The winter of 48. (Chapter #)
Another week and Sarah has become comfortable walking the side streets and back alleys in her area. Car within distance of sight and things within car to sell to simply get through the day.
It’s expensive being poor.
So much time wasted on foraging for the bare necessities. Yes – cigarettes are still among these – She’s beginning to see them as a full on drug now and here is why.
It began on a Sunday. Second hand stores closed and no coffee, cigarettes and, more importantly, toasted cheese sandwiches and doughnut Sunday for her child. Bread and cheese to feed her child and goddamned coffee for the adult as the bare minimum at least. As if it’s not hard enough to face another day of this seemingly endless struggle. The depression has set in. It’s been rough. Sarah is worn down and every day feels like survival for just the basics. In between trying to be a present happy mama, a functional web developer person and her own lawyer for the ongoing insanity, initiated by the toxic ex, that she is now refusing to let slide on principle alone.
It’s tough. But no coffee? Okay. It’s not coffee anyway at this stage. It’s something blended with Chicory – but fuck! It’s something. Milk has been abandoned completely now. Honey exchanged for the cheap white sugar. Sarah is descending from easy, middle class into poverty and nicotine-addicted desperation. It’s an experience for a gal who was raised with privilege and material comfort, I tell ya.
Yes. This is what it’s been like for Sarah for the last few weeks now. Beginning with that Sunday. She threw the iPad into the car and began to drive around. She had been wanting to smash it forever and some weeks and days to be honest. It had been her son’s primary caregiver while she had worked insane hours to survive in his early years. And there were consequences. These and the fact that the guilt over the years had both eaten her away and had also made her easy to control. She hated the thing. Planned a YouTube video with an online smashing to make a point. Good thing she had never got there as today she will find two cool guys down the road who will take it for a hundred bucks and feed them for a day.
Not so fun.
But also really funny at times when she could step back and watch her daily meanderings and flat out full tilt runs objectively. When she could. She needed that now more than ever. Her offbeat sense of humour was keeping her going. The fact that things are were this bad. And this crazy. But the fact that it was not her craziness after all was moving her forward now. Mostly shock and disbelief on the faces of those that heard it first hand. But after a few more weeks of heading down to the guys who bought the iPad, to give them first dibs on what was being sold next, they could see that she was not even remotely kidding as she filled them in on the latest developments.
Today one of them had loaned her ten bucks for photocopies for court. She was in the army now. This was a battle long overdue and far too important a fight to easily surrender.
So some real life experience. The front line. And she did kinda like the front line. It made her feel alive again. Even though she was scared that she may might be dying some days and would not get things right in time to address her health.
The offer of a good crystal.
From a dealer in exchange for a gas canister the following week. He looked both confused and disappointed when she told him that she was a sober person and to just give her the cash. I’m sure she said please. Sarah is like that. To be fair she looked confused when he said “crystal”. (Sarah never did the hard stuff). Tik, he explained shortly when she frowned slightly with her head quizzically to one side. That was when the conversation on recovery began. She started an honest 12th step but he wasn’t much interested and gave her less than fifty bucks for the canister.
Sarah thought that she was ripped off as she walked away shoving the bill into her jean’s pocket.
She was more firm with the cell phone the following day. Stood haggling with the big, good looking but uber surly one. He blew her off eventually. But her years of trading markets had kicked in by the time the next guy approached and Sarah was on her game. They threw around numbers. Life stories. Reasoning for different prices. He laughed at her. She laughed at him. She refused to negotiate on the price. Perhaps she was still pissy about the gas canister. But a part of her thought that she may need the phone if she ever did get to start her new, desired, vocation. She left with the phone in her backpack and both of them smiling.
It took less than two days to get comfortable selling the stuff that she didn’t need to dealers down back alleys. The things that can’t be sold online and the ones that you don’t find in the second-hand stores. I guess it’s because she had lived an adventurous life, sincerely trying not to judge people, and it took a fuck ton to shock her after what she had seen in the world. She was laughing at herself walking back towards the courts. This was why she was so messed up financially, at this point, by the way.
