She locks her doors, bolts her doors, goes so far as to think about moving a bookcase across the room in order to keep out the outside world.
Like a prison cell, the voice at the back of her mind taunts.
None of it matters. None of it matters anymore.
Her lawyer is a blue-suited man with disheveled hair and an overstuffed briefcase. But he's good, damn good, at what he does. She's looking at two years of mandatory weekly meetings, but she won't do jail time.
As she waits outside the courtroom for everything to be finalized, waits for her absolution before the judge, her hand buries itself inside her jacket pocket.
Over and over again, her fingers trace the outline of a paper crane.
She locks her doors and locks her windows and gets a new alarm system installed. In the morning, she wakes up and she puts her clothes on and she drives to work and she comes home and she goes to a meeting and she watches TV and she cries a little, only a little, and then she goes to bed again.
Her father hasn't called in six weeks.
Studies have shown that people suffering from a post-traumatic stress situation often begin to fear loud noises. With almost clinical efficiency, she turns the ringer off of her home phone and simply stops recharging her cell. Her heart pounds and her stomach turns icy every time she sees the "new message" light flashing on her screen, and she deletes messages with a quick touch of the button.
She sews stitches and sets bones and applies gauze and some deity is kind enough to keep the trembling in her fingers away until she is safely at home.
Every night, she knaws her lower lip until she tastes blood.
The days blend to weeks blend to months. She continues, she floats, she treads water. There are no hidden signs, no mysterious codes, no hastily left messages that she wouldn't listen to anyway.
Three months, one week, and two days after the last door she has ever left unlocked, an envelope arrives, mixed in with bills and statements and catalogues. There is no return address, the postmark is blurred.
Five words. Five words, block print, slightly off center in the middle of a plain white page.
She crumples the paper, calmly picks up her telephone, and when the person on the other end picks up Sara explains that someone in group has been making her uncomfortable, harassing her after the meetings. And, well, she doesn't want to get in trouble, but maybe she could switch locations.
In her dreams, the words swirl around in her head, mixed with the sound of clicking locks.
DON'T TRUST YOUR NEW FRIEND.
She begins seeing a therapist, who is actually pretty good, once they get all the bullshit out of the way. Dr. Sullivan listens and listens and listens, and after eight sessions, with crumpled tissues scattered on the table, something occurs to Sara.
"You haven't said anything."
"I've been talking. Every time, I've been sitting here and letting it all out and crying and... it's helped. It has. But I was wondering when you were going to give me advice."
Dr. Sullivan nods, slowly, runs the tip of her pen over the yellow legal pad resting on her lap.
Sara stares at her.
"Forgive. And start with yourself."
She drives home, measured breaths for every click of the odometer. She makes tea. She watches a new episode of House, and smiles a little bit. She emails her father.
She still locks her doors.
Fifty two weeks or three hundred sixty five days or twelve months. Time has passed and she has allowed herself to move with the current.
The hotel in Washington DC is majestic and luxurious and everything one would expect for the daughter of the vice president. She does not care if she is there solely for a photo op or for some good press or because some campaign manager told him that family is in this year.
It is good to be able to take a few days off from work. She walks the length of the Mall, climbs the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, admires the airplanes in the Smithsonian. She attends a meeting at a local church, and then walks back to her hotel in the fading sunlight.
The lobby has at least twenty hotel employees. Elevators are only activated by the swipe of a keycard. Diplomats, politicians, royalty sleep safely in these halls. And yet before she has even reached the door to her room, she knows that someone is waiting on the other side.
The keycard is in her hand, all she has to do is swipe and unlock the door.
She breathes in, she breathes out. Her other hand grips the handle and with a click she enters the room.
The darkness has enveloped the two of them for nearly five minutes. She is aware of her eyelashes feathering against her cheek. She is aware that there is less and less distance between them.
His fingertips are tracing her face like a blind man. Her eyelids, the curve of her jaw, the parting of her lips all come under the scrutiny of his touch. He comes to rest with his palms resting on either side of her collarbone. She feels the warmth of his breath on her hairline.
"Sara." His voice sounds like the word is forced out, pushed out, surged against a wall of emotion so great that it almost manifests before her eyes. She leans forward and presses her forehead into his chest, counting her breaths with the beat of his heart.
"I'm sorry." His breathing is ragged now, harsh against her ear. He presses his lips in chaste kisses allover her face, her neck, avoiding her lips. He whispers his apologies against the bridge of her nose, the hollow of her pulse point, the edge of her forehead where it meets her cheek. Her skin soaks up his penance, his words raining down upon the vast expanse of drought.
He pulls back slowly, and then leans forward deliberately to press his lips upon the very corner of her mouth. He tilts his head back by only a few millimeters, and when he speaks her name again, his voice flames the fire that burns on that corner of her lips, nearly making her tremble.
She runs her hands up and down his arms, searching for a resting point, for the perfect spot. She says it with her nails scraping the crisply starched edges of his shirt. She says it with her body, leaning into his embrace. She meets his eyes, and brings her lips up to meet the stubble bristling against his warm skin. Her words tattoo this small patch of clean skin.
"I forgive you."
She locks her doors.
She locks her doors, and in his pocket, he carries the key.