Sarah sat in the grocery store and brooded. It wasn’t that cold out this past couple of days, and her patrols had been pretty easy. She’d been avoiding staying in the same spot for longer than a few hours at a time.

She had originally worried that the people who worked near where she sat, day in and day out, woudl recognize her and try to talk to her, interrupt her. She didn’t want to become the alaska equivalent to Norm on Cheers. She didn’t want anyone to know her name. She bought and wore clothes that were warm, but not things she’d ever wear herself. Bright pink down jackets, wild scarves, snow pants with floral print on them. Other times, she’d wear the drabbest, dirtiest, grossest looking clothes she could find. She always wore a hat, and sunglasses, whether it was sunny out or not. She kept her hair tucked up tight underneath the hats, deathly afraid of being recognized.

But no one ever said anything. Whether she was in the same spot in the same clothes or not. She was, in all practicality, invisible. Hiding in plain site.

Sarah watched the man at the chinese food counter. She shifted a bit in her chair, uneasy at being indoors after being outside for so long today. She was still in her “costume,” and kept the sunglasses on. It was easier to watch people this way, see who was gonna hurt whom.

The guy at the food counter wore baggy saggy jeans, at least five sizes too big. He wore a huge oversized sports jersey, had corn-row hair underneath a nylon cap. She could see the neat little rows of hair underneath the sheer fabric of his nylon cap. As she looked, he reached up and scratched between the hair, in the naked scalp row. He was good looking, black, and ordering chinese food.

Sarah stopped watching him and looked down at the table top. She was getting tired of not finding rapists.

When she had started, she was full of righteous rage. She was ready to hurt any and every man who treated women that way. But she wasn’t finding them. So she had begun to notice the rest of the world around her. Drunken homeless men and women who needed to find the shelter. Crazy people who needed help across the street. Kids barely out of middle school who were out looking to score money for drugs by turning quick cold tricks in the back alleys of downtown Anchorage. Old women tourists who could barely walk needing someone to get them back indoors before the cold bit too deeply into their many layers of expensive clothing, their wild turtle eyes casting around for doorways or assistants who were suddenly, inexplicably gone.

In short, she had become a boy scout. Helping little old ladies across the street and saving drunk idiots from themselves when they walked in front of equally idiotic drivers. WHen she moved fast enough, it was if she disappeared. She was careful to move quickly from her sitting spot to the troubled youth or homeless lady and then again once she dropped them where they needed to go. Made her feel like a taxi.

The rage was still there, but it smoldered, rather than burned. It was getting colder, and smaller, like an ember in the snow of her heart. The longer it took to see and find the rapists, the less she felt ready to confront them. The more she heard Peter’s voice in her head, telling her to be careful, slow down, treat people fairly.

She’d been to see him twice a day since she’d left him at the ER. They wouldn’t give her any information, but she was there for visiting hours, regardless. They couldn’t stop her from doing that. He was still unconscious, still breathing, still representing an ache in her heart that she didn’t even realize was there. Visiting him made her feel worse each time. She took more and more responsibility for his current state that it was physically repellant to walk into the room where he lay. He was developing bed sores, even though she’d seen the nurses turn him during some visiting hours. She told them that she was a health aide, but they of course would hear none of it. Treated her like a girlfriend. Even that stung, since she knew she hadn’t ever returned Peter’s caring generosity. Still, she showed up. Every day. No matter what. It hurt to do, but she needed it as well.

(24,000 words)

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