By Chef winterinthehellscape
I was brought up very sheltered. Homeschooled until high school. My only social network outside of my family was my southern baptist church. As you can imagine, this led to a few issues where social interaction was concerned.
My mother was a stay at home homeschool mom to four children, so of course she had mommy meltdowns sometimes. Because my area of experience was rather small, in my mind those meltdowns (getting angry, yelling, sending us to our rooms) were a BIG deal, and I thought she hated me. That was before I knew I had anxiety. Or even what the word anxiety meant. I just knew that people were a lot to handle and it made me feel overwhelmed.
When I entered high school I was a social outcast. Though I hung out with the band geeks and weirdos, even they didn’t really like me. I was too weird. My grandma passed away when I was in 9th grade, and I didn’t really process that loss until 11th grade. I talked about her so often that my teacher ended up making fun of me about it in front of my whole class. I never talked about my grandma again. Not even to my family.
When I graduated I decided I didn’t care if I had friends anymore. I was just gonna be cool and hang out with whoever I wanted to. Screw them if they didn’t like me.
This led to me having tons of friends. Because I didn’t care, and wasn’t trying to get close to them, they flocked to me. Told me all of their secrets. Trusted me.
I fell in and out of friend groups quickly. I was finally someone people enjoyed being around, we would become insanely close, and then I would do or say something to end the friendship. It was easier that way. I figured if they got too close to me they wouldn’t like me. So I dropped them before they could drop me.
They all knew me differently. To some I was a mother figure, to others I was a cool, introspective girl, some thought I was punk rock, others saw me as artistic. None of them knew me. The insecure girl with anxiety. The one who talked too much about the wrong thing. The one who was laughed at by her entire class and a teacher she looked up to. The one who thought her mom hated her when she was young, because she didn’t know yet that she had anxiety and everything was magnified.
They couldn’t know that girl. So that girl hid. That girl ran away and died.
That worked for awhile. Then I met my husband. He liked me. He liked me when I was worried about something. He liked me when I thought he was mad even though he wasn’t. He liked me when I was insecure. When I was sad. When I was scared. He saw me.
So that girl came out. We laughed about what a difficult child I must have been, always giving my mom trouble because I was paranoid. We bitched about how a teacher could EVER do that to a student. We laughed about my awkward nature. We were awkward together. And we loved each other.
I apologized to my mother, for all the times I blamed her for the way I was feeling when it was nothing she could help. I wrote and burned a letter to that teacher that laughed at me. The only thing I couldn’t do was get rid of the girl that all of those “friends” met.
When I ran into one of them in the street I would feel pangs of anxiety. Sometimes, because our friendship was so brief, they wouldn’t recognize me, but other times they would. They would walk up to me and say “hey, don’t I know you?” To which I would always respond “haha, yeah! Remember (insert bonding experience here)?” And then I would be pulled into a conversation I never wanted.
It happened so often I started to get agitated. Was the universe trying to tell me something? Should I apologize to these people for pretending to care about them? They didn’t even know if they remembered me, it couldn’t be that important to them that we had once been friends.
The thing is, I’m too nice. Always have been. It’s just one of my quirks, and the main reason I couldn’t just tell people that I didn’t want to be BFF I just wanted to hang out for awhile. So when I ran into these old friends, I couldn’t just say no when they asked if they knew me, because I knew they did. I always recognized them no matter how brief our friendship.
That’s where I got into trouble, and that’s why I’m writing this. I figured y’all would appreciate it.
Three months ago I went to the grocery store by myself. My husband and I usually go together, but he was working and I didn’t want to wait for him. No big deal. I pack my daughter up and we head to the store.
While we’re there I notice this girl looking at me. She didn’t look too familiar, though I knew I had seen her somewhere before, I just couldn’t place where. I continue shopping and hope she doesn’t approach me. She does.
“Oh my god! Lauren? Is that you?” She beams at me. I was impressed she actually remembered my name, but I had no idea what hers was. Or why she looked so fucking familiar. “It’s me! Taylor! From School?”
It clicked. THATS why I don’t recognize her! She went to college with me! I didn’t pay attention to hardly anyone there!
“OH MY GOD! Hey! That’s so funny, I knew you looked familiar!” I was almost instantaneously put at ease. This wasn’t an uncomfortable past friendship, she was just an old classmate. “How have you been?” I asked.
“Good girl! Good!” She said. We chatted for a few minutes while my daughter laughed at her obnoxious mannerisms (she kept squealing, and saying “oh my gawd” in exaggerated voices) and before we parted ways she grabbed my phone and put her phone number in and called herself. I was a little sketched out, because that was hecka forward, but whatever. No big deal. She was sweet.
