She feels like a gnarled tree. She’s curled tight to protect herself for so long now that if someone were to say — and they haven’t, but if they did — that she were safe, she might find herself unable to straighten.

She thinks back to the seed that she buried long ago; a kernel of warmth and hope. She did what she could to keep it alive.

The wind carries comments from passers by: look, there’s a tree all twisted by knocks and storms, a survivor. This isn’t what she wants them to say; this was never what she wanted them to see.