When he told me to look at him, I managed to sneak a peek at his face—square, unshaven jaw, white crust in the corner of his grinning mouth. I wish I hadn’t looked.

He held up two fingers and slid his tongue in between. Up and down. In and out. His eyes bulged out like some wolfish cartoon character.

I winced and pushed past him to get my door open. As I climbed in, he chuckled and sauntered off.

I shivered, watching him walk away and listening to my heart pounding in my ears. All the joy of visiting my local bookstore had left me. Markie the marshmallow, the schoolyard taunt from years ago, came to mind. That was me—Markie the marshmallow, professional pushover.

Then as if my morning wasn’t weird enough, a young Asian girl stood at my passenger-side window. I hadn’t even seen her creep up. She had pale skin and wore a short haircut cropped sharply at her ears and a heavy, dead-straight fringe over her brows.

“Was he bothering you?” she asked, leaning down to the window.

I giggled, too much, too loudly. It came out like an inhuman warble. He was bothering me. More than that, he scared me. He hadn’t hurt me, but…he disturbed something within me—a whisper that blamed my femininity. It whispered that it was my fault he followed and harassed me.

But I couldn’t speak. Pride choked the words in my throat. It wouldn’t let me admit to a stranger that I let a pervert run roughshod over my self-esteem. In broad daylight. In the parking lot of a national bookstore chain.

“Are you going to call the police?” she asked, not waiting for an answer to her first question.

Face burning, I shook my head. “No, no. I’m all right.”

Her eyes narrowed and her lips tightened across her face. She stood up and reached into her messenger bag.

I fumbled my key into the ignition, eager to return to work before my lunch break ended, when she slid a business card into the slot of my window before walking away. I waited until she left (and until there didn’t appear to be any more people around) before I retrieved it.

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