34 - State lines and 726.4 kilometres still won't save you.

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I could still feel a dull pain in my chest, but my body relaxed the longer I sat there breathing and focusing deeply on every one my senses. I hadn't felt so out of control in a very long time and could confidently say I didn't miss it at all. I kept my eyes closed a little while longer, still instinctually toying with my necklace, before I felt calm enough to open my eyes again. Karen was still standing by the open window, so my first sight upon opening my eyes was of the painting that otherwise would have been half hidden behind her head were she still sitting in her chair.

"Where did you get that painting?" I asked her when I found my voice again, still staring intently at the beautifully oiled canvas on the wall. It would have been easier it were ugly as hell so I wasn't subconsciously forced to keep looking back at it over and over. But it wasn't. It was beautiful.

"I bought it from a young, local artist at a farmer's market in . . ." She paused before finishing her sentence and looked over at the painting when it dawned on her what I saw and why I reacted in the way I did. "In a small town in the Adelaide hills, when I was on holiday there last summer," she concluded knowingly.

I knew the answer before she even answered. Truthfully, I didn't need to ask it at all. I'd recognise that style and brushstroke anywhere. I had looked at it constantly for a year and a half of my life.

Karen dragged her chair away from the wall and brought it next to mine, and we both sat there just staring at it for a few minutes. "I'm surprised I never thought to connect it and you together, even after everything you told me about him," said Karen.

I laughed, grateful that I now had enough oxygen in my lungs in order to do so. "You mean completely implausible coincidence isn't something that regularly occurs in your life, too?"

Karen laughed. "Well, not to this outlandish extent, no. Especially ones that span decades and almost a thousand kilometres."

"Apparently all the time and distance known to mankind isn't enough to separate me from everything that happened with him," I said, defeated.

I thought I was good. I thought I had finally made my peace with Camden. He had read my message and even wrote me one back, apologising for everything repeatedly and wishing that he could take it all back. He had been haunted by it all, too, and was grateful that I was brave enough to reach out to him because he had wanted to do it himself for so long but didn't think it would be appropriate given how things ended between us. It felt good. I felt we could both move forward. But now I know I'm never going to be rid of him. He's always going to be there.

"The goal isn't to separate yourself from what happened, Sadie. You know that's never going to be possible. No one can eliminate their past, and it's always a dangerous minefield to even attempt to navigate. It's a part of you. It always will be. But it doesn't always have to mean what it used to. You can choose now. You can choose for it to be something terrible that holds you back from growing into the best version of yourself possible. Or you can choose it to be something terrible that happened, which has strengthened you into the wonderful young woman you are today and I'm sure will continue to be long into the future."

Is it really that simple? To just accept everything and move on?

No, it's not; but maybe with enough practice I'll get a little better at it.

"I know, Karen," I said with a sigh. "I'm okay, and I do know that. And I even think I'm almost at that point, or at least I though I was when I messaged him anyway. That thing there was just really unexpected is all."

Unexpected didn't quite cover it, of course. It scared the living shit out of me, and made me feel like he had been watching me the entire time I had been talking to Karen about him. Like he'd created some secret portal between the two of us where he could just peek in on my life whenever he sensed me in a vulnerable position, like in a fucking counselling office.

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