Back in high school, my parents were strict about my curfew and driving long distances. I thought it was lame then, but I would not drive 2 hours with a 17 year old behind the wheel now.

It was my then boyfriend’s birthday, and he was a huge baseball fan. Luckily, my parents adored him and allowed me to go to a Texas Rangers game with him, even though it meant a 2 hour drive one way and getting home past typical curfew. Despite the generousity, they still said I had to home by 1 a.m. no matter what.

The game was uneventful (I mean that literally because I don’t enjoy baseball), but lasted forever. By the time we left the parking lot, and started the drive home, it was 11:30 p.m.

I fell asleep, as I usually do during car rides. I have an uncanny ability to always wake up around the last 20 minutes of a ride. This time was no different. I woke up as we took the local exit off the highway into the small, rural town we lived in.

It’s the kind of highway exit you only take if you live there. We noticed the only other car on the highway exited, too.

Once off the highway, you can continue straight to one of the 3 stoplights in town, or turn off on a few, unlit, mostly unpaved roads. One of those unpaved roads was the short cut to my house, and since it was 12:45 a.m. my boyfriend took it.

Now this road zigzags between cattle pastures, has no street lights, and cut sort of diagonally across town and let out newlry right in front of my neighborhood.

There are exactly 4 houses and 1 barn on this road. At those point, we called it “popped tire lane” because the potholes were so bad and the gravel had washed away in some bad rain storms. All of this to say, at this time, you only took this path if needed the short cut.

The car that exited the highway behind us turned down this path, too.

Odd at this time of the night but nothing wild.

We are driving down the first stretch before the first zig in the zigzag back road. We notice the car behind us was driving awfully close. So close, in fact, we could not see their head lights. My boyfriend slowed down and tried to get over as far as he could in his truck (Texas, y’all), so this car could pass.

They didn’t pass. So we turned and continued on the 2 stretch of the zigzag road.

We sped up after the turn.

So did the car.

I we get to the 4th turn in the zig zag and I say, “let’s turn on Nautical, instead of Main.” There were 3 streets that turned into my rural neighborhood. Nautical was used far less. I thought it would be a good way to relieve us of the anxiety and fear that had been building as this car loomed in our rear view. We’d turn off and they’d continue on and everything would be fine.

They turned right behind us.

I feel my stomach drop. I know everyone who lives this way— small town—and I don’t know this car.

The streets near my house were better paved, so my boyfriend picked up the pace. There were only a few turns left until we reached my house and the car took every turn we did.

After tense minutes we finally turned onto my street with 3 homes, which surely would be the turn this car would not take.

We were wrong.

We pulled in the driveway and the car pulls behind us to block the driveway. They turned their headlights off and the street was pitch black..

We could see the car was still on by the lights of the dash softly illuminating the inside of the car in our rear view mirror.

I can barely breathe. My boyfriend grabs a mag light, tells me to crawl over him (the driver side was closest to the front door) and run.

My parents left the door unlocked knowing I’d be home late and not wanting me to fidget with the lock in the dark.

It’s 1:15 a.m.

My parents are waiting, ready to scald me. I bust through the door, my boyfriend right behind me, and yell with all the breathe I have, “we’ve been followed. Someone’s outside.”

My dad, a large dude, and quick tempered, grabs his keys and hammer (he had been repairing stuff in the house so it was close by), and runs outside. Yells for my mom and I to stay inside.

We all wait for him to come back.

He walks in and says the car was empty with the keys in the ignition. We think the person who followed us must have gotten out of the car.

We dluble checked all the locks on the doors and windows. My dad hands my mom a gun (Texas) and goes back outside. He got into to his truck (again, Texas), and turns his high beams on and drives around our house around the surrounding streets, through empty fields, looking for the person 2ho followed us and abounded their car.

He comes back about an hour later. He didn’t find the person. He moved the car into the ditch, and broght the keys into the house so they couldn’t leave.

The next morning, my dad went to our two neighbors to ask if they knew the car, had guests, or saw anything. No one recognized the car. One of our neighbors said they heard rustling outside around 3 a.m. but they thought it might have been raccoons and didn’t go check it out.

We found what looked like a whole pack of cigarette butts at the end our driveway near the car the next morning.

We called the police and told them what had happened, gave them the keys to the car, and they drove it back to station.

For the next few months, we’d find cigarette butts in that spot of our driveway every now and then. My dad would go crazy and patrol the house day and night, but we never found the person.

My parets are now divorced, the house has long since been sold, and none of us live in that small town anymore. I still wonder who that person was, where they went that night when they abandoned the car, why they followed us for nearly half an hour on those back roads, and why they kept coming back.