Saturday, March 1, 2014
It Could Have Been Me
Recently, I was asked to give a speech to an auditorium full of high school students. I've never stood in front of a large group and spoke before. Unless you count elementary school plays, which I don't.
The topic was to be about Young Adult books and reading, something that high school kids would just be dying to hear about, right? Of course not. So I knew that in order to make it interesting, I would have to make it personal. So I did. And part of that speech I would like to share with you.
What you may know already is, my book, Awakenings, is about two sisters who are kidnapped by human traffickers. The older one, Evie, is murdered but comes back from the dead to seek revenge and to save her sister. But what you may not know is that a scene from that book came from my real life. You can probably guess that the coming back from the dead is not the one I'm talking about. (Or is it?)
No, the scene in which I am referring to is the one where Evie and her sister are running from the traffickers pursuing them. They grasp hands and run for their lives. This actually happened.
Now, in the book the girls are running from the men who have raided a hotel. The real life event wasn't as dramatic, but here it is.
When I was little, around six or seven, I was outside my house picking flowers for my mom. For as little as I was, that day is extremely clear in my mind, I can even remember what I was wearing. It was sunny, and warm. I was in a purple shirt striped with different colors on the chest. We had wild buttercup flowers that grew by our house and that was what I was collecting. As I bent over to pluck another flower from the ground, a car slowed to a stop in front of my house.
I stood up and watched as a tall man in a dark three piece suit, opened the passenger door and got out. I remember a cold coil of fear tightening in my stomach. As I stared at him, he raised a camera, took my picture, got back into the car and drove off.
I ran back inside and told my mom about it but he was gone by time she made it out. She told me to stay inside the rest of the day and that was the last we saw of him. Until two weeks later.
Behind our rickety old house, we had a narrow dirt alley way. It wasn't used very often, but occasionally a car would drive through. On this day, my sister, who was around nine or ten at the time, and I were playing on our rusty old swingset. I was swinging when we heard the familiar sound of gravel crunching beneath a car.
My sister ordered me off the swing as the car inched its way up to directly behind our house. I immediately got off and joined her in the yard. When the car came to a complete stop, my sister and I were already very alert. When that man in the three piece suit stepped out of the car and into our yard, my sister yelled, grabbed my hand, and we took off running.
I don't know how close he got to us, because we were screaming and didn't look back. Our old dog went ballistic as we blew past her, probably sensing something was wrong. We had a back door that couldn't easily be seen from the alleyway, and we charged through it. My sister slammed it shut and threw the lock.
We nearly collided with my mom, who had heard us and was already making her way to us. We were out of breath but managed to squeak out what had happened. Mom quickly went to a window and peered out. The only thing she saw was the settling cloud of dust his car had left behind.
My sister and I were so very lucky. But sometimes I wonder, what would have happened if we hadn't made it to that door? My anger at that man is part of the reason why so many bad things happen to the bad men in my book. That's part of the reason why I wrote the book that I did, because really it could have been me.