It was a chilly Wednesday evening in October when I was 14. I was standing in our kitchen waiting for my father to drive me to church school. My father, meanwhile, was stomping back and forth from the living room through the kitchen to the basement stairs. He would go to the top of the stairs and yell down at my 17 year old sister who was also getting ready to leave. She had a meeting of her church group to go to, but, since her meeting wasn't at the church, she was driving herself.
Since she was taking her time, my father would yell down the stairs for her to hurry up and then stomp back toward the living room and look for his keys which he had misplaced.
So, there was my father. Standing at the top of the stairs and yelling to my sister in the basement. Behind him was our back door. The back door was open but the screen door was closed. My father then moved away from the screen door and there she was.
A girl. Standing in our driveway and peering in through the screen door. Peering is not the right word. She was staring. She was tall and slender with straight black hair tied into a ponytail. She looked a few years older than my sister. It was her eyes, however, that were the most noticeable. They were huge and unblinking. Her eyes would dart around the inside of our kitchen and then she noticed me. I was still standing in my spot, leaning against the kitchen counter. I wasn't especially creeped out at this point. Just curious. I did start to get a little worried when she took a step forward and reached for the handle of the screen door.
At this moment, my father rushed past me.
"Got 'em," he said while clutching his keys. "Let's go."
As he moved closer to the screen door, he noticed the girl.
"Oh, hi," I heard him say to the girl from my position behind him. He opened the door and then turned to shout down the stairs, "Steph! It's time to go."
"Alright," my sister responded in that annoyed teenage girl voice of hers as she came running up the stairs.
My dad held the door open for her and I and pulled it shut behind us. My sister and the girl started walking down the driveway to my sister's car. I think my dad and I had the same thought. They didn't acknowledge each other. Two teenage girls didn't bother saying hello to each other? I had been around my sister and her friends enough to know that they could barely stop speaking when they were together. We stood in front of the garage watching the two of them walk away.
When they reached the car, my sister put her key in the door and unlocked it. The girl, now standing by the passenger door, tried the handle. It was locked. The next moment plays out in slow motion in my mind. I remember my sister, still holding the door handle, slowly look up at the girl with the big eyes, and say, "Can I help you?"
My dad heard it, too, and began quickly walking down the driveway. My sister looked at him with a confused stare. He turned to the girl and repeated my sister's question, "Can I help you?"
The girl took a step back from the car. Her eyes darting from my dad, to my sister, to me. She looked back to my dad and said something I will never forget.
"You have my grandmother in your basement."
My dad looked at the girl and said what we were all thinking, "What?"
Now, I may not have spent a lot of time in our basement as my room was upstairs, but I was down there everyday. The biggest TV was down there, the laundry room was down there, my hockey equipment was stored in the furnace room, my sister's room was down there. So, I'm pretty sure I would've noticed someone's grandma in our basement.
The girl, however, seemed convinced. She began to rant about how her pastor had told her we were devil worshippers and that we were trying to kill her and had planned to sacrifice her grandmother.
I was getting pretty creeped out by this point. Not just by what she was saying, but by how she moved. The way her eyes kept moving around rapidly. The way her hands were shaking. My sister and I both stood frozen to the concrete of the driveway. My dad, however, didn't panic. He had been a paramedic my entire life. He had definitely seen his share of strange things and dealt with people with mental health issues. He calmly told my sister and I to go inside. Neither of us moved. He said it again, more forcefully than before, and we began to walk backwards up the driveway.
The girl began to look very confused. She looked at the three of us and began to make almost a whimpering noise. She started moving up the driveway as well while waking almost sideways. My dad took a step closer to her and the whimpering intensified.
"Just stay right here with me," my dad said calmly. "And we will figure this out."
The girl moved faster up the driveway towards me. The whimpering reaching a crescendo before she lunged at me and the whimpering became a scream.
"Nooooo!" the girl cried while reaching both hands out to me.
I turned to run. My father lunged at the girl and was able to grab both of her arms and pull them behind her back. My sister and I ran into the house and slammed the door behind us as the girl violently flailed against my father's grip.
Once inside my sister and I rushed to the window on the side of the house. We could see my dad now struggling to subdue the girl as her flailing continued. He began guiding her up the driveway towards the garage. When they were both inside, he closed the garage door. I stared at my dad while the door came down. I still remember the feeling of terror as the door made contact with the cement. We couldn't see him. There were no windows on the garage door anymore. There had been but I broke them all with errant slap shots and now, where there were windows, there was only plywood.
My sister and I stood in the kitchen, crying and staring at the garage door for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, the side door opened and my dad looked at us through the kitchen window.
"It's okay," he said. "Just call 911 and tell them to send an ambulance."
Behind him we heard the girl crying. My sister called the emergency dispatcher and we waited. Moments later the ambulance pulled into the driveway and my dad opened the garage door. The girl was bent over at the waist and sobbing loudly. My dad greeted his colleagues who ran into the garage and calmly and gently guided the girl toward the back of the ambulance.
When the ambulance had pulled away, my sister and I sprinted to the garage and embraced our father. It had been a frightening experience that could have gone much worse it it weren't for him.