EXCERPT II

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EXCERPT II (Page 2 of 5)

"Well, hello." She is completely nonplussed. Just as she'd been the time they first met, and he, in bottle-thick glasses no less, recommended his retinologist to her.

He gives her a big smile, but when she thrusts out her hand to shake his, he pulls his back and places it to his heart. "A rule," he says, turning his head to the side. "But I am truly happy to see you."

Of course: she has heard that some observant Jewish men will not touch a woman. Only he had struck her as too young and modern for that.

"What are you doing here?" They both blurt it out at the same time. He grins.

Maya has to fight a grimace. The depressing, convoluted, torturous past: exactly what she has come here to escape.

But his smile only deepens. Perhaps like one who must work harder than others in order to achieve joy, she thinks, giving in to a smile. She remembers his warm assurance that her eyesight would return when she'd finished the diary.

Palms up, he makes a triangle of his large hands, opening them like a book. "You first."
"No, you," she insists.

He tilts his head, shoving his glasses up with a knuckle. "If you must know…" His voice becomes a singsong. "I come here on Friday mornings for inspiration."

Seeing her skeptical look, he bobs his head, which jostles the glasses loose again.

Maya giggles, clasping her hands in disbelief. "Out of all the magnificent, voluptuous perfection in the best museum in the world, you pick the Old Courtesan for inspiration? This gnarled old woman?"

He bobs his head again, unfazed by her teasing. "Come with me downstairs." He motions. "I'll give you my 'gnarled' theory over coffee."

"Are you…allowed?"

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