It was not because she was not working in between all of this (despite the public and ongoing claims of the oppressor throughout this last and first stand). She was working full tilt when she could. In between being a decent parent and her “case”. Still at her desk. Running in between the insanity that had been her life for the last 6 months now and the things that actually matter most. And yes. She did want to step away from the web development business that she had built on the fly over the last ten years. Long hours at the machine. Lots of smoking and too many long, late nights – and weekends away from her children. The latter, especially, made her loathe it now. This the most in fact. Overdoses of coffee and cigarettes went with the territory. And she couldn’t seem to kick it right now. She wanted to. She wanted to move into recovery and people. And to a life that was healthier and had more time for the things that mattered.
She had been close. Coaching course booked already and solid connections made. But then crazy fucking exes and her fantastically sterling life choices and top of the class co-dependence. So here she was now. In the side streets. Fighting severe and crippling depression in between short burst of fury that at least enabled her to take a bit of action and do the next thing that needed to be done to move this all forward to some kind of conclusion.
She had been fighting the oppressor in the so-called social and justice system, on her own, while he used lawyers to do his admin and dirty work. Mostly the money wins the case, by the way. Short term anyway. Most would give up. Sarah would not. She returned. Day after day. Taking in more evidence for them to file. Writing more emails to ask relevant questions – usually unanswered. Adding more affidavits to cases to make sure that things didn’t simply get swept under the rug – which they were. Day after day. To talk to more people. Show them the truth of it. It took so much time to do this. There are so many people. Trying to get help. Days lost in the public system. Days. Billable days. She had already working overtime before this situation to survive. Now this. It was inevitable. Financial ruin. She had expected it. And here it was.
The process was frustrating. Exhausting. Interminably long. The depression had begun to set in some time ago. The ongoing stress. The physical exhaustion. The not being heard or believed. The isolation of the experience. The injustice of it all. Her lover and best friend now eradicated smoothly. Little support from those she had mistakenly thought of as friends. Brutal lessons. People she had grown up with. The result of the smear campaign created to discredit her. Lonely and alone. But there was no way but forward. Backward had been tempting at times. To go back and just have some semblance of “peace”. But it was never peace. It was ongoing struggle and anxiety. Daily hurt. Watching her son fear for her health and the hours that she was working. The gradual wearing down of happiness and joy – and the murder of hope and dreams.
Sarah could not go back to that. And so she had continued to fight. But there were half days of just lying still and resting now. And then a bout of rage that got her up and going for the next bit. Or – she needed fucking cigarettes so she simply had to try and be there for work or sell something if an invoice was not due in time to cover the next day’s “essentials”.
She had pulled this off for weeks without her son noticing much. That’s ten year’s experience for you. But her son had begun to notice the financial situation. He couldn’t miss it. Because while he had all his fruit and vegetables, and the lion’s share of the food, she could no longer afford the treats in between or the outings and ice-creams that he had come to think of as a normal part of his days and weekends. This was probably good for him in some way too, she thought. The awareness of consumerism and a lesson in what is most important and how little a person needs to still have fun and be happy.
Sarah had been told that she was resourceful. But now she believed it. Because free donuts if you get petrol at a station near you at certain times. Free playgrounds at parks to have play dates so things aren’t inevitably awkward around hosting. Finding cafes with one rand packets of biscuits for a special school lunch treat. Homemade popcorn that always goes down as a treat. Yes. It’s like that right now. But it wouldn’t be like this forever. So she could do this for now.
Still fucking scary at times. She was afraid. A lot. I won’t lie. Running out of electricity without being able to top up just before cooking dinner on a school night is stressful. But by now people were beginning to see the situation more clearly and there was help, here and there, of food and bridging finance. Some moments she felt like such a fucking failure. To be in this position at her ripe old age. Handouts and acceptance. She would never have considered asking before. Not for finances. But that was fading now. She had never believed that money was the shit. Nor that it should buy people the respect that it does. Now she had to walk the walk. It was still hard though, even though she had never held it in much esteem. It was hard. But she had gotten to the point where she could walk with empty pockets and shoulders upright. And she had gotten to the point where she didn’t even feel anxious or stressed out, much, when a situation occurred. She simply looked for a solution, stayed calm as fuck, and kept on going. And that is a damned fine place to be.
Fury and action, depression and exhaustion.
Up and down. Up and down. A roller coaster ride that didn’t look like it was going to stop for the next bit. Some days forever. Sad – angry. Scared – exhilarated. It was real life experience, I tell you. But – she was becoming. Experiential learning. What she did best. All of us, perhaps.
