Kim was a beautiful girl, in a small-town sort of way. She was blonde and, well, built, and she had been crowned the queen of whatever fruit or vegetable her town was known for. Cherry queen? Onion princess? Something like that. She was also her high school's homecoming princess and, when I met her in college, dead set on marrying her middle school sweetheart, who she was still dating from a distance. I always thought it was kind of a shame that Kim was still so attached to this guy hundreds of miles away, because she was completely off the market. Aggressively off the market. Adamantly off the market. To the point that she wore both a commitment ring and his class ring on a chain around her neck.
Kim attracted a fair amount of attention in her small town—she said it used to creep her out when her dad's friends hit on her. But nothing compared to this story.
Kim's house was a single-story ranch house in a wide open neighborhood with wooded lots between the homes. Her bed was pushed up against the wall, facing a large vanity across the room. She slept with her head toward the wall, just under a large window that let in the moonlight and summer breezes when she kept it open.
Her senior year, Kim started to get funny vibes. She couldn't explain it exactly, but she started to feel like she was being watched, that sometimes a car would pass her house a few extra times, or that someone—she couldn't say who—was watching her when she got out of school. Then the phone calls started. It was mostly heavy breathing, but sometimes he would groan into the phone.
Now she was scared. Her dad got involved. The police got involved. Even her boyfriend got involved—I believe he threatened to kill whoever was stalking his girlfriend.
One spring night, Kim awoke in the middle of the night. She said she didn't know why, or what woke her up. But she had the strong feeling something was wrong. She opened her eyes and looked down her bed, to the vanity mirror across the room. She saw the reflection of a man in the mirror, just outside her window. He was less than two feet from her head, separated from her only by a pane of glass. Watching her sleep.
Kim screamed, and he ran.
Later, the police found a footpath to her window, leading out from the trees on her property. It was well-worn.
The next day, her dad installed a motion-detector outside her window that triggered security lights and an alarm. But still, she couldn't sleep with her back to the window anymore. She had to move her bed. Nights, in fact, were terrifying for months afterward, as she watched the darkness outside her window for the flare of light that would mean he was back and had tripped the security lights.
Going to college was a relief for Kim, because it was over. They never found out who it was, and once she moved away, it all stopped. No more phone calls, no more weird feelings, no more stalking.
Erica Orloff recently asked what episode from real life we've used in a story. I used this one in a middle-grade horror-lite story. And you know what? Every kid who read the manuscript made a point to mention that this scene in particular was terrifying.
As for Kim? She didn't end up marrying that guy after all, but by the time she was on the market, I was off it.