Sensing her gaze, Vladi looked inside. He beckoned her to join him.

Kakvo?” Galia said, though through the closed windows, he could not hear. She looked around, hoping that he was gesturing to somebody nearby, but for the first time all day, there was no one around. “Me?” she questioned. Please no.

Vladi beckoned again. He was laughing with the cigar clenched between his teeth and rolling up one sleeve of his shirt.

Galia rose slowly to her feet, feeling wilted from the heat and unsteady on her heels. Vladi had hardly looked at her all night; now he was eyeing her with a glee she did not trust. The yards of satin that had bustled around her at the start of this day hung heavy from her shoulders, cutting painful gashes in her flesh. She pushed open the door.

Galche,” he greeted her, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and kissing her on the cheek, the moist butt of his cigar poking her in the arm. “Galche,” he said again. She had never seen him so drunk. “Touch this,” he said, indicating the scar on his arm. “Ela, touch it,” he said, grabbing her hand. “Tell the boys how you like it.”

This was the lowest point, Galia can say for sure now that the day has passed. Just the thought of it, and her throat constricts. The cold hotel air feels even colder when her cheeks are wet. She tries to stifle the memory — a thing she will spend the rest of her life trying to do, but without success. She will never be able to rid herself of that moment, standing with her fingers jammed into Vladi’s arm, Vladi laughing while his friends looked on, unsmiling, ashamed, annoyed.

She never will be able to destroy that moment, in part, because she will live with that scar. She will touch it, caress it. During happier spells in their marriage — there will be several — she will even press her lips to it. The root of Vladi’s moodiness and depression, it will darken many of their days, but not all of them, thanks to Tati, who will secure for Vladi a position at a firm doing business of the sort one does not talk about and from which Vladi will never feel satisfaction — though he will find small solace in his cell phone, his thick wallet, and the clean, slick sounds of silk rubbing between his thighs when he walks to work in the morning. On more than one occasion, he will tell her that the swish of the pants makes him feel tall.

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