Over the next few weeks we texted, talked on the phone, and hung out at my house. She insisted to always come to my house, and only when my husband was at work. She had a serious problem with men from a past relationship that ended badly. She didn’t give me many details, but I suspected abuse.
We had a lot of fun, she was weird about me taking pictures (I take pictures of everything) but I managed to sneak one of her and my daughter making “grumpy” faces at each other. It was an adorable picture. She came around almost daily after awhile.
We started getting too close for my comfort around 4 weeks into our friendship.
“So what’s your husband like?” She said over coffee that Monday morning. “Really, I mean. Not the lovey-dovey shit you always talk about.”
“He’s great, actually. We really don’t have many problems. Other than the usual couple arguments, that is.” I said.
“Oh? Tell me about those.” She responded.
“Um. There not very notable. Besides, that’s not something you tell outsiders about. Ya know?” I said. The look on her face told me she didn’t like my word choice.
“What do you mean outsider? I thought we were friends.” She hissed.
“Outside of my marriage.” I said. “I didn’t mean anything rude by that. Just, I don’t like talking about anything like that with anyone but him. We work our own problems out.”
“Oh.” She said before making an excuse to leave.
I told Dustin about it that night.
“That’s weird, right? For her to want to know bad stuff about our relationship?” I asked.
“I mean, yeah. But at the same time, you said she was weird about men. Maybe she just expects us to be evil.” He said.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. It was just weird.” I said.
Two days later she showed up at my house.
“Hey girl, what are you up to today?” She said when I answered the door.
“Um, actually, about to head to my parents house. Why didn’t you call before you came over? I’m sorry.” I said, running back inside to grab a few last minute things and wrangle my daughter.
“Oh? What are you going to your parents for?” She said, looking around.
“The house is a wreck and I need to give the little one to them for a couple hours so I can effectively clean.” I laughed. Her face fell a little, and I felt bad. “You can come with me if you want? I’m just dropping her off. When we get back here I have to clean though. So you’ll have to sit and watch me.”
She agreed. We spent the day talking about random things, and everything seemed pretty normal. I guessed she had just been feeling overly sensitive the other day, and didn’t bring it back up. I cleaned while she sat and drank coffee, and we laughed about my panic over the house.
“It’s not even dirty!” She laughed. “Gotta keep a perfect house for the hubby I guess.”
“It’s more for me than him. He doesn’t care. I’m the obsessive one.” I said.
“Oh.” She said. “Makes sense.”
Dustin was right, I thought. She expects men to be evil, her ex had been pretty damn abusive. Her behavior and invasive questions made sense in that context. She was probably just concerned. I was her friend, after all.
“I’m gonna go clean the bathroom. Wanna join?” I said, waving a toilet brush at her.
“Oh no, I’m good right here!” She said.
While I was cleaning the bathroom I noticed she was extremely quiet. If you have children you train your ear for silence. Silence means mischief. Silence is bad. I decided to sneak back into my living room and peak in on her.
She was standing with her back to the entryway hunched over something.
“You okay?” I asked. She jumped and spun around.
“WHY ARE YOU SNEAKING UP ON ME? Holy shit!” She yelled.
She was holding my phone. I don’t have a password on my phone because I don’t have anything overly important or private on it. Besides, my phone has all the cool baby games my daughter likes to play.
“What are you doing with my phone?” I asked.
“Oh, I was just checking the weather. My weather app on my phone crashed.” She said, handing it back to me. “Sorry.”
“Okay.” I said. “I deactivated that app a few months back. Never used it. Sorry.”
“Oh no, that’s cool. Hey. I better get going. I’ve got a thing tonight.” She said.
She practically ran out the door. I was unsettled. Something wasn’t right but I couldn’t quite figure out what.
About 20 minutes after she left I noticed she had run out so quickly she left her phone on my table. For a minute I thought about what to do, but I remembered what apartments she said she lived in, so I decided to bring it to her. I wanted to look through it, I’m not gonna lie. I didn’t want to invade her privacy though.
Ah, how I fucking wish I would have.
I decided to just stop by on the way to pick up my daughter.
I drove around her complex until I saw her car. I knocked on the door it was parked in front of and a lady answered. I asked if she knew where the girl who owned that car lived and she said directly above her, but she thinks she went out with a friend because she doesn’t hear her “Stomping around as usual.” I laughed and thanked her.
I knocked on her door and she didn’t answer.
“Taylor, you home? It’s me. You left your phone at my house.” I said.
