It was a hot afternoon when Sally decided to go shopping by herself. What had usually been her granddaughter’s job had fallen to her after the twenty-one-year-old became ill that week.
The day had been going splendidly, and Sally had managed to buy everything she needed from the store. But everything turned south after she got out of the store and saw him walking toward her. Blocked by the fast Oklahoma traffic, and with her heart thumping, she decided to face him.
When Sally moved to Oklahoma in the 80s with her late husband and four kids, she wanted to find a safe neighborhood where she could nurture her family.
She and her husband managed to find one of the best neighborhoods in Tulsa, where they raised their kids to be the perfect children any parent could ask for. Sally had no idea what awaited her in the near future.
Like many women globally, Sally had lived most of her life scared of walking alone in empty streets, be it night or day. She’d heard enough stories about the terrible realities of the world and always prayed that none of it occurred to anyone she knew, her included.
Living in Tulsa, she’d always avoided going out alone, be it visiting a friend, going to church or work, taking her kids to school, or shopping. But that day, everything would change.
Sally was almost eighty when she broke her only rule when it came to leaving the house. She’d been living with her granddaughter, Skyler, who studied at the local university after her husband passed away a few years prior.
Sally’s kids, including Skyler’s parents, lived in California. Although Sally missed them, living with Skyler was perfect. The girl always knew how to keep Sally entertained while also running errands for her. But this dynamic wouldn’t last forever.
It was a hot Monday evening when Skyler came down with a nasty cold. She’d been taking care of Sally for three years now, and her condition meant a lot would be changing under their roof.
For starters, Sally could no longer send her on errands. Since Sally couldn’t drive anymore because of her advanced years, she knew that she’d have to use public transport if she were to go to the store.
Sally’s heart almost fell when she realized she’d need to go out by herself for the first time since moving to Tulsa. When she and her husband moved here, they’d found a quiet and serene place to live.
But most other neighborhoods beyond their fences didn’t enjoy this luxury. There was another issue that made everything even more daunting..
As the years passed, crime rates increased all over the country. Although Sally tried not to think about it now, she knew the world was more dangerous than ever.
While she nursed her granddaughter, she kept an eye on her groceries to see if she’d have to go to the store soon. She hoped the situation wouldn’t force her to leave their house.
It was Tuesday morning when the inevitable happened. Although the kitchen fridge and pantry were still full, Skyler’s situation would force Sally to face her fear of venturing into the wild.
Sally woke up to a coughing Skyler. Her granddaughter’s fever had hiked, and the girl had also lost her appetite despite having eaten nothing the previous night. Sally knew she’d have to go to the pharmacy soon.
The pharmacy that Sally’s family had frequented for the last two decades was on the outskirts of their city. Her granddaughter offered to go but Sally refused, stating she’d take a taxi to and fro, which would solve her problem of being alone on the streets trying to catch a bus.
The trip to the pharmacy was easy enough. After Sally bought the medicine she needed, she decided to hurry into the next-door store for some groceries so she wouldn’t make this trip again. This decision would change the way she viewed life itself.
Sally did her shopping and quickly hurried out of the store. But the taxi she’d come here with was no longer parked where she left it.
With her heart thumping, she decided to walk to the bus stop, which wasn’t that far from the parking lot. But as she struggled with her groceries out of the lot, she saw the man hurrying toward her.
He was taller than most men Sally had met in her long life, and his eyes glinted ominously under the burning sun. His lips curled, but that didn’t stop her pounding heart from dropping to her feet.
Sally’s first response was to run away, but what good would that have done? She could barely walk a mile without needing to take a breather. She turned fully to meet her fate, praying everything she’d feared since she was young was wrong.
Sally gulped air as the man stopped before her. He was even taller up close, but there was no malice in his eyes or the earnest smile he flashed at her.
He was also dressed in green fatigues that seemed to hint that he was a military airman. Sally took a deep breath, knowing she had to face this ordeal once and for all. What the man asked her would leave her speechless.
“Do you need help with your groceries, ma-am?” the man asked confidently as his smile widened. “I’m Ishmael,” he introduced himself, taking his airman cap off.
“Sally,” Sally stammered. Her heart was calming down by itself, and slowly, the dread that had built up within her was dissipating. What was happening?
The man grabbed her groceries, surprising her when he effortlessly carried them in one hand. “I just came from a flight,” he said. “And I am drained. But I would be honored to drive you home, ma’am.”
He locked eyes with Sally again, his smile still holding fast. “I won’t take no for an answer,” he added, and Sally found herself nodding at his offer. “I would love a ride home, Ishmael,” she said.
The drive home was unlike many Sally had experienced. Ishmael told her that Oklahoma wouldn’t be what it was today without people like her. When they got home, he helped her carry everything into the house.
He even spent a few minutes with Skyler, telling her how she had the best grandma. Sally later found out that someone had recorded them in the parking lot, and their story was trending. She couldn’t care less about that but was glad that she’d had such an eye-opening experience by facing her fear.