She was learning. She was learning a lot. I mean a fucking lot. Like there is massive growth happening here for me stuff. She could feel it happening. Every time she took another step forward to fight the good fight. Every time she faced a fear head-on and stood her ground. It was the first time she had done it for herself. Always for someone else. Never for herself. But now she was beginning to take care of herself for the first time ever. Having to learn this the hard way. And it was way, way, past due, let me tell you. For the first time she was beginning to move towards what she wanted. She had spent so long taking care of other people that she didn’t even know for sure what that was – yet. But it sure as hell felt like every day, that she got through another day on her own, she was moving towards it somehow. She was healing in some bizarre way. Simply by saying – “no more”.
So yes – she was still working in between. When she could. But hours. Each one billable. And most now spent on additional admin for her case (s) while he used his lawyer’s time and resources. Writings and meetings and official stamps and queues each time he lied or misdirected (which was a fuck ton to be sure). Three cases no less because he kept breaking the law in plain sight of the law and, this time, she was actually finally holding him accountable. Her records of this behaviour and a resolute refusal from him to mediate to end this bullshit went back 4 years. The behaviour of an outlaw. But, alas, not the cool, Tom Robbins kind.
She had never “had the time” to take a stand. Translate – she had never had the time as she was doing the majority of the child care and covering other people’s financial responsibilities – always in crisis mode. Never time for self-care. That is a part of how this type of “abuse” works. To keep you on the back foot. Survival mode. Struggling. Admin. Drama. Sabotage. Self-doubt. Isolation. Chaos. Confusion. Exhaustion. And – ultimately – weakness because of it all. And shame. Shame and guilt that there is something wrong with you and that this is, somehow, all your own fault and you somehow deserve it.
And now it could cost her her life. She was running out of time to get this right. The Emphysema had progressed. And this was also a part of the “depression” that crept in – the despair. The fear that it was too late. The worry about her children if she didn’t get this sorted out soon and that she would end up “going” early.
Mediation – what’s the point when someone won’t even stick to the agreements? A legal divorce plan. A consent form. All points broken on both. A new agreement totally fabricated and her held responsible for breaking it for two years. That was the insanity. Enough to drive anyone mad. She had been naive to think it would change. Had buried her head in the Nile of Denial for years. And now it could cost her big time. So the pressure was on. She had finally seen the light. The truth had been revealed.
So yes – working in between still. And smoking with the work. And the system doesn’t work. There. I said it.
She was determined. She had been sick and had been unable to afford medical care. And by unable to afford I mean not even the hundred odd bucks for a government hospital – god knows she was used to the queues by now. But work. And kids. And selling shit for food. That takes time. She still would have gone though. Ten days. Something bacterial. Gut. But not even a government hospital fuck broke. That was fucking depressing, I tell you. So many patients, so little time. She got thin though. Fast. Baggy thin. Not so sexy. Yes, you can get too thin. A contradiction to the stupid quote that had rung through the privileged gong circles that she had run – around – in (pun intended) for so many wasted years. But still she refused to give up this fight. Because she chose peace now and this was the path that lead to that. That and freedom. And health. And her people. And life.
She was hungry. Scared. Alone. But people were beginning to see the truth. The deterioration of her physical health and material wealth. The struggle and pain beneath it. Because she was getting honest at last. Not hiding out and pretending everything was okay because she was ashamed – not anymore. It had taken time for them to see though. The behaviour. It’s that covert. It’s that subtle. It’s that well played. And let me tell you this as well. Not ONE “professional” had seen it. Even after they were warned. They had been convinced and blinded and schmoozed. Contacts had been used. Claims of “crazy” made against her continually. “Diagnosis” varied on days and in company again and again – depending on who the opressor was briefing at any given time.
Same same. Each time. When she had asked the relevant questions repeatedly and insistently over and over again for a few weeks – refusing to back down and behaving like a crazy bitch, almost, to confirm his claims (polite women are sane, apparently, and those that refuse to submit to authority, clearly, are not) – mostly they had backed away quietly when they had seen what was really happening and how they had dropped the ball professionally. You have to be a total nightmare to do this when your opponent is adept at lying and coercing and a system is built on good intentions, low on resources and no follow through. You have to go against all your “good girls’ (or boys’) don’t make a scene” conditioning and get loud and pushy. Demanding. Threatening. Follow up with the higher powers of departments and government. Fuck – she had written to the mayor’s office – twice! (A case opened with the Department of Social Development and then … nothing). You have to push back fucking hard or you will get lost in the system with something that is this undercover and subtle. They simply do not have the time for the admin that a case like this entails. Nor the training. Nobody does unless you have lived up-close with a personality that operates like this. It takes experiential learning to really understand how this works. Psychology books and the DSM really don’t cut it. Anybody who has survived this kind of relationship will say the same.
