They shouldn't survive, and almost don't – tossed around inside that car like they're nothing but pebbles, loose shale and gravel, bodies fit for dust. But they're plucked from the car by rescue teams and 'copters, and when Louise hears the sirens, feels the hum of pavement beneath the ambulance's wheels, she has nothing left with which to protest the gesture, to insist they take her back, leave her spare and broken beneath that gorgeous sun.
It's days before she knows where she is, what they've done to her body save stitch it all to hell, before the drugs wear thin in enough to make her curse and let her weep. The nurses are kind – sweet, soft, hush-now women who flit in and out of the dreams she can hold, and they wipe her face, wash beneath her arms, squeeze her hand just enough to say they know it, they feel it. It's they who bring news of Thelma, two rooms down, mending just the same as Louise, silent and wasting, face turned toward the sky.
There are cops outside their rooms, predictable sentries, their pants deep-creased and a darkening blue. They mean to keep her in, to hold her against the fact of her rightness, to weigh down her truth with some DA's words. But none of them think of the other bruised bodies, the broken veins or the hearts half-torn, the women in the offices, the nurses who've seen, the lab techs and doctors, the volunteer corps. XX, matching chromosomes, a weaving of justice, and the nurses make forgetfulness with their quiet, lilting words; ease each cop past his wariness 'til he bends, 'til he shifts, 'til the doctors call conference on a dozen different phones, 'til the lab techs distract, 'til the volunteers set down their flowers and dispatch a car driven by their own.
Sometimes it feels too much to carry, the weight of being this woman, sunlight a blessing on her skin each morning while others mend what they can with friendships grown large and bank accounts too small. But she knows this freedom was given fully, that she represents something she can't reject. And if she sits here in the sand, wide blue sea before her, beer at her hip and Thelma's pulse beneath her hand, then there's hope, there's meaning, and she'll savor this life.