Something had changed with Selim since Venice, since Moscow. The difference was barely perceptible at first but she came to recognize it by the frequency of his phone calls, the candor of his text messages, his seeming willingness to be more open with her. To be more open about her. Where he had once called her in whispered tones, in stolen moments, he now spoke freely. She asked about it one day, when he called and she could hear his daughter in the background.
“Where are you?”
“I’m with Eva at the park,” he said. “It’s my afternoon with her. She’s got it in her head to fly kites.”
Francesca imagined him unfurling the six-year-old’s kite, butterfly-shaped, she pictured, probably pink and purple, showing the little girl how to run with it and then release it into the air. The way her father had taught her, in the rolling space of Parco Sempione. She felt a pang–of what? Nostalgia? Regret? It was hard to place.
“I miss you,” she told Selim.
“I miss you, too. I think we should go away together. I’ve got to go to New York for some meetings in several weeks. Can you come?”
“I’d love to,” she said. “I love New York.”
“I was hoping we could go together. I want you to show me all your old haunts.”
She laughed. “My haunts are from almost eight years ago. I’m sure it’s all changed.”
She heard him calling to his daughter in the background, “Eva, no, wait–” and then he came back to her. “Darling, I have to go. I have to chase her down. I’ll call you later.”
This time, when he said he’d call her later, she knew he would do it. He had promised to protect her and he was following through. And she remembered that night they’d met, when he told her he was the marrying type, that against all odds, Selim was the kind of man who took commitment seriously.
This time she wouldn’t be scared.