Plus – the man is automatically believed. The woman is not. There. I said it. Again. It had taken almost a year for Sarah to cotton on to this simple, but entirely true, fact. Many discussions with fellow travelers in the halls of justice. Many sad stories. Her’s was far from unique as it turned out. Another too long cotton on. Another too much water under so many burnt bridges. A statement from a child who claimed she had told him that the truth would come out eventually. Another regret for a childhood lost too soon. Another year gone for them all.
In addition. If you’re still concerned with people liking you. or are not prepared to go through the physical, psychological, emotional and financial stress of a battle like this, with nobody believing you for the first good bit – and hungry and sick some days to boot – you will give up. It’s just too damned hard. Plus the “triggers” – the whole ordeal will lay on another layer of what should be peeling off to move on. Retraumatized by the system. Triggered daily by the ongoing necessity of engagement with the abuser. Not a fighter by nature. For most it is an easier alternative to just take the beating and rely on hope and a decent dose of dissociation to get you through the day. Or whatever gets you through the day.
It was the fact that he went for someone that she loved that had finally made her step up. She was a co-dependent. Yes. I think you can figure this one out on your own. Throwing their son into the lion’s den to get his way was the final straw and the big wake up call.
Still – let me tell you this too. Even though her anxiety had all but disappeared since she had realised that this was not actually her “insanity” at all and begun to fight back … each time there was a necessary meeting and an inevitable lie and she had to go back and dig up old emails as evidence – it was like reopening a deep, deep wound. She had paced around her house in fury in the middle of the night re-reading old emails while doing necessary admin after hours and ranting to herself at the entitled and unfair behaviour. It brought back all of the memories that went with it. Things she had tried so hard to forget. But more. She had cried deeply at the fact that she had allowed this to continue for so very, very long. So if you want to go down this path – be prepared to have to relive it as well. That is a very difficult part of it. And your abuser is going to provoke you every step of the way to boot. And the system is, probably, going to allow this and, in some instances, assist them.
It was an ongoing struggle. Six months in now. A court case date delayed. An investigation dropped. And an investigation reinstated after threats of media. A fight. A fight. A fight. She was a lover. Not a fighter. As all good co-dependents are. Bent on keep the peace and not rocking the boat. A system that doesn’t have the time or resources to do much collateral investigation. To read emails. Or to even remember a conversation from a couple of weeks before.
“I see so many people,” said the Maintenance Prosecutor the day that she finally got to see her. The Prosecutor had made time for her when she had just pitched up – they are good like that, to be fair.
The ex-husband had said, in an email no less, that said Prosecutor had told him to break a legal agreement. At this Ms Prosecutor did look confused and shook her head saying she didn’t think she would say that. Good Lord! Sarah shook her head, smiling slightly, agreeing that a Public Prosecutor probably wouldn’t have advised that. When Sarah asked her if she had read any of the emails that she had sent the woman simply looked slightly embarrassed and said, “There are so many emails.” Not all Sarah’s to be clear. Sarah had only sent 3 over the last month. None of them acknowledged or answered. Hence the drop in. Second criminal case for maintenance. More time spent at court trying to follow up. But the money was not even the point now – even though she was making acquaintances with crack dealers to survive intermittently. It was the principle. The boundaries. The broken agreements. The lying. The lack of accountability. The ending of the chaos and the drama of the ongoing broken agreements which had caused ongoing acrimony and worse – CONTACT – endlessly through having to negotiate, continually, forever. A never final divorce. Even though, on paper, it had been done with for years. Never done. Still not over. Because some people do not want it to be. Negative attention is better than no attention – to them.
This not going to end in the foreseeable future battle is the taking back of power after the constant belittling, sabotage and derailing. The false accusations. The constant lying. It was saying, “No more!” It was saying, “Enough!”
