I wake up with a jolt. I’m in a pitch-dark room with no windows. My head pounds heavy and slow. Like a heartbeat. Like a prison guard’s boots slamming against cinder-block floors. Like horror movie music. I lay in paralyzed silence for a moment. Like I’m procrastinating facing the dark reality that I’ve likely been kidnapped and am being held hostage in a lightless basement where I’ll stay until I die. Unless, of course, I get serendipitously rescued after six months. I envision the Safe Return™ to my family making national news. I see the headline: Adult Kidnapping Victim, Zara Barrie, Tearfully Reunites With Family. And suddenly I’m the face of adult kidnapping. It’s not what I had in mind for my life but I’ve always wanted to be the face of something, so I lean into it. I *finally* have a platform people will take seriously. When I candidly wrote about being sexually assaulted by a male bartender after slugging back more Sauvignon Blanc than my body could handle in a London pub—an editor at a top-tier publishing house rejected my book proposal because she was looking for “more serious stories about what women are up against.” I dare that editor to reject me after my stint as a missing person. I feel a fleeting moment of glee: I’m finally going to fulfill my dream of being an Oprah “SuperSoul” speaker. Right as I’m prepping for my first appearance on the Howard Stern Show—
Savannah’s voice booms into my ears: “There’s no way you’re making that flight, Z.” Her voice is the fog horn that alarms me back to earth.
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