for a middle-aged pedophile to pose as a teenage boy.
He seemed to sense her discomfort, and began to talk in slow, easy tones. He talked about what a bitch it was to drive half an hour to school every day. He talked about music, his friends, how he was never going to be a farmer. He talked about what he wanted to do after high school; he was in grade twelve supposedly. He was going to get a big academic scholarship to some university far away and never come back to this God forsaken place.
Eventually, she came to the realisation that, whether she liked it or not, she was stuck walking with whoever this was, for the next hour. If he wanted to kill her, he would do it whether she participated in the conversation or not.
?What do you want to be?? she asked after his explaining his college plans.
He laughed. ?That?s the funny part; I don?t know! Something important. Not just a dirty old farmer.?
He glanced over, ?You got a point there.?
?But I?m just as bad as you. I want to get out as fast as I can too.?
?Oh yeah? What do you want to do??
?I don?t know if I want to go to university, maybe just go to some college in a city with more than ten people in it. That would work for me.?
?I know, it gets pretty lonely out here.?
She shivered uncomfortably. She didn?t know what his plans for compensating that loneliness were.
?Hey, you don?t have to be scared out of your mind. I?m not going to hurt you.?
She was used to empty promises from those closest to her, why would she trust a stranger?
?It?s not that bad,? she said softly.
? You don?t get bored out here??
?I visit my friends from White River a lot.?
?That?s a pretty long drive.?
?I usually walk.?
?You walk the whole twenty kilometres?!?
Great, she thought, he?ll be out here waiting for me now.
?Don?t want to give out any information about where you live eh??
?I think it?s understandable.?
?Trudat,? he agreed.
She burst out laughing. She had never heard anyone say that except on TV, and it sounded, well, funny, coming from a mid-west country hick.
That was all that was needed to break the ice. Her guard was still kept up, but they began to talk more freely, laughing and joking during the next hour. She was as lonely as he claimed to be. Her ?friends? in White River was Michelle; there was no one else. No one else wanted to be her friend, and she wondered if it was the same with Michelle, no one else threatened to take Christine?s place as Michelle?s best friend. The human companionship felt nice in her na?ve existence. She almost wished the night would last forever.
?There?s my house,? she said sadly.
They trudged along further. And right in front of her house, in the light, she saw his face for the first time.
A beautiful shock of blond hair spilled over his forehead. Green eyes peered out shyly from a face deeply tanned from outdoor work on the farm. He was better looking than she would have ever imagined. And he seemed to be interested in her, the girl nobody wanted.
On impulse, she turned up and kissed him good night. She doubted she?d ever meet him again anyways.
And she never did.
***Two and a half months later on Halloween Night
?What do you mean, you?ve had a boyfriend?? Michelle demanded. Christine was sleeping over her house that night.
?Well, he wasn?t really my boyfriend, I met him one night walking home on Pitton; you know where you drop me off at? There. And we talked for hours, and then kissed.?
?He goes to Brookfield, you know how the school line is really close to my house.?
Michelle?s face went blank. ?How long ago was this??
?August 12th.? She would never forget that day.
?Christine, are you lying to me??
?No! I?m not that pathetic!?
?Christine, didn?t you hear about Mike Weist??
?Christine he was killed in a house fire on August 6th.?
?How could you say something like that to me? Something good finally happens to me, and you try to make it sound like I?m lying or something? Maybe you?re jealous, I don?t know, but I don?t care! Let me enjoy my moment! Don?t make up gross shit like that to scare me!?
Michelle?s face was ashen. ?You?re sure it was the 12th??
?I?m sure. It was my birthday, and we had the little celebration at your house, remember??
Michelle went to digging around in different junk drawers and found what she was looking for: a cut out newspaper article. Right in the centre was what she dreaded to see: the tan face with the piercing green eyes, smiling with lips she thought she had kissed. And right below, in the caption, read: