Galia

That morning, Galia tried to quiet her wobbling hand as she wrestled her teacup into its saucer. Maika was offering banitza, eggs, yogurt, bread, cheese, jam. Galia could feel the excitement swelling, the air in the room growing thick.

Vsichko e nared,” Tati said, sitting down at the table and unzipping his coat.

But everything was not okay. As her mother set some Turkish coffee on the stove to boil, Galia excused herself and left. Her parents waited until she closed the kitchen door behind her before they started talking. Through the pane of rippled glass, she could see their heads bent close and could hear the rapid rush of their voices —voices laden not with guilt or with shame, but with wonder. The mid-night feats. Victory that exceeded all hope. He had made it so easy, that Dean, proving once and for all that it was naiveté and not virtue that made the boy so stubborn and principled.

BY Desislava Katsarova, Age 13

Galia spent the day walking the foothills of the mountain in the old part of town. There, the road ran steep and the people — villagers who still wore their crocheted vests, their homemade shoes, long after their village had grown into a town — lived in the houses their fathers and grandfathers had built decades earlier. They did not have heat, these houses, and many of them still used wood stoves. Yet the people stayed in them even when the town erected new cinderblock apartments down below with radiators and heat and gas stoves and hot water straight from the tap. No, the villagers stayed put right where they were on the steep mountain incline. Generation after generation plastered and replastered their houses in blues and pinks and yellows, some garish in hue, others sun-baked to near white. Many of the houses— even the bright, freshly plastered ones — bore bald patches where the plaster had crumbled away, exposing the underlying brick and mortar. Galia wondered if the owners hadn’t left the holes uncovered on purpose, the toothy weave of bone and flesh a testimony to the foundation upon which each family was built.

On her way back down, Galia saw a crowd gathered at the bus stop. There were not so many reasons for crowds to gather in this town; she knew it was for Dean. By now, the whole town would know what had happened. She had taken her time up in the hills, trying to prepare herself for this new wave of shame, only to understand that she would never be ready to face the people down below.

She would not have stopped at the bus stop had she not seen Petya. “Come on,” Petya said to her in a way that was not as inviting as it was commanding. After so many years of being lumped together for their studiousness and strangeness, there was something of a reluctant kinship between the two girls.

Many of the houses — even the bright, freshly plastered ones — bore bald patches where the plaster had crumbled away, exposing the underlying brick and mortar… the toothy weave of bone and flesh a testimony to the foundation upon which each family was built.

Galia and Petya added themselves to the back of the crowd. At the center, Dean was talking to two police officers. All year, people had been praising his noble attempts with the Bulgarian language, yet now as he spoke — tova ne e kraya, he said over and over again — the words sounded distorted, his American accent at once repugnant and dim. A collective embarrassment muffled the crowd as they listened to him argue, “This is not the end,” with such earnestness, he almost convinced them it was true. But they could not believe him, because they knew the car was gone, and by now, they were eager for him to be gone too.

The girlfriend — Laura was her name — had brown hair and was plumper and more ordinary than Galia had imagined. She stood next to Dean and stared at the ground, deaf to Dean’s Bulgarian conversation. By the curve in her shoulders, Galia could tell that she, like everyone else, wanted Dean to give up. She waited, and he argued, and the officers chewed large pieces of gum. As Galia looked on, she felt her shame spreading out like a big wet puddle, seeping through the crowd to include the officers, friends, even Laura — all those who were wronging Dean yet again, without him even knowing it.

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