The ex had offered her a quarter of what he owed her behind the scenes. A bit of cash to shut her up and to avoid court again. She needed that money to feed the kids that weekend. A website project had been more complicated than planned. Invoicing was late. Time was wasted on court visits in between. Again. Are you getting how this works yet? She said no. This is not about the money. She wanted her life back. And that meant him not making the rules up to suit himself as he went anymore.
Six months of this now. And she was fucking tired.
On the positive side.
Her son is much happier now that she no longer suffered from “anxiety”.
Her fear of financial insecurity had all but left her and she no longer had any shame in being broke. She was proud of her horrific toenails (couldn’t get the gellish off from April – first world problems) and she wore her torn jacket with some pride. It was her armour. Her reminder of the truth. Her uniform. She was in battle. Don’t sweat the small stuff. And she was getting strong and independent in a way that scared her some days. Her fear, now, was that she would remain disillusioned permanently. And jaded. This after seeing that sometimes the truth and justice does not prevail. And that “justice” is so much more about dishonesty, money and time.
But you can not hide the truth forever. This is why she would not give up.
She had been shown that blood really was thicker than water in her inner circle and family. And by random strangers too. Gifts appeared without her asking much. Food left on a counter. A loan offered with no expectation of repayment until she was able to do it. A random text message to send strength, love and support. An offer to lay the person down – just kidding.
But let me tell you this.
If you are an uneducated person with few resources and are still in the environment where the abuse is happening and are getting the psychological and emotional shit kicked out of you daily … there is no fucking way you are going to get out with the way things stand currently in our government system. No way. Not without outside intervention from a private or very generous person. So if no funds as well? Well. You’re pretty much fucked.
Sarah found Chris one day on her meanderings trying to get photocopies and sell stuff before court. She stopped for a chat and a share. Laughing at the fact that she was as broke as him now. Chris is an addict on the street that Sarah had been trying to help for some time. This day Sarah bummed a cigarette off him for a change. He was thrilled to be able to share and be of some help. He gave her some tips on prices and what she could sell, and what was useless, rooting through the stuff in the boot of her car. Anyone want an old printer? She left him shooting up in the car park as she headed home to get some work hours in before she had to fetch her son from school. Yes. Today Chris helped Sarah. As it goes.
Humility. Probably the biggest gift of all.
Sarah met Monica, during this time, when her credit card bounced at the local garage one morning. She had known it would but she was not even embarrassed when it did anymore, so she gave it a try. She explained why it was so as they gave the card a bash. The guy behind commented that at least she could still laugh. Monica. Working the cash register at the local garage. She pulled a R20 rand note out of her own jacket pocket and put it into the till and gave Sarah a half pack of cigarettes. Sarah was blown away. “Wait,” she told her. She ran to the car and dug the economy heater out of the boot and gifted it to Monica. She wanted to repay the kindness and also she still had some trouble asking for help and receiving it as well. Plus she thought that the guy behind her was a dumb ass not to offer. She would have offered without a second thought. But that’s her being judgey again. She really tries not do that. Still. A quick lesson in Ubuntu for him. He did look a bit sullen when she handed Monica the heater. Monica came around the counter and hugged Sarah and shared with her that she was in a similar situation. She told Sarah to be strong. Sarah told her she needed to do what she was doing and fight and get out. Moments. Truth. Honesty. Connection.
Sarah went back to pay Monica back the twenty when she sold something later that day but Monica told her to keep it until things got better. We need more humans like Monica on the planet, I think. When things get better Sarah was going to pay her back a hundred. Things didn’t get better fast enough to pay back a hundred and the weight of worry about someone who was also struggling was too heavy for Sarah over time. So Sarah went back for a third time and insisted Monica take back the twenty in the end.
Sarah also went back to the fruit guy who had loaned her the ten bucks for photo copies. He was surprised and delighted. She bought some fruit from him for breakfast one day. Is this not how we are supposed to be supporting each other? Why has the world become so afraid? I guess it is the fear of judgment. That is not good for genuine connection at all.
Sarah had been viciously judged. She had, through this, reached a gift in her recovery of no longer giving two fucks about what people thought of her. This is something that one works for in recovery for a very long time and probably never really gets right. Most of us are people-pleasers. Co-dependents. Empaths. Givers. In this, so-called, modern society where ego and narcissism is considered a successful approach to the world, we get eaten alive. She received this “blessing” in the last bit by sharing openly and by inevitably being judged fucking harshly.