Still no answer. I tried the door because I figured if it opened I would just leave her phone and a note. It was.
I let myself in. It was a small apartment. She had two couches, a kitchen table, a couple of end tables, and pictures of my family all over her walls. I’m talking back as far as when we started dating. There were pictures of me in school, pictures of me pregnant, pictures of my husband at work, pictures of us together, pictures of my daughter at the park. This collage went back 5 years. This woman had been watching my family for 5 fucking years.
Imagine being friends with someone, letting them into your home, and then realizing you were a target for them. Someone they purposely sought out.
I lost my shit.
With her phone in my hand I ran out of that apartment, slamming the door behind me. I got in my car and drove to the nearest gas station. While I decided what to do I looked at her phone. It was password protected but I’d seen her type her password in before and I’m pretty good with patterns so I decided to try it out.
My hands were shaking. My mind was racing. But I tried to remember what I’d seen her do.
Bottom row, bottom row, top row, bottom row, top row, middle row.
After a few failed attempts I stopped and let myself calm down. If she’s obsessed with my family what number would she use?
My birthday? My husbands? My daughters?
Bottom row, bottom row, top row, bottom row, top row, middle row.
My fucking anniversary.
I looked through her pictures and found pictures of us through our windows, pictures of my husband at work, pictures of us at the grocery store.
Her messages were relatively boring, I found out the friend she was with was her sponsor and they were going to an AA meeting tonight, which is why she wasn’t home. Her sponsor had picked her up. I didn’t even know she was in AA. I know that seems small compared to everything else, but I started to realize she had been lying to me about everything.
I checked her notes next. She talked about how she loved to write. Her notes were like a diary. A diary starring me. She hated me. She talked about how I was stupid, how I was controlling, how I smothered my husband. She talked about how sad he must be, stuck with me. How he must hate every day knowing I’ll never let him be free. She talked about how she would have to kill me to get me away from him.
In one note she went into detail. Because I trusted her, she could literally stab me in the back (she added a tasteful “lol” after that one), but she thought it would be better to strangle me from behind.
“It should be pretty easy, if she’s cleaning or cooking she keeps her back to me the whole time. I could easily wrap something around her neck. Oh! I could use one of his belts! If I get rid of her he’ll be so grateful. He’ll have to take me back.” It said. Take her back? What?
Just then her phone started buzzing. It was her sponsor.
“Shit shit shit” I said. She realized she’d lost her phone now.
After it stopped ringing I locked it and called my parents. I told them something had come up and I’d fill them in later, but I wouldn’t be picking my daughter up until later in the evening. I went to my husband’s work. It was a mix of anger and fear that was coursing through me at this point. I jumped out of my car without shutting it off or closing the door and ran inside.
“Dustin!” I yelled. “Someone get Dustin! Now!”
One of his coworkers ran to grab him. I paced the showroom floor and pulled up the picture I had taken of her. When I saw him I ran to him.
“Dustin.” I said, holding up the picture. “Do you know this woman?” He immediately tensed.
“Lauren, what the fuck is our child doing with Ashton?” He said, obviously struggling to maintain composure.
“Ashton?” I repeated.
“Yes Lauren! Ashton! What the fuck is our daughter doing around her?! What are you doing around her?!” He yelled.
“Calm down, this was from a few weeks ago.” I said. “What do you mean?”
“That doesn’t make that any better! Where is she now?” He said, calming down.
“With my parents.” I responded. “Who is Ashton?”
“Remember when we first started dating? The girl I showed you pictures of? The one that I met online who started following me everywhere after I took her out to coffee?” He said.
It all clicked into place.
Holy fuck. Holy fuck.
THATS why I hadn’t been able to place her. I had never met her in person. I had only seen pictures. She never went to school with me.
I told Dustin everything. We called the cops and he took a couple of weeks off of work because I was really shaken up. I’d been talking about Taylor to him for weeks, never thinking to show him that stupid picture.
The cops couldn’t do much aside from suggest that we take out a restraining order against her. She hadn’t done anything violent, and they couldn’t search her house or phone without a good reason. I gave them her phone to return to her because I did NOT want it.
Everything has been okay since, other than the constant feeling of being watched. Dustin has been amazing through all of this.
We got a card in the mail yesterday with no stamp or return address. I put it in a ziplock bag and took it to the police. I was not opening it. I don’t want to know what she has to say.
I wrote off so many things about her that sketched me out because I blamed it on my anxiety. I figured I was just paranoid and overwhelmed and never once thought I might be right about her. If y’all glean anything from my experience, it’s always trust your gut and when someone asks if they know you, just say no.