It started out as a nice quiet Wednesday morning in the small town of Davidson, South Carolina—perhaps because everyone was hard at work. The autumn weather of 1995 was rather strange and thus, the day before Thanksgiving had many townspeople dressed in their summer best.

Alyssa Danielle Diaz had just arrived, by plane, from New York—though, when Alyssa spoke to her mother on the phone the night before, she had claimed she would not be able to make it to Davidson for Thanksgiving. She chose to keep her attendance a surprise because, as far as she was concerned, her presence was the best surprise that anyone could ever receive. She had a celebrity mentality.

Alyssa had missed the last two Thanksgivings with her family because she was in a relationship with a guy who proved to be useless—but he was long gone the second that she discovered his uselessness.

Unaware of the abnormal heat, Alyssa wore the thick, brown-and-white mink coat that she had inherited from her maternal grandmother after her passing in ‘89. She inherited her grandmother’s entire closet because, as a child, Alyssa’s quality time with her grandmother was spent playing dress up; the mink coat was, by far, her favorite piece. Each time that she slipped it on, she felt like the movie star that she was born to be.

Instead of taking the taxi straight to her childhood home, where her parents and two younger brothers were likely eating her father’s famous banana and blueberry pancakes for breakfast – because her parents were both schoolteachers who had an extra day of vacation – she asked her driver to take her to the bank so that she could cash her check before it closed for the holiday weekend. (She didn’t want to miss out on all the post-Thanksgiving sales.) She thought it would be best to arrive after breakfast anyhow, because otherwise she would not be able to resist a short stack of her father’s delicious pancakes. She needed to be in tip-top shape for her big Hollywood film audition in Los Angeles that was just one week after the holiday. What a cruel joke it was to hold an audition a week after Thanksgiving.

The taxi parked along the side of the bank, not far from the front door, and Alyssa leaned forward to tell the driver in her sexiest Marilyn Monroe imitation, “I’ll be right back. This should only take a second. You can keep the meter running if you must,” then she blew him a kiss and gave him a wink. She hoped that her luscious cherry-red lipstick would convince the old driver to turn the meter off.

She left her luggage in the car, bringing only her oversized purse with a long strap and her prized mink coat. The air-conditioned taxi cab disguised Davidson’s treacherous heat, but once she stepped her vintage, beige, close-toed stilettos out of the car and onto the concrete, she felt as if she were walking right into the oven with her mother’s signature honey-glazed turkey. She told herself that she could have just one thin slice of white meat, but absolutely none of Aunt Vicky’s brown sugar yams.

Her heels click-clacked, click-clacked as they hit the pavement and she hustled in through the heavy wooden doors. She imagined that they led to a Hollywood movie premiere and that everyone was waiting for her entrance, cameras flashing.

Click-clack, click-clack. She pushed her way through another set of doors, opaque white glass. As Alyssa strutted through the entrance, she saw half of a dozen people lying on the floor and a middle-aged woman sobbing, holding a young boy who was screaming with fear. The mother tried to hush the boy, but that only intensified his cries. Alyssa turned on her heels, hoping to run back through the opaque door, but a man—dressed in all black, from head to clunky steel-toed boots—stood in her way, with a gun only inches from her nose. Alyssa threw her hands up, dropping her purse to the floor, and squeezed her eyes shut. This was not the kind of movie she had in mind.

Seconds later, Alyssa’s heartbeat grew so loud and demanding that it was all that she could hear, feel and taste. Even the screaming mother and crying boy had gone mute. The masked man turned his gun sideways, and though Alyssa could not hear him, she knew that he was talking because she could see a piece of his black ski mask moving. She tried to focus on what the man was saying—not because he deserved her respect, but because she didn’t want to die. She was about to make her big Hollywood break; she had a good feeling about this one.

“Kiss the floor, Hollywood. Face down!” the masked man shouted as he pointed his gun at her. Alyssa did not say a word. She could not find a single word in the English language that seemed like the right thing to say. With her hands still up in the air, Alyssa slowly bent her knees until she was kneeling in front of the man, then she put her hands on either side of her bag, lowering down until the big beige purse became a perfect pillow for her confused head. She closed her eyes once more.

The man stepped on the arm of Alyssa’s mink coat, just missing her skin, but ripping some of the fur out with his heavy boot. Alyssa’s fear instantly turned into rage. Then she began thinking about her grandmother—what would grandma do? Alyssa was suddenly able to smell her grandmother’s floral perfume and picture her cherry-red lipstick. She remembered all the times that her grandma would pick her up from school in her old beige Cadillac and they would run errands together, starting at that very bank. They went so often that the teller knew to always save a cherry lollipop just for Alyssa. She always chose that flavor, so that her lips would match her grandmother’s lipstick. Her grandmother was suave and chic, but she was a badass at heart. She would know what to do if she were caught in the middle of a bank robbery.

A familiar sound brought her back to that present moment, lying on the cold tile floor in the bank. It was Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer,” playing softly through the speakers on the ceiling, her grandmother’s very favorite song. Her grandmother never had an office job or a 9-5; she spent her life as a dancer. She was the only person in Alyssa’s family who supported Alyssa’s choice to enter the world of arts.

With all of the memories of her lost grandmother, a ripped mink coat and the fear of being in a hostage situation, she began to cry. At first it was a dainty, delicate cry, like Marilyn would cry in her films, until it wasn’t. Alyssa could no longer hold the act or hide her fear and rage. She began sobbing a monstrous boggery cry, just like the small boy on the other side of the bank. Then—over Elton’s voice, her loud tears and the boy’s tears—she heard the ugly, clunky steel-toed boots walk closer. And closer.

“Shut your mouth Hollywood, or else I’ll shut it for you,” the man roared. He was standing only inches from her head. The teller came out from behind the counter carrying a duffle bag that had money stacked all the way to the top. The man with the ugly, clunky steel-toed boots took another large step on Alyssa’s grandmother’s mink coat, tearing out more fur.

Completely enraged, Alyssa threw her purse’s long strap around the man’s shins as he turned to retrieve the duffel bag. Alyssa pulled the strap and knocked the man to the floor. His face hit the ground and a small pool of blood began to pour from his mouth. The gun slid across the room—directly to the teller’s feet.

Alyssa stood up, holding the purse strap tight as it held the man’s ugly, clunky, steel-toed boots together.

“This was my grandmother’s coat,” Alyssa barked as she stood over the injured man, feeling all of his power coursing through her veins. Alyssa found the courage to channel her badass grandmother and did exactly what she probably would have done had she been in that same situation.

The teller threw the duffel bag full of money back over the counter, picked up the gun with two hands and approached the man on the floor. He pointed the gun to the man’s bloodied face as all of the other hostages stood up from the floor. One man ran over to the phone to call the police.

The opaque doors swung open and the taxi driver stepped inside with a face of impatience quickly turning to an expression of shock.

“Sorry for the hold-up, it was busier in here than I thought,” Alyssa said to the driver as the tugged her purse strap tighter. The man was too injured to move and only laid there whimpering with his eyes closed.

The police arrived only a few minutes later and after some questioning, Alyssa headed back to the taxi cab—click-clack, click-clack—and thought, “Maybe one pancake wouldn’t hurt.”