She had initially withdrawn, in shame and defeat, but over time she had begun to appreciate her solitude in an entirely new way. She had become so much more self-sufficient with regard to finding happiness within herself, regardless of external circumstances, and in the simple things around her. Digging deep for the gratitude list and maintaining eye contact with the people that she could see were awkward and uncomfortable with this massive step away from social norms and etiquette.
The people who not only didn’t mind but who had reached out to support and encourage. Nothing could replace that. She had had to let the rest of the misunderstanding and judgment go to find internal peace again. To walk away from the social hierarchy and to really, finally, believe in the things that mattered to her personally – even though they made her an outcast from The Tribe in so very many ways.
Safety net removed.
Not giving two fucks?
That is an enormous gift.
It was hard walking through the fire to receive it. But what a gift! The lesson here (stolen from a smarter fellow traveler than her and not fully understood until this experience) – is that it is pointless trying to explain yourself to people. Or to defend yourself to people who misunderstand you if they are not ready to actively listen to your experience. People will believe what they want to believe. It’s got little to do with you at the end of the day. It had taken her some time to accept this in full. How liberating when she finally “got it”.
She had tried to sell the fruit guy a super old toy of her son’s that had been left in a linen cupboard for the last year untouched. It’s a good thing he didn’t want it and just spotted her the ten bucks because it was in her bag when she had sat for 2 hours waiting to see the Maintenance Prosecutor. The stories in those halls. The pain. The desperation. Sarah would strike up conversations to hear these stories and to share hers. So we learn and share resources and tools. Support and hope. This is what recovery was about for her. This is why she shared. And this is how we learn and heal. She had taken it to the streets. Madness on all counts by society’s golden rules with regards to polite conversation and some folk did run screaming for the hills. But most did not. Because most people are, in fact, fighting unseen battles that we know nothing about. True shitty Facebook quote.
There was a young mother in the queue next to her while she was waiting. One year old banging around in the passage and getting tired and whiny. Who wouldn’t? The toy produced from Sarah’s backpack gave the little one some entertainment for a while. Sarah flipped on the music button and the tot broke into a jig at the first note and giggled. We are supposed to be like that. Why do we stop dancing? Oh – I know. Children should not grow up in courtroom hallways.
That young mother returned to Sarah to ask, in tears, what she should do when they ran back into each other again downstairs in the Maintenance Clerk’s office. Wide-eyed. Tears rolling down her cheeks. Baby on shoulder now. Shoving a piece of paper under Sarah’s nose that she couldn’t read without digging around in her backpack for her reading glasses. Powerless. Step one. Sarah shook her head when the young mother cried, “He lied.” Of course he did, my girl. So young. So desperate. “Speak to the Clerk,” Sarah said as they were shuffled out of the building for the government lunch hour by a hardened, female, security guard. She must see this all day, thought Sarah.
Sarah felt for that young mother. She really did. But she too had become hardened to the lies and abuse of others in a system that just doesn’t work to protect the children that it has been put in place to do exactly that. She needed to stay detached for now – or completely fall apart.
She could ask for more help. But she also could not. Not of her people. They have given enough. She would not ask them to fight this battle for her. Nor to cushion her any longer from the consequences of her own decisions. This was her learning. Her fight. Her growing. And it made the truth easier to see. Because it was visible now. And she was okay with that too. She knew now. It wasn’t her fault. She was getting better. It was the struggle and personal responsibility that was ultimately healing her. As hard as this was.
This is a moment in time. This is was her time now.
Time was her most valuable resource right now.
Tick tock. Tick tock. No end in sight. Because people like her ex-husband do not change. They can’t. This bullshit behavior is in place to protect their own lack of self-love. Any personal accountability and the whole facade comes crashing down. She knew that now. They don’t play by the rules or function like the rest of us “normal” humans – whatever the fuck normal is. Would the slow turning cogs of the broken machine work fast enough for them all to find some peace, stability and health?
If not – Sarah was going to go the full distance. As an example to her children. As an example to others who were fighting the same battle and who may want to give up and sink back into despair. To further her own recovery, healing and growth. And on principle alone. For truth and justice. She was happy to fight this good fight. Her dad would have fucking cheered her on. Her people were now as well. And her people were growing.